Fear & Loading: How Old School Beat The Ammo Shortage

posted on October 31, 2017

Not long ago, in a store near you, ammunition vanished without a trace. Guns ran dry, ranges fell silent and the dark web filled with inventory-sniffing software—or so I’m told. There was nothing funny about it, although some of the fodder-finding “hacks” were entertaining.

I ran across one I hadn’t heard of before on a ham radio forum recently. Yes, many of those geeks with thick glasses, oversized mikes and electromagnetic personalities shoot when they’re not talking code—Morse and Q, not Linux or html, by the way. I won’t claim this approach is innovative, but it just goes to show old school still rules.

Most Walmarts connect employees/departments by two-way radios operating on the Multi-Use Radio System (MURS). No license is required, and the five VHF channels are ominously vacant in most areas of the country, making them ideal for close-range, reliable emergency communication should a dozen eggs on the dairy department floor begin cracking up passersby with off-color yolks.   

One radio operator, frustrated when he had nothing to feed his starving rifle during the shortage, started his mornings by pouring his morning java and heating up his radio to inquire, “Sporting goods, did we get any .22 rimfire in on last night’s truck?”

It worked—early and often. Unlike the modern approach, he also didn’t have to stay up until midnight to do an inventory check.

It’s all humorous and funny in hindsight, but don’t try this at home, or anywhere. You might claim you were just comingling with employees, but I’m pretty sure the FCC will find a way to fry your reputation, even if—as the ham radio operator explained—a legal, FCC-certified handheld radio was used when the clandestine mission took place.

Of course, it’s legal to listen in and radio traffic during buggy rodeos which offer tastier drama than reality TV. If you think parking at one of the stores during the holidays is a challenge, try navigating 200 cattywampus-wheeled shopping carts, single-file down a crowded parking lot, full of angry drivers in a hurry to get to the next bargain.       


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