oversight

Weaponry: Availability of Military .50 Caliber Ammunition

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-06-30.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

      United States
GAO   General Accounting  Offke
      Washington, D.C. 20548

      Office of Special Investigations


      B-282665

      June 30,1999

      The Honorable Henry A. Waxman
      Ranking Minority Member
      Committee on Government Reform
      House of Representatives

      The Honorable Rod R. Blagojevich
      House of Representatives


      Subject: Weauonrv: Availabilitv of Militarv .50 Caliber Ammunition


      As requested, enclosed with this letter is a copy of a briefing that OS1gave to
      representatives of the House Committee on Government Reform on May Z&1999. At
      that time, we briefed those present on the results of our review, which Ranking
      Minority Member Waxman had requested, concerning how military -50 caliber
      ammunition, including armor-piercing and armor-piercing incendiary ammunition,
      becomes available for civilian purchase. This included the process by which the U.S.
      Department of Defense disposed of the -50 caliber ammunition for demilitarization,
      the initial process used by the contractor that demilitarized the ammunition, and that
      contractor’s manufacturing and marketing practices for the demilitarized
      ammunition.


      We will make copies of this letter available to others on request. If you have any
      questions, please contact Assistant Director Ron Malfi at (202) 5 12-6722.




      Robert H. Hast
      Acting Assistant Comptroller General
       for Special Investigations

      Enclosure



                                             Y62 37s-
                                         GAO/OSI-99-14R   Availability   of Military   50 Caliber Ammunition
Enclosure I


                                BRIEFING PAPER
                      SO Caliber Military Surplus Ammunition


For the House Committee on Government Reform


+ INTERVIEWS

       Talon Manufacturing Company, Paw Paw, West Virginia

       Department of Defense, Industrial Operations Command, Rock Island, IL


+ QUESTION

       How does military .50 caliber ammunition, including armor-piercing (AI?) and
       armor-piercing incendiary (API), become available for civilians to purchase?


+ SUMMARY OF SIGNIFICANT FINDINGS

    Talon Manufacturing Company, headquartered in Paw Paw, West Virginia, holds an
    exclusive contract with DOD to demilitarize (demil) small arms ammunition, defined
    as -50 caliber and below. Ammunition leaving the DOD account is classified in three
    categories: unserviceable, excess, or obsolete. No small arms ammunition goes
    directly from DOD to the civilian market. The ammunition is shipped in bulk to
    Talon from various military storage depots. DOD pays Talon $1 per ton for the
    ammunition that it will demil.

    In the case of SO caliber ammunition, Talon separatesthe round and discards the
    primer. The remaining components can then be (1) sold for scrap, (2) used to
    manufacture reconditioned ammunition (with a new primer), or (3) sold on the
    civilian market for customers who reload their own ammunition using the brass
    casing, projectile, and propellant (gunpowder) components. The reconditioned
    ammunition sold by Talon for purchase by civilians has essentially the same ballistic
    characteristics as the original military round. It is widely referred to as “military
    surplus” ammunition.

    DOD provides Talon with five types of SO caliber ammunition: ball, armor-piercing
    (AP), armor-piercing incendiary (API), armor-piercing incendiary tracer (APIT) and
    ball tracer. These rounds are all sold on the civilian market.




                                  GAO/OSI-99-14R   Availability   of Military   50 Caliber Ammunition
Enclosure I



+ HIGHLIGHTS OF FINDINGS


DOD Process Used to Demilitarize Small Arms Ammunition
DOD, Industrial Operations Command, Rock Island, Illinois, provided the following
information:

       l   DOD has awarded Talon Manufacturing Company an exclusive contract to demil
           small arms ammunition, defined as SO caliber and below.
   l       The term “military surplus” ammunition is a misnomer, since DOD does not sell
           ammunition directly to the civilian market.
       l   Ammunition leaving the DOD account can be classified in three categories:
           unserviceable, excess, or obsolete.
           l   Unserviceable ammunition is transferred to a storage depot and reported on
               the B5A Demil Account.
           l   Excess ammunition is offered to other branches of the military or to other
               federal agencies. It can also be offered to foreign military agencies. If there
               is no interest in the excess ammunition, it is then transferred to a storage depot
               and reported on the B5A Demil Account.
           l   Obsolete ammunition can be offered to foreign military agencies. If there is
               no interest in the obsolete ammunition, it is then transferred to a storage depot
               and reported on the B5A Demil Account.
   l       Ammunition reported on the B5A Demil Account is shipped in bulk from a
           storage depot to Talon.
   l       DOD pays Talon $1 per ton for the ammunition.


Talon - Initial Processing:of Militarv SO Caliber Ammunition


   l       Demil ammunition of all calibers is delivered in bulk to a Talon plant in Herdon,
           West Virginia. Talon is paid by the ton and does not keep track of the number of
           rounds it receives from DOD.
   l       The primer is removed and discarded. The projectile is then separated from the
           brass casing. The propellant (gunpowder) is removed and saved. The brass
           casing is inspected and polished. The projectile is inspected.
   l       Ninety-eight percent of the .50 caliber rounds are used for scrap. The gunpowder
           is used to create a mixture called “slurry,” which is sold as an explosive for use in
           road construction. The brass casings and projectiles are melted.
   l       Two percent of the .50 caliber rounds are used to produce reconditioned
           ammunition or components sold for reloading of ammunition.




                                     GAO/OSI-99-14R   Availability   of Military   SO Caliber Ammunition
Enclosure I



Talon - Manufacturing and Marketing of SO Caliber Ammunition


    l          The components of the .50 caliber round-propellant, brass casings, and
               projectiles-are shipped from the Talon plant in Herdon to the plant in Paw Paw,
               where a new primer is used with the components to manufacture reconditioned
               ammunition.
    l          The reconditioned ammunition has essentially the same ballistic characteristics as
               the original military round. It is widely referred to as “military surplus”
               ammunition.
    l          .50 caliber ammunition is sold to both U.S. and foreign military customers and on
               the civilian market. Talon sells ammunition only to legitimate businesses. Its
               biggest customers for SO caliber rounds are Cascade Ammo in Oregon, Claflin
               Cartridge Company in Illinois, and Wideners Reloading in Tennessee. Wideners
               buys brass casings and projectiles for resale to civilian customers who reload their
               own ammunition.
    l          Talon receives five types of .50 caliber rounds from DOD, which can be
               identified by the tip of the projectile: (1) ball - no color; (2) AP -black; (3) API -
               silver; (4) APIT - silver and red; and (5) ball tracer - brown or dark orange.
        l      These rounds are all sold on the civilian market. The most popular means of
               packaging the .50 caliber ammunition is belted in 100 round strips (4 API rounds
               and 1 APIT round with the sequence repeated). It is shipped in the original U.S.
               military “ammo” can. The belted rounds are intended for machine guns, but the
               rounds can be used in either bolt-action or semiautomatic rifles by detaching a
               round from the belt.
        l      Talon reported that during the one-year period ending March 1999, it sold
                approximately 419,000 .50 caliber rounds, broken down as follows:

               l   200,000 rounds AP sold to Brazilian Military
               l   3,000 rounds API sold to Colombian Military
               l   35,000 rounds ball sold to U.S. Military
               l   110,000 rounds API and APIT (4 to 1 belted) sold to the commercial civilian
                   market
               l   56,OOqrounds ball and ball tracer (4 to 1 belted) sold to the commercial
                   civilian market
               l   15,000 rounds ball tracer and APIT (4 to 1 belted) sold to the commercial
                   civilian market

            The only other armor-piercing type ammunition Talon receives from DOD is a 7.62
            caliber AP round. According to Talon, because this caliber ammunition can be used
            in handguns as well as rifles, civilian possession is banned under federal law. Talon
            sells 7.62 AP ammunition only to military customers.


            (600541)


4                                         GAOIOSI-99-14R   Availability   of Military   SO Caliber Ammunition
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