We live very much in an “on-demand” world today – with video streaming services such as Netflix replacing traditional pay-TV services, and even as the old book of the month or record of the month club have gone the way of the dodo bird, there are now plenty of other subscription services for such items as wine and beer, pet supplies, beauty products, and even socks.
Joining that list of on-demand offerings could soon be ammunition.
Shooters won’t get a different caliber to try out each month, however. Instead, Vista Outdoors, the leading manufacturer of ammunition in the United States for the civilian market, will soon be offering shooters a way to stock up on the ammunition they most use via a subscription service.
“We’ll be the first to launch the new subscription program,” Vista Outdoor Chief Executive Officer Chris Metz said in an interview with Forbes earlier this summer.
Metz didn’t detail the costs or calibers that will be offered but explained that the exact types of ammunition offered will be based on availability as well as what is needed for the particular season. That could include hunting loads in the fall for deer season, while other “funky calibers” that can be difficult to acquire might also be offered to subscribers as well. The goal of the program was to ensure that shooters aren’t left hunting for ammunition when they’d rather be out hunting or at least at the range.
Vista Riding High
Exactly how Vista will be able to meet the demand isn’t exactly clear, but the company has ramped up its efforts to produce as much ammunition as possible.
In May, Metz announced that Remington’s factory in Lonoke, Arkansas was now running at near full capacity and that the plant employs more than 900 people – but was still looking to hire more. The company has steadily hired workers since February and currently has doubled its workforce from what it had in November of last year, when Vista Outdoor acquired the facility.
What a difference a year makes. It was just last July that Remington Outdoor Company, the nation’s oldest firearms manufacturer, had declared bankruptcy – its second in two years. The private company, which was founded in 1816, began ammunition production at Lonoke in 1969. Last year Vista Outdoors paid $81.4 million for Remington’s ammo business, which included the 750,000 square foot of manufacturing space on 1,200 acres.
Vista Outdoors, which doesn’t actually manufacture firearms but does product dozens of sporting goods and outdoor lifestyle products, has been riding high as ammunition sales have been in such high demand. It currently produces ammunition under the CCI, Federal, and Speer brands as well as Remington. It also produces Bushnell scopes and its non-gun brands include Bell bike helmets and CamelBak hydration products.
Ammo of the Month?
The company has positioned itself uniquely in the market, and a subscription service could ensure a loyal base of customers for years to come.
Rommel Dionisio, gun industry analyst for Aegis Capital, wrote in a report cited by Forbes.com, “The ammunition industry remains capacity constrained, with consumer demand well exceeding available supply.”
Perhaps a subscription service could resolve that capacity – but just as likely it could make it worse. How exactly it would work hasn’t been made clear, but a few firearms news sites have speculated that subscribers could be guaranteed ammunition each month, prioritizing those members to receive their monthly allotment – but without impacting relationships with gun shops and other retailers.
The last thing a company like Vista Outdoors would want is to create a backlash by supplying their product to high-paying customers while leaving retail shelves empty again. That sort of thing could make some gun shops and a large segment population none too happy with the gun-owning “One percent!”
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.