When can Ukraine expect those American ammo donations?

Alexandre Meneghini

Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine more than two weeks ago, we’ve seen a number of individuals and companies in the 2A community announce plans to help aid Ukrainian fighters in their defense of their homeland. Ammo, Inc. and Vista Outdoors have both declared that they’ll be sending 1,000,000 rounds of ammunition to Ukraine’s military, while gun shops are offering body armor and other items for sale that can be donated to Ukrainian soldiers.

“We’ve outfitted 40 or 50 soldiers with this type of gear – and then our customers have probably bought $5,000 to $10,000 worth of product to help these people,” said Ed Swadish, Huron Valley Guns owner.

“These people could use all the help they can get,” Swadish said.

Huron Valley Guns is selling defensive supplies at cost. Customers in Michigan are purchasing items that will be shipped to Poland and then given to the soldiers fighting in Ukraine

“Bulletproof vests, armor, helmets, basically any of these things could really save a life,” he said.

There’s no shortage of people willing to help, but that doesn’t mean that supplies purchased or donated here at home will automatically be able to quickly get to where its needed.

There are two main issues to work through at the moment. First is figuring out what the Ukrainian military actually needs. Donating an old 16-gauge shotgun or even our favorite bolt-action rifle may give us a warm fuzzy feeling, but it’s probably not going to be of much help on the battlefield.

I spoke with National Shooting Sports Foundation senior vice president and general counsel Larry Keane earlier today, who says that they’ve been able to get information from Ukrainian embassy sources about what their needs are, and the “industry stands ready, willing, and able, to provide that assistance to the Ukrainian armed forces and freedom fighters.”

While Keane didn’t offer specifics, it stands to reason that ammunition is acutely needed, along with protective gear, which brings us to our next issue.  

The vast majority of these items, whether body armor or bullets, fall under existing export/import regulations, which means that the government bureaucracy plays a major role in how much red tape can be removed or bypassed in order to expedite these shipments.

To that end, Voice of America reported on Thursday that the Commerce Department is “rapidly processing requests” to export arms and ammunition to Ukraine, and while I was initially skeptical of that report, I’ve heard from a couple of different sources both within the federal government and the industry that generally back up that assertion.

The Commerce Department said it had imposed export controls on Russia to “degrade its ability to sustain military aggression” and Americans should check agency regulations to see if a license was needed to ship specific firearms to Ukraine.

“The department has been processing requests rapidly for the export of firearms and ammunition to Ukraine under its existing processes and authorities,” a department spokesperson said.

Americans are donating thousands of sets of body armor and millions of rounds of ammunition in response to Ukraine’s pleas for military support.

Equipment donors and U.S. volunteers for Ukraine’s armed forces must navigate U.S. export license requirements for items like military-grade bullet proof vests.

Controls at airports on volunteers carrying such body-armor appear to have eased, a U.S. volunteer in Poland said.

“From the latest wave of people carrying plates this week, not a single person has been stopped,” said the volunteer, who asked not to be named, referring to the ceramic plates that make vests bullet-proof.

Two Americans shipping military supplies to Ukraine, who asked to remain anonymous, said they had seen rapid export license approvals.

Those in the industry who have existing export licenses will likely have an easier time of navigating the red tape simply because of their familiarity with the bureaucracy, but folks who are new to the system might find it difficult to figure out what steps are necessary before planes can be loaded up with arms and ammunition for Ukrainian fighters. And while the Commerce Department oversees export licenses for things like body armor, it’s the Defense Department and the State Department that have jurisdiction over the exporting of most firearms and ammunition, and I’ve yet to see any information that those agencies are also expediting the process of getting donated arms and ammo to the Ukrainian military, which I find a little concerning.

We’re going to have a follow up/update on the industry’s response and what, if anything, the Biden administration is doing to facilitate the flow of privately-donated firearms and ammunition on Monday’s Cam & Co, but in the meantime if you’d like to make a cash donation to help aid the Ukrainian military in its fight the National Bank of Ukraine has set up a special account where you can do so.