Image: Wikimedia Commons
Penny auctions are known for deals—or sketchy promises of deals—on consumer electronics like iPads or headphones, but, now, an American company is stepping it up a notch by offering gun enthusiasts the opportunity to bid on discounted ammo.
Whether it’s rounds for your Remington rifle or bullets for your six-shooter, the appropriately named “ammodealz.com” offers full-fledged site members a selection of ammunitions to choose from. According to its owners, the site is the only legal ammo penny auction on the internet.
“You know, ‘Got Milk?’ Well I’ve got a ‘Got Ammo?’ on my business card,” said Chuck Warner, ammodealz.com's co-founding partner with Matthew Long.
In an interview, the pair told Motherboard that the key to selling bullets on the internet is going by the book. They only ship to Americans and follow the strict laws surrounding the transportation of ammunition. All bidding members must be over the age of 21, and are vetted and approved by the site before they can make bids.
“The penny auction business has been around for 10 years, but in the last three years it’s come to fruition,” said Long. “We thought it would be cool to do it with ammo.”
In penny auctions, bids go up a penny at a time—at least at face value. In fact, bidders also pay a small non-refundable fee to place bids. Because of those fees, auction sites are able to advertise iPads sold for $1.14, while still raking in cash for every bid placed. Like any live auction, the last bid wins.
So far, ammodealz.com hasn’t been a particularly profitable venture, something the co-owners concede is typical in the early stages of any small business. But Long says the site has already attracted the interest of bigger organizations looking to expand on its model.
When asked if that organization might be the National Rifle Association, Long explained that he wasn’t at liberty to talk about the groups showing interest. “Unfortunately we can’t talk about the NRA," he said. 'Let’s just say there’s interest from the industry.”
On its site the company states, via the “About Us” section, that without ammo, “you can’t hunt, shoot, or protect yourself and family, which totally threatens your Second Amendment rights. AmmoDealz.com believes shooting for fun and protection are a basic Second Amendment right.”
Providing affordable and widely available ammo is key to the duo's business goals. Both co-owners are shooting enthusiasts and actively skeet shoot, with Warner saying he hunts for fowl, but no deer.
Screenshot from the Ammo Dealz website.
There’s been a well-documented ammunition shortage in America, and that's caused rising prices, something ammodealz.com is looking to partially address for its members. Some conspiracy theorists blame it on government bullet hoarding, but consumers have also been steadily buying more ammo since 9/11, adding to the ammo market's volatility.
Long has a background working with technology companies in web development, which he says helped influence their plan initially. Noticing the growing online shopping habits of Americans, Warner and Long saw a way to capitalize on the void in online ammo markets, especially if they could provide a cheaper alternative.
Warner says they don't get into the conspiracy theories or the “whys” of the shortage, they simply offer a solution to the real-world problem for shooters: expensive bullets.
“How do we make ammo available in a fun entertaining kind of way, that is available to the masses, that is a win-win deal for everybody?" asked Long. "We make a little money, the supplier makes a little money, and the customer gets a good deal.”
The site also incentivizes bidding for their customers. Memberships are free and come with 15 no-charge bids, along with bonus deals offered to members with recent "near miss" bids.
"In a penny auction you have one winner and 20 guys who didn't," said Long. "Whatever you spent in bids, we're going to credit you half of that back on your purchase."
“How do we make ammo available in a fun entertaining kind of way, that is available to the masses, that is a win-win deal for everybody?"
At first, the pair considered auctioning firearms, but they say the laws surrounding online sale of rifles and the like can be a difficult experience for consumers, who, depending on the state, have to clear background checks before picking up their guns. Plus, gun owners constantly need ammo, giving ammodealz.com the opportunity for repeat business rather than one-off sales of a shotgun.
When asked if they ever considered putting their auction up on a Tor site, Long said they never entertained the possibility of doing anything like that and are as open as possible. Instead, they’re looking to grow ammodealz.com and attract larger partners who wouldn't lend their name to a site without a legitimate reputation.
Warner and Long both said they’re not confined to selling ammunition, either. They’ve moved into the sale of outdoors gear like flashlights and plan to offer bids on hunting vacations and survivalist seminars.
Being an occasional shooter myself, I asked them if they'd ever ship to Canada, but unfortunately shipping ammo beyond US borders would involve confronting international treaties, so it's a "no" for now.
"We might have a sister company someday that does Canada," said Warner. "I'm worried about us right here, right now."