New England’s Bass Pro Shops aren’t the only places that are out of almost everything. Our section of the Northwest has been picked (nearly) clean of All Things 5.56mm, and this photo shows why. It shows only a part of the crowd that showed up 45 minutes before a gun show opened its doors in Portland, Oregon this weekend. Joe Grine, Aharon and myself were among the lucky ones who got to wait indoors; the unlucky rabble stretched almost a quarter-mile around the building and across the Oregon Expo Center parking lot. What did we (the lucky ones) find when the doors finally opened? Not many ARs, but a lot of surprises…
As the show opened there were a dozen-odd ARs, scattered among a hundred-odd tables, and their prices started in the $1300s. A handful of Century AKs at $700 (*gag*) and up. Two or three 9mm carbines ($700+), a SCAR-H (don’t bother asking) and a single $1800 Benelli M4. Joe’s friend bought that one. There were plenty of normal-capacity magazines on hand for those who didn’t mind tapping a vein and coughing up $45 each for a no-name AK or AR magazine. P-Mags? Beta drums? Fuggedaboutit.
I paid twice what I should have for a not-quite-ubiquitous 9mm pistol magazine, but what’re you gonna do? I only had three, and now I’ve got four.
Those buyers lucky (or foolish) enough to get their hands on an AR only bought themselves another conundrum: there was almost no 5.56mm ammo, and it was $.75 per round. Maybe it was just as well there weren’t many ARs anyway. .22 long rifle was in predictably short supply, even at $5 per 50-round box. Remember the good old days of November, when $200 could score you 1,000 rounds of 9mm or 5.56?
Haven’t we all been here before?
Yes, and no. All of us old enough to buy our own guns will remember the last big gun and ammunition price bubble a few years ago, and we all (eventually) saw those astronomical prices come back down to reality. Today’s panic bubble has a greater urgency, however, and more basis in reality. When it comes to normal-capacity magazines and semi-automatic rifles, we may be nearing the end of the road. For real.
The DiFi AWB might die an ignominious death in committee, or the liberal Democrat statists (joined by enough Republican Quislings) might ram it through. I can’t read the tea leaves on this, so I won’t waste your time trying. We all know what we can do politically, so let’s just do it.
Where are the bargains? Steel and Walnut.
Everything ‘Call Of Duty’ has been sold out for weeks, but everything ‘Field & Stream’ is selling at very reasonable prices. Here’s a discreet photo of Aharon with the unfired .357 Magnum Winchester Model 1894 he scored last week for $600. Winchester hasn’t made these for almost a decade, and Marlin’s pistol-caliber carbines have been sold out (or out of production, or too shitty to er with) for almost two years. Despite this scarcity Aharon picked up this compact and quick-firing defensive carbine for less than half the price of a no-frills AR-15. And it holds 11+1 rounds of .357.
For every bare-bones $1500 Olympic Arms AR at the gun show (all three of them) there were five Marlin or Winchester .30-30s for under $400 each, and we even found several well-used pistol caliber lever guns for under $500. The guns are cheap, the ammo is relatively cheap, and it’s still plentiful: .30-30 hunting rounds are still $15 a box, which is the same price as 5.56mm. This is an important benefit to having a boring gun in panic times: none of the AR fanboys will buy all your ammo off the shelves.
Another case in point: Three years ago I couldn’t find a single Savage Model 99 used for less than $750, but yesterday I saw several of them in .308 for less than $500. Good luck finding cheap ammo for these classic rifles, though.
Dr. Strangegun, or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Mossberg
Joe’s friend snagged the only Benelli M4, but there were dozens and dozens of boring old pump-action shotguns on the racks, and you had to be pretty picky to pay more than $350 for a new one. Want a used Mossberg? Got two hundred bucks? They might never have their own ‘Call Of Duty’ exclusive DLC, but they’ll serve you faithfully for decades and they’re cheaper than a tricked-out .22. Shotgun ammo is largely the same price that it was two months ago, and there’s still a lot of it around.
What About Gun Stores?
I’ve checked most of the area’s biggest Big Box sporting goods stores, and several of the bigger standalone gun dealers in the last few weeks. The story is the same everywhere: the minute anything AR, AK or .22 hits the shelves, it’s gone. Pistols of every description are plentiful, however, and revolvers are selling fairly slowly. Military centerfire ammo (9mm, 5.56, .308) is mostly gone, but other handgun and hunting calibers are still available in quantity. Prices are (duh) higher than they were in November, but non-military centerfire calibers haven’t seen the panic buying that’s Hoovered up all the 5.56 and .308.
What’s A Guy To Do?
If you must have an AR, this might be your last chance or it might not. Beware that you’ll pay 75% to 150% more today than you would have paid for the same rifle two months ago. And you might not find many magazines, or many cartridges, to feed it with.
While black rifles have never been in hotter demand, there’s never been a cheaper time to buy a used hunting rifle or shotgun. You can even feed your semi-auto jones, as long as you’re willing to give up the black plastic and phosphate for walnut and blued steel. I saw a half-dozen classic Remington Model 740s and 7400s, chambered in ubiquitous calibers like .270 and .30-06, for less than $500. Don’t scorn these old-timers just because your granddad might have hunted with them. They’re not sub-MOA tackdrivers, but they’ll put meat on the table. With a little scrounging you can even find 10-round magazines for them, and these cheap gun-show pickups can show a Garand (or a gang of bad guys) a thing or two about firepower.
Times are bad, and they might get much worse, but a prudent shooter can find some real bargains right now. When the world is running down, you make the best of what’s still around.
Anybody wanna buy a used Bulgarian AK-74 and a couple thousand rounds of ammo?