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Outdoors Outpost
Ammunition Stupidization
Wednesday, January 14, 2009 • Posted January 14, 2009

The world is full of idiots, and America has its fair share, as last week’s column about the 2008 Darwin Awards proves. But the level of lunacy demonstrated by Darwin Award winners pales in comparison with the level displayed by a group of people who have put together a website called, and a sister site called These are the people you’ve probably been hearing about, the folks who advocate serial numbers on all ammunition. No kidding.

The idea is that every cartridge manufactured in America would be imprinted, via laser, with a particular serial number. This number would be engraved on the base of every bullet, and again on the inside of the corresponding cartridge case. All the cartridges in a box would have the same number, and that number would be printed on the box.

The idea is that, when a crime is committed with a firearm, assuming police can find one or more spent bullets, and assuming a serial number on the base of at least one bullet is still legible, authorities can then check records and learn who bought the ammo in question. This, obviously, would lead them directly to the door of someone who either did or did not commit the crime. Case solved. Or not.

There are huge, gaping, vast, enormous problems with this idea, starting with the manufacturing process. Shotgun ammo, for example, normally contains more than one projectile. In the case of #9 shot, a single cartridge will have over 500 tiny pellets in it, each way too small to be imprinted with a serial number. Which doesn’t matter anyway, since they are normally made of lead, which is too soft to retain its shape if it hits anything, such as air.

But that probably wouldn’t matter to the space cadets who came up with this idea. Their solution would be to just go ahead and ban all shotgun ammo. No big deal, since they will effectively also be outlawing reloading of any kind, and any imported ammunition, and any cartridges made before the ban takes effect. There would be a lot less ammunition in America to track, which is part of the desired effect anyway.

The main goal is to make ammunition so expensive we can’t afford it. These whack jobs have been trying to outlaw guns for years and have not completely succeeded, so now they’re after our ammo. If this plan were to go into effect, we would all end up having to point our guns and say ‘pow’ like we did when we were kids.

The expense of engraving serial numbers on ammo would be unbelievable. Russ Ford, one of the main advocates of ammunition serialization, claims it’s no different than putting bar codes on other items, such as Coke cans, but Russ Ford has not, to date, come up with a way to get the numbers on the cartridge parts, except by hand. He says it’s no big deal, but then, he doesn’t have to do it. Or pay for it. The people who actually make ammo, on the other hand, say it will pretty much shut them down, not only financially, but also in terms of the time involved. The accepted estimate is that it will take three weeks to manufacture the amount of serialized ammo that can be produced in one day without serial numbers.

Using that estimate as a guide, the price of a box of serialized ammo will be at least 15 times the cost of a box of the same ammo without the numbers. And that doesn’t take into account the cost of retooling, setting up the lasers, and hiring (or training) people to operate the necessary equipment. That estimate could conceivably double, or worse. Twenty rounds of .22-250 ammo, which costs about $12 or so now, would set you back anywhere from $180 to $360.

Then there are the problems that will arise if the bullets somehow get inserted into the wrong cartridge cases, or the cartridges get stuck in the wrong boxes. People run the machines, after all. If a box breaks open, either during production, or in transit to the dealer, or in the dealer’s storeroom, more problems come up. Besides the fact that there is no way to check to see if the serial numbers on the boxes match the numbers on the ammo, without taking each of the cartridges apart, and then they’re ruined.

Even if all these problems could be worked out, which is a serious stretch, there is no way to know if serialized ammo would be any help at all to police in solving crimes. Anyone could report a box of ammo stolen, then go use it in a crime. The average criminal would probably just steal ammo to use in robberies anyway, so it couldn’t be traced to him. Serialization could very well increase crime, without helping one whit to solve it.

The bottom line is that ammunition serialization is a monumentally bad idea. Which means that, when it goes before congress, it will probably pass.

I wonder if an entire nation can be nominated for a Darwin Award . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who plans to expose the liberal media lies about ‘ballistic fingerprinting’ next week. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or

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