In perhaps the most viral moment of the Russia-Ukraine war so far, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky scoffed at reports that the United States had offered to evacuate him.
“The fight is here,” the actor-turned-war-hero said, according to the Ukrainian Embassy in London. “I need ammunition, not a ride.”
The world has answered Zelensky’s call for aid, and that includes outdoor brands you might recognize. Federal Premium’s parent company, Vista Outdoor, has committed to donating one million rounds of ammunition to Ukrainian forces. They’re also launching a t-shirt fundraiser to raise money for a charity helping Ukrainian refugees fleeing the conflict.
“For a cause like this, we thought it was part of our duty to step up and help,” Jason Vanderbrink, president of sporting products for Vista Outdoor Brands, told MeatEater. “There are some callings in life we just have to answer. This is one of those callings. We think it’s the right call to help our allies defend themselves. It’s not only true to our DNA as a company—it’s the right thing to do.”
Federal is working with members of Congress as well as the State Department to deliver their donation of small arms calibers to the struggling country.
“We’re working through the logistics of it as we speak,” Vanderbrink said in a Monday phone interview. “We’re figuring out what we have that we can get over there as quick as we can. We all know time is of the essence.”
Vanderbrink declined to offer additional details, but Vista’s ammunition brands have for many years contracted with military and law enforcement agencies around the world. Given their resources and contacts, they should be able to deliver on their promise in a timely manner.
It can’t come soon enough. Russian forces have decimated some Ukrainian cities with missile fire, but the Ukrainians have been able to keep advancing Russian ground troops at bay, according to a report on Tuesday in the New York Times. The Ukrainian Army is an order of magnitude smaller than their adversaries, so they’re relying on shipments of armaments from foreign countries to resupply their troops. If they have any hope of fending off Russian soldiers long enough to force peace talks, it will come from a continued supply of guns, missiles, and ammunition from the West.
To those who worry that Federal’s donation to Ukraine might impact their orders or make it harder to find ammo at the store, Vanderbrink said that domestic supply would not be impacted.
“We think it’s our part to help out,” he said. “I don’t think it will impact anyone’s ability to find ammunition on the shelves. We’re still making ammunition at our factories for the consumer market.”
Most rifle hunters have even less cause for concern than the average gun owner. Vanderbrink did not say which calibers the company plans to send, but it’s safe to assume that their donation will consist of common military rounds like 5.56 NATO, 7.62x39mm, and 7.62×51 NATO. Many hunters use these cartridges, but other popular hunting rounds like the 6.5 Creedmoor or .300 Win. Mag. are unlikely to be included in Federal’s shipment.
Federal also understands that the human suffering in Ukraine is not relegated to the military. Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24, more than 2 million refugees have fled the country. The United Nations has called the flood of refugees Europe’s fastest-growing humanitarian crisis since World War II. An additional 4 million people may flee the country if the invasion continues.
Those people need food, clothing, and transportation, and Federal believes its customer base is ready to lend a hand. The company will announce in the coming days a t-shirt fundraiser in which all profits will go to a to-be-announced charity working to help the refugees.
“Along with the defensive ammunition, we also believe it’s important to put some support towards charities helping the refugees,” Vanderbrink said.
Remington Ammunition, another Vista company, told the Minnesota Star Tribune that its t-shirt design would feature Zelensky’s famous quote along with the Ukrainian flag and helmet. Federal will reveal its design, along with ways to purchase, on its social media outlets in the coming days.
Federal isn’t the only ammunition company promising to restock the Ukrainian ammunition supply. Arizona-based Ammo Inc. has also committed to donating one million rounds to the embattled Eastern European country.
Ultimately, Vanderbrink said, helping Ukraine is the moral choice: “On behalf of all of our employees, we just thought it was the right thing to do. We have to step up to these causes when these occasions come. We all need to pitch in and sacrifice on behalf of our allies.”