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Ammunition boosts brass product demand

Keywords: Tags  Copper, service centers, automotive, construction, gun control laws, ammunition, brass, FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation

NEW YORK — Lead times for certain brass products used in ammunition shells remain extended to eight weeks and likely will stay there as consumers, fearing stricter gun regulations, continue to stockpile firearms, copper service centers sources told AMM.

"The ammunition business is booming," one service center source said. "We’re definitely seeing an increase on brass lead times. I’d say they’re between six to eight weeks."

"Mills are saying ammunition (sales) are very strong," a second service center source said. "People are panicking. They think guns will be harder to get. There’s some stockpiling going on."

Strong demand since the end of 2012 pushed brass lead times out to about eight weeks in January (, Jan. 24), but whether or not they extend beyond eight weeks remains to be seen.

"It depends on Washington. If they come out with legislation that limits (the) magazine size ... and the amount of shells per day a customer can buy (who knows)," the second source said.

Firearm background checks totaled 2.5 million in January and 2.8 million in December, up from 2 million in November and 1.6 million in October, according to statistics from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, a division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Although these background checks do not represent gun sales, they show consumer interest has increased, service center sources said.

One source estimated that ammunition companies purchase between 20 million and 30 million pounds of brass annually.

Service centers sources also reported robust demand for other brass and copper flat products.

"At the moment, (business) is pretty good. (Lead times) are six to eight weeks from the mill for most of our products," a third service center source said. "Copper and brass business was off last fall (but) we’re starting to see a rebound now. I’m expecting deliveries to creep out another week or two, probably by the spring."

Copper rod, which goes to the electrical industries, also has extended lead times, the third service center source added.

Inquiries from consumers in the appliance, power distribution and automotive sectors have helped push out lead times, as well. "With some of the positive news on the housing front, (we’re) starting to see some of these appliance-type products (have) a little resurgence," the second service center source said. "Everybody seems to be fairly busy."

A fourth service center source pointed out that lead times for copper products are "very gauge dependent" and could vary across distributors.

Most remain cautiously optimistic about 2013 as the construction industry is poised to rebound for the first time in five years.

"I think (things) will pick up and turn on (eventually). Right now it’s not crazy, but it’s not slow either," a fifth service center source said.

"We’re expecting some mild improvements. We’re still in a bit of a ‘wait and see’ mode, but most of the indicators do show some growth," the first service center source said.

"Most people are forecasting a little bit of an uptick. It’s nothing dramatic, but at least it’s a step in the right direction," the second service center source said.

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