12-gauge ammo vending machines debut in grocery stores


American Rounds, an ammo vending machine company, has installed machines in stores in three states. Buyers have to show ID. CEO Grant Magers argues that makes it among the safest ways to sell ammo.

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Shoppers at select grocery stores around the South can pick up something new: ammunition dispensed from a high-tech vending machine that contains a plentiful assortment of 12-gauge shotgun shells and 9mm rounds.

The company behind the machines, American Rounds, has installed the dispensers in about 10 grocery stores in Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas and is planning to expand to Colorado. Buyers have to be at least 21, which the machine verifies by reading IDs and then using facial recognition technology to ensure the buyer’s face and ID match. They don’t take cash and only accept credit cards.

Grant Magers, the CEO of American Rounds, says the dispensers’ process of ensuring buyers are who they say they are makes them possibly the safest way to sell ammo. “People have in their mind the old type of vending machine that drops a candy bar to the bottom or a bag of chips,” he said. “That’s not how these operate.”

The first ammo dispensing machine was installed in a Fresh Value grocery store in Pell City, Alabama, in November 2023, Magers said. American Rounds expanded to a Lowe’s Market in Canyon Lakes, Texas, as recently as the end of June. 

Fresh Value, Lowe’s Market and Super C Mart, the third grocery chain with the machines, did not respond to requests for comment. 

The machines weigh 2,000 pounds, Magers said, and the ammo is kept behind layers of locked steel. 

Magers argues that keeping the ammo in 2,000-pound machines behind steel – and dispensing them only to verified shoppers – makes the rounds far more secure than buying them at gun shops. Thieves can pocket rounds like a “loaf of bread off the shelf,” he said, and online sellers only verify ages by requiring someone to put a check mark in a box. 

“When you put it in context in terms of availability, we’re the safest and most secure on the market, and that’s what we want,” he said. “We’re bettering our communities by being responsible in terms of how we sell ammunition.”

Experts warn the dispensers could only make it easier for criminals to get ammo.

“If it was a system that did do a background check, then we could talk about a system that prohibits unlawful sales,” said David Pucino, legal director for the Giffords Law Center, the policy arm of the anti-gun violence organization started by former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the survivor of a mass shooting. “Their accomplishment is that they’re making it easier and easier to source ammo, no questions asked.” 

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Where are the dispensers?

The stores are found mainly in rural areas, Magers said, where gun owners might otherwise have to drive an hour to buy ammo at the nearest sporting goods store.

Staff at seven stores known to have the machines declined to comment. Several hung up on a reporter. Vicki Briscoe, a shift manager at the original Alabama location, said the machine was “very popular” among local customers before declining to comment further.

American Rounds restocks the machines every two weeks to a month, Magers said.

The ammo for sale varies depending on the season, with rounds for hunting turkey in stock during turkey hunting season, for instance, and rounds for bagging a 10-point buck available in deer hunting season.

The dispensers don’t retain purchaser data, according to Magers.

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Are they safe?

The machines may go further than local laws that don’t require IDs for purchase of ammunition, but that doesn’t make them an improvement, according to Pucino.

“It’s both exploiting and reflecting massive gaps in our federal law,” he said. People who cannot legally buy guns cannot buy ammunition, per federal regulation, but vendors don’t have to perform background checks.

“You have the industry exploiting gaps in the law, ostensibly for the purpose of preventing theft, but potentially going the other way and removing all the checks without concern that ammunition in the wrong hands can kill people.”

Some local laws go further than federal regulations: Ammo vendors in Sacramento, for instance, have to maintain sales records, which prosecutors have used to identify illegal purchases, according to the Giffords Law Center; Tennessee law prevents vendors from selling to intoxicated people.

“It is nice that it’s requesting IDs or age verification; none of those things are required,” Pucino said. “But what they’re not doing is having human intervention to check for red flags.”

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