Time to pick this crazy idea back up and put some meat on the bare bones I threw out there last week…
(Note: If you missed Part 1 of this series you can read it here.)
So to recap just a bit, last week I proposed this idea of “Digital Ammunition” that can be purchased incrementally, stored off-site, exchanged for other calibers, and delivered on-demand.
To be fair, some of this we already do at AmmoSquared (the company I run when I’m not writing voluminous blob posts and emails!) but there is more to this grand vision than just what we are doing today.
Before we get to that, I want to thank everyone that took the time to vote on the concept of Digital Ammunition and add comments to my last email. Here is how the poll breaks down:
(Sorry, I’m a data guy at heart so I had to run the numbers.)
If I were to summarize the “Meh” and “Hogwash” votes, they came in four main themes (in order of response frequency):
- The largest group is people that want ammo with them physically at all times. If they need ammo they need it – RIGHT NOW. It could be a power outage, riots, TEOTWAWKI, or any situation where civil society has broken down.
- The second largest group had fear of government intervention. They would ban guns and ammo or make it so we can’t ship ammo. One or two people commented that the government would just confiscate all the ammo we have stored and “poof” there goes your digital ammunition.
- The third group had concerns that hackers would get into the system and either steal personal data or make all the digital ammo disappear. Another scenario is that an anti-gun group would hack the system and now know you are a gun owner.
- The last group was a bit more pragmatic I think and had concerns about ammo shortages or a fire in the warehouse and wanted to know what kind of insurance or guarantee do people have that their ammo is kept safe.
Honestly, these are all valid concerns for someone thinking hard about the concept of digital ammunition…
I’m going to use a broad brush and give you my vision for what I would build as it relates to digital ammunition and hopefully in doing so I will address the concerns above…
The Future of Ammunition
Four years ago I launched an ammunition subscription service. It wasn’t the first or the only one at the time, but our unique idea when we launched was to ship people less than a full box of factory ammo in a vacuum-sealed bag. So, for example, you could buy $5 worth of 45 ACP Self Defense and we would ship you 7 rounds of Federal HST 230gr ammunition every month.
That idea worked for maybe the first 50 customers, then it got too labor-intensive and time-consuming. Plus we found we were opening ourselves up to a bunch of liability. We had to make a change that involved purchasing fractional rounds that accumulate over time.
You could still pay a little each month and buy less than a full box, and even less than a full round (ie: a “fractional round), build up your ammo over time and have all of your accumulated ammo shipped at once via automatic “triggers”.
In this updated model, partial rounds, those that are over/under a factory box size, would stay behind to be added to future purchases. Or customers can “buy up” to the next box when we ship.
This model is convenient and has the benefits that I mentioned in the last email about being able to trade calibers. In fact, we didn’t originally design this into the system – it just came about organically from customer needs.
Which brings us to the next phase. You could say that we are now looking ahead at the next innovation in ammunition:
A Digital Ammunition Exchange
Here the vision involves blending our existing service with new capabilities for a truly revolutionary approach to ammunition ownership:
Purchase: You can buy ammunition in small amounts via a regular “drip” format like today or large quantities. You are in control.
Calibers / Brands / Bullet Weights: Today we provide customers with a mix of brands and bullet weights. We essentially “commoditize ammunition”. This works for most people but some want a little more control, so we offer them the ability to list “ammo preferences” for more specific ammo options such as brands or grain weight (but we can’t guarantee them in our current system).
In a Digital Ammo Exchange, you will have different levels of specificity based on price: so the cheapest price will the broadest category of a particular caliber: 9mm “Service Grade” for example, which is brass cased 9mm FMJ. If you only want one bullet weight (124gr for example) you get a slightly higher price, if you want a specific brand the price is higher still, and finally, if you want something SKU specific like you would buy on Midway USA the price would be the market price for that SKU.
Storage: Ammunition is stored off-site in multiple secure warehouses across the country to limit risk and reduce shipping costs. We would be as we are today: fully insured with your ammunition guaranteed to be there when you need it. Depending on how specific your ammunition inventory is, there may be an additional fee to store it separately (ie: “Allocated”, “Unallocated” or “Pooled”) similar to how gold is stored today.
Digital Security: The best there is. We understand privacy concerns and hacker threats. Offline backups will be kept in secure locations. (We have even toyed with a completely anonymous account option with payment in cryptocurrency.)
Exchange: This is where the vision really comes into focus… Everyone would have the ability, with a couple of clicks, to buy new ammo at the market rate (updated daily) or “sell” and go into cash. Alternatively, you could do a direct swap from one caliber to another. You will be able to gift ammo to someone else or even use it as a medium of exchange (for a rifle or a used snowmobile). Everything will be online and available 24/7.
The exchange would allow a way to “lock-in” ammo prices when they are low and give the ability to sell when they are high. If you don’t need the ammo you have in the exchange, it can remain completely “digital”. If, on the other hand, you want to shoot it, then you can request delivery or set up a schedule of delivery.
Delivery: Automatic based on triggers (more customizable than today) or on-demand. Triggers would be based on # of rounds, time (elapsed or a specific date), or dollar amount. With additional warehouses, we could get ammo delivered quicker at a lower cost for us and you. You would also have the option of NEVER taking delivery and using the exchange to buy and sell as market conditions change.
Non-Ammunition Items: We would be able to offer the same benefits for non-ammunition items such as magazines or gun parts. It isn’t even that far fetched to imagine a way to preserve and store AR15 rifles or lowers but not take delivery and transfer until you are ready to physically possess them.
Now to address issue #1 above: Why own something “digitally” that you don’t have in your physical possession? Simply because it gives you more options. This doesn’t EXCLUDE your ability to have ammunition, magazines, etc in your physical possession (you should) it simply gives you another form of convenient ownership with new options that you can do with as you please: buy, sell, gift, trade, or hold onto for future generations.
So that is quite a vision I’ve just laid out. If you have made it this far, I hope you can see the potential for an online ammunition exchange and all the benefits it will provide gun owners around the country… maybe even the world?
Up next… how we are making this vision a reality.