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Physical Security in Difficult Regions – a look at Aguila Ammunition

Current situations involving gang violence in some of our major urban areas aside, the United States is generally a pretty safe place for logistics.

 Yes, multitudes of twelve year old boys with too-active imaginations and a few frustrated shooters (remember January of 2013?) may have dreamt of knocking over a semi truck full of ammunition, but it’s not commonly a serious consideration. Sure, from time to time someone watches the movie Heat one too many times and gets stupid but it’s not a regular threat like it is in many other nations.

Not so in some other parts of the world. I’ve often thought about the special considerations that manufacturers have to contend with in the ‘in-between’ areas (think regional or local threat levels somewhere between the extremes of Canada and Afghanistan), and recently had the opportunity to get a look at some first hand. Here at home if we worry about something being stolen during transit, it’s usually thoughts of our shady neighbor taking a package off the porch—not a truck with tens of thousands of rounds getting taken down.

Having recently been afforded an inside look at the operations of an extremely large ammunition facility in Mexico (Aguila Ammunition), I can offer some first hand insight. Unlike the United States, ammunition is heavily controlled in Mexico. Civilians generally cannot own any centerfire calibers above .380 and most all of the ammunition produced is either for national police and military or for export around the world.

Aguila Ammunition David Merrill RECOILweb 1

To say that cartels would perhaps enjoy a truckload of the stuff is an understatement. For this reason Aguila uses a number of prophylactic measures to secure the ammunition they produce. Because I’m not a journalist with the New York Times who doesn’t care who gets hurt, injured, killed, or otherwise maimed because of what I write, I’m going to speak in generalities rather than in specifics when I talk about those measures.

The higher ups at Aguila acknowledge that cartels and other criminal elements may come across their products through illicit means. This, in their own words, is likely done the same way they get arms, drugs, and people, i.e. by virtue of theft, bribery, barter, and corruption. Their goal is to ensure that they (meaning Aguila themselves) are never the source. Not the factory. Not the convoy. Not the end receivers. In other words, if there is an illegal supply someplace, they want to make sure it's from a secondary or even tertiary source.

To that end, and as you might expect, physical security at the plant itself is tight. Large walls, barbed wire, cameras, checkpoints, and a lot of men and women armed with both long guns and pistols are posted at regular intervals both inside and out. In the factory itself, centerfire ammunition is finished and packaged physically separately from the rimfire and other special precautions are taken as well. All personnel, even the CEO himself, are physically wanded upon exiting (to say nothing of the guy with a notebook and camera). Interestingly, 7.62×39, the round du jour of the narcos, is not produced at all. Not even for export.

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Since Aguila produces approximately 85% of all legal ammunition used in Mexico (including that of all police forces), they are considered a national security asset. Due to the high risk of intercept, and the subsequent consequences thereof, all shipments from the factory come with armed military escorts. Routes have to be varied. Coordination with local reinforcements must be an ongoing process. Shipping ports can be delayed or changed at the last minute dependent on developing threat levels. Freight forwarders (the guys in the boats and planes) are rotated randomly. Basically, take every normal step that an American manufacturer does, then add in layers of guns, randomization, OPSEC, COMSEC, PERSEC and the like. If plans can change on a dime, one has to stay flexible and nimble. It’s almost like being a bread truck driver in Detroit.

I’ll be covering much more about Aguila Ammunition and the recent changes that have taken place. It’s much more than a rudimentary logo redesign, let me assure you, but this was something I was immediately interested in (and was fascinated to observe first hand).

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