Despite the great “ammunition shortage” of 2021 there hasn’t been a lot of news about thieves breaking into stores or warehouses – at least not in the United States. There have been a few isolated cases, but nothing compares to last week’s brazen theft of two trailer loads of small-caliber ammunition in Mexico.
According to multiple sources, armed assailants hijacked the trailer trucks on a highway in Guanajuato, Mexico’s most violent state. Whether Mexican cartels were involved remains unclear, but whoever orchestrated the bold movie-worthy heist likely came up short. Representatives from Tecnos Industries, the manufacturer of the ammunition, said about 98.5 percent of the millions of rounds of ammunition were .22 caliber – something not widely used by the drug cartels.
“These will be of no use to them, given that they don’t use these weapons,” security analyst Juan Ibarrola, who also acts as spokesman for the Tecnos Industries company, told the Associated Press.
The ammunition, which is produced in Cuernavaca south of Mexico City, is sold in the United States under the Aguila brand.
Millions of Rounds
It is unclear of the total quantity, but it was estimated to be about seven million rounds or more – and this heist might only further exacerbate demand for ammunition, which remains in short supply. The .22 cartridge has become extremely popular for target practice and has filled the void as other popular cartridges, including .30-06, .45 caliber and 9mm have been hard to come by – and quite expensive when available.
During ammunition shortages, .22 often becomes the affordable “go-to” ammunition, so it is possible this was a planned heist to sell the ammunition at a profit in the United States. Prices have more than doubled from just last year for boxes of .22 caliber ammunition, and with this heist, the prices could go up even more.
However, if the heist was instead meant to resupply the cartels then the hijacking was likely a bust, as cartel “soldiers” are typically armed with AK-47s and even stolen Mexican-made military assault rifles, not .22 small arms that are better suited to “plinking” than a shoot-out with rival gangs.
The ammunition was being transported by trucks to the United States when the shipment was hijacked. Fortunately, the drivers were later found alive.
While this was in fact a legal transport from Mexico to the United States, there remains an illegal pipeline of weapons and ammunition that flows south. Just last month, a Texas highway patrol trooper discovered more than a dozen firearms and more than 3,500 rounds of ammunition after pulling over a suspect believed to be headed to Mexico.
The firearms included fully automatic rifles, as well as a .50 caliber, numerous shots, and handguns. It is unclear if any of the weapons were purchased legally, but it is likely the automatic weapons were stolen from the military or law enforcement.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.