Guns and Ammo Availability Overview
April 14, 2009Jacob HermanI have been reading many of the posts that are placed upon online message boards for the past several weeks about the shortages of arms and ammo. Many questions are posed and theories are liberally applied. We all know what the core reason for this rush on arms is, but there are other contributing factors that many don't understand. One of the top questions online or asked in person. Should I buy now or wait for the price to drop? Will the price go down or not? What should I do? Should I try to build or just buy straight out? I also hear many rumors from customers passed on from other gun shops that are completely untrue. I have read many comments and talked to many concerned people who are thinking about buying a firearm but are putting the purchase off for various reasons including those above. I have a great feeling when I help someone choose a weapon that may be used to defend that persons life one day. Personally I feel that our 2nd Amendment will soon be challenged. I am not a hunter or a bench rest shooter. I train with self loading rifles and handguns. I do this because one day I feel I may have to implement what I have learned to protect myself or a loved one very close to me. I have been into prepping for 15 years now and have seen many scares and times we thought were hard. The 94 Crime Bill, Ruby Ridge, Waco, Y2K, Sept. 11. Those of us who follow events are worry about our freedoms and maintaining our current way of living knew that those events were truly terrible, but we have a bigger enemy. We are fighting for our basic rights set down by our founding fathers. The 2nd had nothing to do with hunting or target shooting. It was emplaced so that a free man or woman could protect themselves, others near to them, and the country they bled and died for. With the surge in sales of firearms and related gear, long term food supplies, and general bulk commodities in general you get the feeling you are not the only person worried.
Because I feel that is the basic right of an American to be armed I wanted to put out some thoughts and observations on the current and possible future availability of arms and ammo in which to purchase of the common defense.
I work at a very large gun store in Middle Tennessee and have noticed this arms and ammo shortage first hand. Even though we have an extensive inventory on hand there is no way to keep up with demand.
Here are some things I am seeing across the board. There are exceptions to every rule, but most of this is hitting the proverbial nail on the head. There are still gun shops across the country, especially the one that I am employed at, whose goal is to provide service and a good quality reasonably priced firearm to the people of the surrounding area. Some areas are not experiencing such problems and some shops who have been in business for a time or order large volume are keeping more stock than the smaller 40-50 gun shops. Those shops which did not carry ammo by the case is probably having problems getting any ammo in stock from 22lr to 50BMG. Some states there is very little common caliber ammo in the entire state. The same goes for self loading rifle and handguns and items that go with them. Most firearms manufacturers have notices on the website telling of long delays.
Here are some of the reasons the demand has went higher than anything before, shortage of product, and why you should purchase at this time instead of waiting.
New owners are driving the demand. We have people who have never owned a gun or just hunted their entire life. They walk in and want the gun like the army uses. They buy the gun, stacks of mags, ammo and are asking about training classes ect. The high end shotgunners and big game hunters think a $1,500 dollar AR is cheap. It is compared to a competition trap gun. People who have no knowledge of this class of weaponry in general do not find these weapons expensive. A dependable AR-15 can be bought for the price of a nice set of golf clubs, and an AK clone for the price of a Coach handbag. A person who loses 30 dollars worth of Nike golf balls every Saturday does not find the $9.99 box of .223 Remington overpriced. To this group of buyers this is the only price they know. They were not in the market when the prices were lower. Very few of these people haggle on prices . They do not trade anything in, nor do they really seem to care what the price is. Many are looking at how the weapons increase in value, and how much they lose daily on the market. That makes firearms and ammo a better investment. I have sold untold cases of 9mm by telling how 5 years ago I was buying Federal 9mm for 102.00 dollar per thousand shipped to my house. Now the same case is $350-400 if you can find it. That is a great return on my investment if I choose to sell. They take the gun and drop the credit card and out the door they go.
People are also stocking up on multiples. We are having people buy 2,4, or 6 guns at a time. They want one to shoot, one to put up for hard times, and one extra. People are buying weapons for their entire families. I notice many retired couple buying weapons for the grandchildren to have one just in case they are not allowed to buy one. There are also a large number of older veterans of our military who tell me they haven't fired a semi auto since Vietnam or just Nam as they call it. They ask does the weapon break down the same and most of the can take an AR right down. They tell me they are buying the rifles because they do not like the looks of things.
Most of these buyers are financially stable so to speak. They have extra income to make purchases like this. They do not "have" to have a weapon. They just want one because they think someone will tell them they cannot own it. Ammo falls under the same concern. I have people buying a case of Federal .223 a week and going to plink with it. They think it is just fun and have no problem burning through money. These people are not going to need to sell the weapon cheap.
Extremely cheap surplus ammo is pretty much over. Americans have bought everything in the entire world that is not nailed down, and in some cases we pulled up the nails and bought that too. Years of a large disposable income coupled with a generation of baby boomers many of which have been shooting their entire lives have driven the supply of military. Surplus is pretty much over. The Yugo SKS's, Mausers , K-31's. We are dragging the bottom of the barrel at this time with all the European guns. There seems to still be an endless supply of M-91 Mosins but the Quality is much lower than the previous years. This is good news, but the big importers are running extremely low on many other rifles. There was a time in the United States not to long ago that none of these rifles were available unless they were war trophies. The kids that grew up playing with them reached an age that money was not a problem around the same time the government let the importation of the old warhorses. You think there will always be 70's production 7.62x54R light ball? Where did it go? It has been thrown down the barrel of the millions of $50-200 dollar surplus rifles that we have been importing for the past 20 years. It will go the same way that 8mm and 303.We will shoot it all up. I watched guys at Knob Creek make belts of 8mm a dozen feet long because it was .02 cents a round and no one cared. Well we care now because it is all gone or stuffed in a closet. Remember surplus .30 carbine ammo and a few years ago you still saw lots of U.S military 30-06 for sale. The only .30 carbine is new production with most of it coming from overseas ammo makers. If you have a Mosin, K-31 Swiss or any other non US caliber surplus buy enough ammo to wear the weapon completely out. By the time whoever owns the weapon and the ammo is done with it. The firearm should be depreciated out of its useful life. How many would shoot the Mosin Nagant rifle if it was the same price of domestic 30-06 or at worst a tax raising the cost to that of the 7.5 Japanese cartridge of the same era. This includes 150 grain 30-06 for the M1 Garand. There are very few commercial loads in that grain compared to all the other loadings. Current production is expensive in surplus calibers. Go price a new box of 8mm or 303 and be prepared for a sticker shock. With the costs of these rounds commercially 9mm and 5.56 the standard NATO loadings seem to very reasonable. With a sign of the pen on an executive order can stop all ammo imports for civilians. The SCOTUS has never ruled ammo to be part of the 2nd Amendment. We firearms community has suffered blows from policies that never went before the floor of congress. Such as the ban 7.62x39 Chinese, the ban on parts kits with barrels, or Imbel receivers for F.A.L rifles from South America. A simple ruling in essence stopped the production of sub $500 dollar rifles. A policy change , not a law passed in congress by your elected representative ,drove the price of each of the groups of parts or ammo through the roof overnight.
There is not Federal XM193 in the pipeline that I can locate. You find cases or maybe even a pallet for sale, but never the hundreds of thousands of rounds available as in years past. If you have a 50 BMG buy every round you can. Did you know there are only like 7 factories in the world that can make 50 BMG. The rifle and ammo is on the proverbial hit list of every gun control group. Very few countries in the world allow ownership of such rifles and the gun control groups would love to have the confiscated or at the very least have them put on the N.F.A registry and transfer like a fully automatic. The amount of people buying heavy caliber rifles and ammo is unheard of. Just 2 years ago very rarely would you have a customer wanting a 50BMG and even more rare was someone asking for .338 Lapua and .408 Chey-tac rifles and ammo. In the market we are having now any heavy caliber rifle capable of long distance shooting is very hard to obtain.
It takes around a year to fill a large ammo order from a major producer. The ore has to be mined from the earth. Primers made, cases formed, powder mixed and that takes time. The ammo plants are running round the clock. The ammo makers are again understanding how much the American shooting community is willing to pay for ammo. Last time we had a scare of 7.62x39 Russian the case price doubled at least. This is the same factor except across the board. Basic economics teaches us to sell for as much as we can and the consumer will pay. There are many buyers at the current prices. Even if there are no new restrictions set into place in the coming months or year. We as a shooting community have welcomed millions of new shooters into our club. That adds up to many more consumers buying ammo and parts that we came to expect in stock. There will be more 5.56 on the market when we pull out of Iraq, but not enough to lower the price. Stockpiles have to be replenished both at the military and local government level. Through the ever expanding war on drugs and terror we have armed nations around the world with M-16 style rifles. Most countries seeking membership in NATO also are swapping to 5.56 rounds. Not to mention the private security companies that are going to continue in the Middle East to fill the void left by a U.S military withdrawal.
I read online and talked people in the place I work who are waiting till these new gun owners are broke and on hard times. Their plan is to buy these weapons and ammo for pennies on the dollar. I do not believe this will be the case. Either times will get better and these guns will be sold at auction in 20 years after the purchaser passes or the grand children will get them. It's the same scenario with the Belgian Browning Shotguns and Colt pistols that were purchased so cheap in the 1950's and 60's. You can bet an auctioneer will know the value of the weapons before they begin. Estate actions did not list each gun in the advertising until a few years ago. With advertising guns at auction for the most part bring well over the top retail price. Ditto on the crates of ammo that have been stored with these guns. Some of the surplus ammo will be at a premium. Especially those calibers which can be used in popular Class 3 weaponry. This happened in the late 80's when people that ran out and bought HK's, AUGs, and Sigs after the Sporting Weapons Clause. When was the last time you ran into a broke person with one of these guns? It does not happen. They have money because they walked into any gun shop in the country and walked out with several thousand in cash. We as shooters have driven the value of these weapons just as we will guns in the future.
If something does happen to disrupt normal purchasing channels such a disaster or terrorist attack a person wanting a self loading rifle will not get the guns for a discount. Historically during those times weapons of any type were one of the most valuable items a person could possess. People who have new luxury care, and are able to spend $10,000 on rifles and ammo do not get that kind of buying power by making unsound financial choices. Think about it for a moment. There are still a many un-armed people in America that control large amounts of assets. If something becomes needed and is unavailable then the price will sky rocket not go down. The new gun buyers for the most part are educating themselves with the internet. They buy guns like they buy a flat screen or a new car. They are also storing back food and other supplies. That is another group of items that is becoming hard to get. Any long term storage food or materials to store food are becoming scarce. It is the same group of new gun owners prepping for an unforeseeable future. They know a rifle is valuable or they would not be buying it. There will always be someone buying a quality weapon and a good price regardless of the currency used. If your neighbor offers the new gun owner 200 lbs of rice why would you think said person will trade with you for a bowl of beans as I have read many times on the internet. Many of the people are buying for an investment. They want a top quality weapon, and some have even bought extras they say "just in case", never know what it will be worth one day.
I know many of you are going a little crazy over lack of reloading components. We have been through this before. Components drying up happened when there was a primer scare in the early 90's.Except we were not fighting a two front war and have troops at all corners of the globe. The push for micro stamping has driven demand more than anything else. Primers have shot through the roof in price as has brass. They may drop a little in price, though they are a consumable item. As long as reloading is cheaper that domestic production ammo then primers will continue to move at the current price.
While prices have went up most of the makers are not "gouging" the market. Prices were on the rise before any of this started. Commodity prices drive anything with metal from guns to office buildings. If commodities fall then ammo and gun prices will fall with them. Do not bet on this as China is buying raw materials at a tremendous rate to fund their 50 year expansion. Case tractors had four price increases last year along the same time as the firearms companies. It was across the board for manufacturing.
We are seeing a combination of free trade and international trade agreements along with the general unrest of the population driving prices up. There is large amounts ammo in countries overseas that will never be able to be imported here. The same problem stocks of surplus weapons. Most weaponry made in the last 40 years has been fully automatic and therefore it is unable to be imported in the original state. The best we can hope for is parts so the US makers can rebuild the guns. I have talked to people who have seen ware houses full of 8mm and 303 on buying trips overseas that was being destroyed. Many small to medium size countries have signed non-proliferation of small arms agreements with the U.N that are coupled to agricultural, cash, and military aid. Unfortunately for the American shooter these countries are a treasure trove of surplus weapons and ammo. This is especially true the semi stable African countries. Since only certain countries are able to export and few companies are willing to deal with the hassle this limits the amount of ammo available to US shooters. Along with US government restrictions on anything A.P or perceived as armor piercing such as Chinese 7.62x39. Not to mention the paperwork involved for an importer. Even the biggest ammo producers such as Lake City only produce 1.7 billion rounds per year with a vast majority going to military contracts. The ammo production has even become a problem for the United States government. Plants in Korea, Taiwan, Israel, and Spain produce US military ammunition. I shudder to think what would happen if the government began taking all the shipments from those countries. I.M.I and PMC in Korea provide a large percent of the ammo sold on gun store shelves.
I wrote this to urge you not to wait to buy weapons, ammo, gear, and parts. We are preparing for the worst. Plinking is fun, but that is not the intent of most people who are preparing for hard times. These weapons were meant to prep yourself and your family for a disaster of extended period of time. Being prepped means having the weapons and ammo in addition to other supplies you need to survive without assistance from another source. In The Patriots by James Wesley, Rawles when the characters were discussing what they should have bought but did not they used the term "hindsight is 20/20". Yes, we all would have bought 7.62x39 Russian at $55.00 per case or 308 at 12.5 cents per round if we would have known. Even those police trade in Bushmasters or Glock pistols. Those times are over. The American population is so accustomed to being able to have anything they desire within a short period of time. Even if an item is not available a large influx of cash could usually fix the problem. This is different because nothing short of revamping the entire industry or overbidding for commodities is going to bring up production. Considering the low profit margin is for many makers I cannot see a large manufacturing change. At current rates I can see quality 5.56 holding at .40-.60 cents per round unless a ban makes it through the Senate or a new policy is implemented such as micro stamping. Good 308 surplus is already over .70 cents per round in many cases. Match ammo to feed the hundreds of thousands of target rifles is almost $2.00 per round. One of the reasons for the already high price is the utter lack of 308 ammo on the surplus market compared to the millions of semi auto 308 rifles. If a new law is even mentioned concerning ammo you can expect a 100% increase over night with all calibers selling out. Even obscure calibers for hunting and antique weapons. Pistol ammo will continue to rise since the pistol market is on a steady growth. 9mm will always be the cheapest choice because of its usage in so many militaries and police departments around the world. 45 A.C.P is very vulnerable because the United States was one of the only countries to issue the caliber for any length of time. We have not had 45 caliber Colt pistols in normal U.S inventory channels for over 20 years now. Even though special units use the caliber there would not be enough production to offset costs. When buying a weapon for long term usage then keep in mind the ammo cost and the future cost. 7.62x39 Russian has become since the late 80's an extremely popular round. Before the fall of the U.S.S.R you only found those weapons in the hands of collectors and the ammo was not available. Some importers brought in small lots from friendly Easter European countries such as the excellent round from Lapua imported in the early 1980's. The ammo then was over $1.00 a round. Keep in mind that domestic production of this round along with 7.62x54R is limited at best because of the billions of rounds of imported ammo that has been brought in since the mid 1980's. The availability of this ammo could dry up overnight.
Yes it is going to cost you more than it would have yesterday to put back arms and ammo, but the cost will be less than it will be 12 or even 6 months from now. I hope that I am wrong, but someday we may be buying a box of 9mm for a dollar a round and having to show special licensing and talk about how we remember when you could buy the ammo for .25 cents a round and no questions were asked at a small gun store. Many firearms manufacturers are 12 months back ordered at the very least, and the buying has not even slowed down. If you need a rifle then go find a store that is not gouging prices and buy the whole rifle. Do not try to wait and build your only rifle. I have a dozen people call and come by the shop every day looking for parts and uppers. For years every time there was talk of a ban people would wipe out the stock of stripped and complete lowers for AR-15's and pre-bent AK style receivers. As with most things we imagined just get the part they may ban and we can buy the rest later. Well later is now and you have people with 10, 15, and even more lowers ready for uppers and lower parts kits. The top AK builders in the country are backed up 12 months and some are not even taking orders. This effect is being felt throughout the entire industry. Not only are center fire rifles and duty size handguns not available the fear the current administration will limit concealed carry has prompted thousands every week to obtain a permit to carry in hopes that if a new law is passed they will be grandfathered in. Now imagine a dozen going by every gun shop in the country every day. You can get a glimpse of how bad things could get by trying to locate 380 automatic ammunition. It is produced on the same line as 9mm NATO. With the civilian and military demand so high 380 production for civilian sales went idle for a time. At this time there is none available from ammunition distributors, and private sales are getting up to $60 dollars per box for a round that many people do not even consider suitable to carry. Some large online discount retailers have asked $75.00 or more and have sold out. This is several dollars for a round that was purchased under .50 cents each. When people are afraid they will pay any amount asked. If any of the smaller ammo makers are forced out of business due to legislation then the amount of available ammo will be hurt.
Parts have gone up in price so much that with most retailers and private sellers you are no longer saving any money. Also do not sit and wait on a SCAR or SIG 556 or Armalite AR-10 that may never appear. Just because a dealer has the weapon "on order" does not mean it will arrive. Last month Century was back ordered several million AK-47 clones. These rifles may never be even allowed to enter the country by the time the firearms are made overseas. If you have a chance to look on a distributor website you will see how backed up things are. For the most part you will not be able to locate one semi auto handgun or semi rifle of any caliber or configuration. I am guilty of the waiting for a certain weapon. I placed an FS2000 on order twenty months before it actually arrived. Looking back I should have known better to have held the money for so long because I passed up on more usable items such as a shooter grade FN-FAL. Little did I know that the rifle would not live up to the early advertising and hype that it generated. I chose not to purchase that rifle when it finally arrived, but I lost out on other options that today would have been a better choice. Waiting on a gun you may not like or will never arrive could cost you the opportunity of buying a reliable weapon today for the future. If the cost benefit of waiting does not add up then buy now. I cannot urge you enough to buy a self loading center fire rifle and handgun along with magazines and ammo at the present time. I had a customer tell me he had bought an AR-15 Bushmaster rifle then completely took it apart to sell the parts online. Made a profit, kept receiver and bought another new rifle which he planned to keep. He had a parts kit on order for four months. Go ahead buy the rifle and order the parts. You will be able to save the money by the time the parts or another gun arrives in 6-18 months. Remember to buy spare parts, cleaning kits, extra mags, ect. This is one of the biggest mistakes I see in people purchasing firearms. They put off the needed items for a later time. By the time you get around to taking the time to go back to the store or get online and look for everything either the price has changed or the item is no longer available. PMAGS and folding stocks are a great example. PMAGs were available for a time and people kept putting off ordering. A couple of months ago they could still be had for under $15 dollars. The same type of people buying Ak's wanted to add a Russian style side folder or one of the cheaper Romanian stocks. All of these items are either out of stock or in some cases doubled in price. I tried to talk customers into buying all the ammo they could take with them. They would buy a case and then say they would be back. By the time they took the time to come back the ammo was no longer available from any store or online source. If you see something you need or even high on your wish list then purchase it.
I do not see a massive price drop in the future. If you are wanting a weapon you need to be making plans to purchase one in the near future. Ammo is the same way. Buy all the ammo you can get ahold of. I have no idea when the supplies will be back up to what they were 12 months ago.
If you only have a 1500 dollars do not buy a 308 and a high end scope. Then not be able to buy magazines, ammo, and sites. An SKS and several cases of ammo along with training will beat and untrained man with a high dollar rifle every time. The FN-SCAR which is being sold at thousands of dollars over retail will do no good If you do not have ammo, mags, or a sling to carry the weapon. People buying the tools to prepare for civil unrest or a disaster either man-made or natural have a different priority than the weekend plinker who does not train nor plan to use a weapon for defense. That type person picks up his ammo on the way to the range every week and just like a golfer enjoys the sport of shooting for just that, a sport. The rest of American shooters, those shooters concerned about legislation of certain firearms or preparing for long periods of time that the weapon may be used to defend home and family need to be buying on a different time-frame. Even if buying now costs more up front one must value add the price of not having the firearm if you need it. If you keep the rifle locked in the safe and it is just a range toy then you can afford to wait for a good deal or a lower price. If one ever needs a self loading rifle or pistol to defend the life of a loved one then the value is much higher than that upon the tag.
Just to give a little of my background for those of you that do not know. I was raised in the gun and ammo business. I literally so my first box of ammo at 2 weeks old. I have worked for a custom steel fabricator, an FFL and SOT's and now work at a very large Mid-Tennessee gun store that moves a tremendous amount of ammo. I am pursuing a degree in Agriculture Business at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro ,Tn. My degree requires an understanding of international trade and economics which fits well with the current arms shortage. I have taken several upper division economics and economic policy and trade classes were we discuss commodities, international agreements (such as the one that caused the S.A 308 to be dumped in the North Atlantic). After graduation I plan on attending Law School. I train at Tactical Response in Camden, TN and recommend it to anyone seeking to learn not only how to use their weapon, but the mindset to fight and survive. I have been involved in preparedness for over 15 years.