You might think of vending machines, chocolate bars or a bag of chips. But more and more vending machines are selling something completely different.

Ammunition is the latest product to be available at the touch of a button. One company has installed computerized ammunition vending machines in grocery stores in Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas. Customers can purchase ammunition along with a gallon of milk.

The idea is the brainchild of American Rounds, a company based in Richardson, Texas. The closest location to the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area is a grocery store in Kingston, Oklahoma.

“We prefer to call them automated retail machines, because that’s what they are,” said Grant Magers, CEO of American Rounds.

The first machine was installed in a store in Alabama in November 2023. It now has eight locations in four states, and Magers says demand is growing daily.

“It's exploding. I mean, right now we have over 200 stores waiting for vending machines,” Magers said.

Magers said the first step is to check an ID with the same scanner the TSA uses. The scanner also checks if the shopper is 21 or older, which is a requirement at every location.

After you have selected ammunition on the machine's touchscreen, payment is made in several steps. Facial recognition software then checks whether the buyer matches the person on the ID.

After paying, a box of ammunition falls down. Magers is aware that not everyone likes the idea.

A senior vice president of Everytown for Gun Safety said in a statement, “Innovations that make ammunition sales safer through facial recognition, age verification and serial sales tracking are promising security measures that belong in gun stores, not where you buy your kids milk.”

Magers says his process forces identity verification, which is rare when purchasing ammunition online or in stores.

“It's the most secure method of selling ammunition on the market and fully preserves the integrity of the Second Amendment. We don't store consumers' data, we don't take their ID or their face, it's not stored in any cloud,” Magers said.

Federal law requires that you be 18 to buy ammunition for shotguns and rifles and 21 to buy ammunition for handguns. Magers said the buyer of her machines must be at least 21 years old.

According to a database maintained jointly by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University, there have been 15 mass murders involving firearms so far in 2024, compared to 39 in 2023.

The vending machine is another sales method that is gaining traction alongside retail stores and online retailers. A March report from Everytown for Gun Safety found that several major online ammunition retailers apparently did not verify the age of their customers, despite having requirements to do so.

Last year, an online retailer settled a lawsuit brought by the families of those killed and injured in a 2018 Texas high school shooting. The families said the 17-year-old shooter was able to purchase ammunition from the retailer, who did not verify his age.

Vending machines for ammunition or other age-restricted materials aren't an entirely new idea. Companies have developed similar technology to sell alcoholic beverages. One company has launched automated kiosks to sell cannabis products at dispensaries in states where marijuana is legal.

A Pennsylvania police officer started a business about 12 years ago that puts ammunition vending machines in private gun clubs and shooting ranges as a convenience for customers. Sam Piccinini, owner of Master Ammo, said the machines don't have age verification, but are just in places where you have to be a certain age to get in.

Piccinini talked to a company years ago about integrating artificial intelligence to verify a shopper's age and identity, but it was too expensive at the time, he said. At American Rounds, a machine had to be removed from a location in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, because of disappointing sales, Magers said.

The machines have locations in Alabama, Oklahoma, Colorado and Texas, but the only one is in Canyon Lake near San Antonio.

Magers said initial interest in the machines was primarily in rural communities where there may be few retailers selling ammunition. American Rounds machines are located in Super C Mart and Fresh Value grocery stores in small towns, including Pell City, Alabama, which has a population of over 13,600, and Noble, Oklahoma, which has a population of nearly 7,600.

“Someone in this community might have to drive an hour or an hour and a half to get supplies if they want to go hunting, for example,” Margers said. “Our grocery stores wanted to be able to offer their customers another category that they thought would be popular.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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