Question of the Day: How High is Up?

Reader Mike W. writes:

“Just curious what your predictions are on AR-15 gun and component prices. Do you think they will start going back down anytime soon? My nephew went to a gun show in Dallas over the weekend, so I asked him to check on some uppers for me (I have a half-built AR sitting on my workbench). He called me from the gun show and said there wasn’t anything for under $700! Just a few weeks ago, I could get a good upper (minus BCG) for around $300, and now they are $700? That’s the cost of an entire rifle! This price hike is getting insane. At this rate, they won’t have to ban them – because no one will be able to afford them.” So is this the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end of price hikes?

56 Responses to Question of the Day: How High is Up?

  1. avatarKris says:

    The making group is currently shipping quality steel AR mags for around $18. A company Rep has been frequenting online discussion forums assuring people that they’re in stock and coming in by the truckload. Orders are about 10 days out.

  2. avatarDrewR55 says:

    Keep an eye on PSA, just last night they had a supply of 20″ HF CL uppers without BCGs for $450. That’s their ‘normal’ price but in the past they’d have some sale going to reduce the cost.

    • avatarIn Memphis says:

      The more I learn about duracoat, the more I wish I bought of few of PSAs “blemished” lowers. I think they were selling for around $50

      • avatarLoyd says:

        If I’d had the disposable cash back during the summer I’d have jumped on PSA’s 5 lowers for $400 (or something like that) deal.

      • avatarspeedracer5050 says:

        Duracoat, when applied correctly, is great stuff! I have rebuilt and refinished 4 1911′s this past year in Duracoat SL in matte black. Clean everything very thoroughly, wear rubber gloves, spray in a clean area and let it air cure as long as the directions say or a day or two longer depending on the weather. If I could upload a pic or two of the last one on here I would.
        Love the Duracoat colors and flat clear coats. Am refinishing my 1911 frame and slide this month, doing the color case hardening to get the blues, straws and golds then will coat with DuracoatSL matte clear.

  3. avatarimrambi says:

    Right now its simple supply and demand. The demand is high and the supply is low, thus you will get high prices. Many companies are on a year or more lead times, and many are not even giving estimates any more.

    Once the supply increases and stores will start stocking rifles (so there is inventory), the price will start to come down. Also once the threat (AWB) is shot down, many of these orders will be cancelled and demand will go down, thus lowering the price.

    • avatarPhydeaux says:

      It would be interesting to see some numbers on cancelations in the event the AWB fails. I would expect some cancelations, but would not be surprised if the percentage was low – especially if most of those buying now were planning to buy “someday” and realized “someday” is today.

      This whole gun control fight, along with the actual shooting, appears to have driven a significant increase in gun ownership – which is definitely a good thing.

  4. avatarLance says:

    This is less about the fight to keep our rights then it is gun seller ripping people off. When this is over remember the jerks like this seller and stick it to him.

    • avatarSammy says:

      Amen. I will not forget who aided and abetted the enemy. Lower than Dirt and slippery Dick’s Sporting Goods are at the top of the list. And I will add anyone gouging $1,000.00 for 1k rounds of 5.56.

      And while I’m on the subject, if someone raised the price of gas .50 during a supply and demand imbalance caused by Sandy, they were publicly trashed and fined. Why no such protection for us?

      • avatarLance says:

        I never get the logic of mass produced 5.56mm or 7.62mm or .30 cal M-1 ammo being mass produced in the millions monthly being $1 a round that’s retarded. And I remember just a few years ago mil ammo was 10 cents a round and the only $1 ammo was hard to find BIG game rounds like .416 Rigby.

      • avatarblinkypete says:

        Price gouging laws only apply in disasters. Hot toys, in this case spooky looking guns, don’t count. Take a deep breath and wait it out. Prices will come down.

    • avatarWLCE says:

      i think there is price gouging going on, but predictably, this kind of thing happens in circumstances like this. the demand was already high and supply short after the election. stocks just never adequately recovered and then the CT massacre occurred and supplies were already strained.

      I long yearn for the days of cheap 5.56 and 7.62, which i fear are long gone. 7.62 has been expensive since 2003 when we were fighting two wars and there was somewhat of a ammunition shortage of military calibers.

      I cannot wait for the AWB bill to die a painful death and the price of the guns and ammo to go down again to pre-2008 prices due to overstock. The sheep procrastinators and fairweather 2nd amendment supporters will cancel their orders, sell their stuff, or just not buy it like they planned, and then the cycle will repeat itself again and responsible, proactive gun owners will be screwed once more.

  5. avatarAlphaGeek says:

    I’ve covered my bases as best I can with a couple of lowers. I figure I’m either going to get some nice complete uppers from Windham when this all blows over, or I’m going to be screwed by upcoming legislation here in CA. Not much in between those two extremes, by my best guess.

    • avatarblinkypete says:

      I just moved out of MA. You should do the same with CA. You’ll be lucky to legally own a cap gun before the year is out. Of course, you’ll have to register it….

      • avatarAlphaGeek says:

        In my field, the SF Bay Area is where all the best jobs are. Besides, I generally like living here, and the community I live in is a great place to raise a family.

        After the kids are out of the house, though, Colorado and Arizona are both looking pretty darn good.

  6. avatarBig Jack says:

    If folks are giving it, can you blame someone for asking it???

  7. avatarBig Jack says:

    If folks are giving it, can you blame someone for asking it?

  8. avatarMichael says:

    It’s definitely going to be interesting because we have multiple factors at play here. There’s the populace fearing another ban, likely worse than 1994′s ban, so they’re driving the prices up naturally because of supply and demand.

    While the prices are still high, manufacturers will naturally tend to increase output and supply to meet demand and make more money. Nothing wrong with that.

    Here’s where it gets sticky. Under normal circumstances, a smart business owner would use those sales profits to hire more workers, more machines, and get supply out quicker to their customers. BUT! You have a potential ban coming on those items you’re making. Do you ignore this, spend your profits on expansion, and risk having to shut down, lay-off workers, and eat the cost of all that new machinery you bought? Or do you keep your cards close, sit on any potential investment decisions, and wait to see what happens?

    I think that’s why the prices will remain higher until some concrete action from Congress (or God forbid, an executive order) takes the uncertainty out of the market. It sounds kinda obvious now, but it’s going to be bad until it gets worse or get’s better.

    • avatarAlphaGeek says:

      Totally agree. There is every incentive to max out existing production and distribution capacity in the short term, but not to invest in more capacity now.

      Unsold inventory in the event of a severe ban will also be a serious consideration. If you overproduce an item that is banned for sale, then you may lose more money than you netted in the weeks prior to the ban.

    • avatarRepubAnon says:

      Spikes in demand for items where a significant investment in physical plant and training (coupled with long lead times) tend to produce wild price swings as the supply chain swings from shortages to surplus inventory.

      It seems highly unlikely that an absolute ban on “assault weapons” will pass at all – or even be considered until after the 2014 elections. Even then, the most likely legislation would be registration and tracking databases designed to deter straw buyers from selling to drug cartels while allowing honest citizens to purchase and own these weapons.

      If you’d like to see stabilized prices, support some form of regulation that makes it easier to prosecute those selling firearms illegally. There’ll still be mass shootings, just as there’s still drunk driving – but the annual numbers will drop. The fewer the number of mass shootings, the less pressure for new laws – and the less successful the scare campaigns conducted to boost panic buying (and keep prices high).

    • avatarpat says:

      I bet some of the larger companies will continue production because they have the size to weather an unfavorable decision regarding any ban. The smaller companies could literally be caught in a life or death decision with similar sized companies gaining marketshare with a favorable gamble vs just sitting on the sidelines and waiting.

  9. avatarAharon says:

    Are we still in an AR bull market or are we entering the bubble phase? There is still a large unmet consumer demand for ARs. If the gun-grabbing mass media and anti-2A politicians continue their ranting over the weeks and months it will keep demand going. I don’t know how soon inventories of ARs will be replenished and what the retailer asking prices will be. I’m not going to try and guess about price hikes.

    Even .357 and .38 ammo inventories are getting very low at Wally World and Wholesales Sports. I suspect ammo prices, even for ammo that is not for semi-auto rifles and pistols, might be about to explode. I’m stocking up.

    • avatarAlphaGeek says:

      One way or another, this is a bubble.

      Ban passed? Bubble pops, no new sales of ARs, prices for everything but lowers return to normal.

      Ban defeated by wide margin, or “compromise” such as 10-round mags passed? Bubble pops.

      Ban defeated by narrow margin: bubble continues throughout 2013, my plans to start competing in 3-gun evaporate as I wait and wait for complete uppers to become available at decent prices.

    • avatarPhydeaux says:

      A market bubble is the over expansion of a market due primarily to excessive buyer confidence resulting in inflated values. This can also be exacerbated by easy credit and/or underestimated risk.

      I don’t see the market distortions of a typical bubble, just the invisible hand of the free market adjusting price to increased demand. Should the push for an AWB be such that manufacturers chose not to increase capacity in response to increased demand and prices, that would be a market distortion.

      We need a guest post by an economist.

    • avatarWLCE says:

      you should have stocked up a while ago.

      yes this is a tulip trend in the gun world.

  10. avatarpeter says:

    I know a man who had a spare AR-15 that he sold.

    1 month ago, the estimate was at $900.
    3 weeks ago, it was at $1100.
    2 weeks ago, it sold at $2400.

  11. I am an 07 (Fort Worth, TX.) and build AR’s and 1911′s, the short answer is there are no guns in the wholesale market and there are no parts in the whole market. I deal with the manufactures and the simple fact is no one is answering the phone. All you get is a busy or stright to voice mail that tells you the mailbox is full GOODBYE and click. The wholesale market has been behind the curve since 2008 and the last election made things worse.At the last Fort Worth Gun show (there have been 2 in the last 2 weeks), basic Ar’s were stating at 1500.00. The next day everyone on the planet was at the show trying to sell their AR for 2K. Last weekend EVERYONE was walking the floor with them with prices from 2K to 3500.00. Parts, stripped lowers 400. to 500. parts kits 100.00, uppers 700 to 900. bolt carriers 180.00. Then there is MODEL 1 SALES, I went by their table looking for a 9mm upper with a 7″ barrel, the guy who runs the place said he sold all the had Sat. I asked I ordered one on your website when can I expect it? Paul’s answer was 6 month’s

    I got a flyer last night from a wholesaler who shall remain nameless for a stripped lower and and just the upper for 369.00.

  12. avatarMike in NC says:

    Since there is a wide range in AR upper features that make a difference in price it is difficult to discuss prices without some specifications. If the $700 uppers at the gun show were comparable (barrel, BCG, handguard and sights) to the $300 one before, then it is a painful example of the free-market. If the $700 upper now is a better grade in some ways and actually sold previously for $600, then it is just an example of the cheaper models selling out first. Keep in mind that top-shelf uppers were selling for $1000 and up for many months before this latest rush.

  13. avatarm.ia says:

    At a gun show over the weekend and steel mags were going for anywhere from $30 to $50. Most .223 ammo was still going for around $30-$40 for 50 rounds depending on the bullet type. I figure I’ll just reload.

    The best sign I saw (wish I took a picture) was in a glass case on top of some pmags that said : “These magazines are very very over priced, we suggest that you don’t buy them” $60

    I thought it was funny and I imagine they were the last of his supply.

  14. avatarAnmut says:

    It’s a bubble and as long as it’s in the main stream media news it will continue to grow. Although what I am seeing in the last week or so has been a lot of people trying to cash in on guns they have had in storage which is somewhat bringing the prices back down to a high-normal average.

    For an example, using gunbroker.com as the gauge, an ak-47 AMD-65 a month ago was $500 all day long. Post-Newtown it steadily went up the first week to around $1500. However that was when there were only a few for sale. Now if you look there are a whole bunch for sale and the only ones with bids are in the $700-900 range, meaning that’s what the market has set for a high-average value for right now. There are guys trying to sell them for $1300 but I don’t think anyone is paying that… yet.

    What really bothers me is the ammo shortage. In particular, the once-fired or new brass shortage in .223. It’s gone – all of it!

    • avatarTaurus609 says:

      Was at my local indoor range yesterday, the place was packed. All eighteen stalls with a waiting list. Most had two people in the stall, and over 90% one of the two was a female. Two guys close to me were shooting their ARs, so I asked if they reload and they both said no. So I asked if they minded me picking up their brass, with a no problem from either. Don’t know how long that will last with ammo getting scarcer, but I would imagine when and if this keeps going, that might change.

      • avatarAnmut says:

        Wish we had some indoor ranges up here – all the range brass is buried in the snow now!

      • avatarAlphaGeek says:

        The idea of a public indoor rifle range slightly boggles my mind. Given my experience with the local indoor pistol ranges, that seems like it would be really loud.

  15. avatarm.ia says:

    Also, not a lot of uppers, and none under $700. All the ARs were priced higher than I had been seeing but not too bad. Not that there were a lot of them. I would check SOTA Arms website. They are the makers of my 300 Blackout Upper. Shoots well under 1/2 inch groups at 50 yards with 110gr handloads. They have pretty good prices. $379 for 300 blk upper w/o BCG. $469 .223 upper

    Also they have very good customer service from my experience so far.

    Sotaarms.com

  16. avatarCasey T says:

    If the assault weapons ban goes through, we all will just get price gouged. If it fails, there will be a fallout and prices will drop and there will be excess inventory everywhere. When that fallout occurs, I don’t know but it will. Just look what happened to the housing market, though this isn’t that extreme.

  17. avatarm.ia says:

    Speaking of brass, 50 count of .223 or 300 blackout brass was going for $30. No way in hell I’ll pay that when I can make it out of the 1000 plus rounds of empty .223 I have. It was clean, not sure if it was sized or not. But still…

    • avatarjwm says:

      Yep, I said this a day or two ago. I never thought I would ever see the day when .30-30 was cheaper than 5.56.

      • avatarSanchanim says:

        Kind of pushes the point for reloading doesn’t it!

        • avatarm.ia says:

          Just waiting for my turret press and extra turrets to come on the big brown truck of fun. Then I can set up my dies and have much less to adjust every time I switch caliber.

  18. avatarWPZ says:

    We instruct at one of the largest gun retailers in the upper midwest once or twice a week. Not only have our classes suddenly exploded into overflowing (our once moribund “Handgun & Holster Skills Intermediate” now fills twice a month, alone), but the Wednesday evening after the Sandy Hook tragedy, the waiting line to check out purchased guns (after our Illinois 24-wait) was two and half hours. Just to pick up already purchased guns!
    That same dealer is staying open two hours later every night. The owners are working seven days, many of them well past 12-14 hours.
    Then, I heard the manager say they’d heard back from a distributor whom they’d called- a SCAR (I believe it was) formerly retailing for under $2K was now being wholesaled for over three!
    This dealer ordered some 500 ARs the night of the shooting. They began to arrive in four calendar days. Within 14 days, all were gone.
    Pressure.

  19. avatardirk diggler says:

    I am saving my pennies and waiting for the crash . . . .

  20. avatarCameron S. says:

    In my local buy/sell ads I saw two Jackasses trying to sell A cheap Bushmaster Carbon 15 with red dot *under 800 new in a lot of places before Sandy Hook* and a Stag Arms model 4 *about an $800 rifle as well* for $3500 each.

    I called them both from a payphone just to give them a piece of my mind.

    Even worse, is the guy with the Stag actually managed to sell his for $3200. What bull.

    • avatarWLCE says:

      market trends my friend. market trends.

      i know it is irritating, though as long as there are those actually purchasing products for those prices, this will continue.

      • avatarJoseph says:

        No other way to say it WLCE is right as rain.

        Seems to me that it is likely that the remainder of the year will be spent by manufacturers catching back up to the current demand, filling their back orders.
        A lot of people are going to be going manufacturer direct now that existing stock has been seemingly cleaned out nation wide. Places like Spike Tactical, Daniels Defense, etc, they’re going to see the next run and they’ll allow a back log to run up. Probably by the end of 2013 it will have been filled out.
        Should that be the case (it will be) then in 2014 mom-and-pop manufacturers and main-stream companies alike will turn their attention to restocking the market, allowing FFL’s to put a surplus back on their shelves. This will, best case scenario eat up the first two fiscal quarters of 2014.
        More likely though price normalization will start to occur around the end of Q3/ beginning of Q4 of 2014.
        I’d say that the market will support prices similar to those seen back in October of 2012 for probably two financial quarters following this.
        After that time what we will probably see is a decline in prices to below what they were back in October. That will likely persist for at least a year until the end of the Obama presidency. So following the pattern I’ve built up in my head around 2016 prices will stabilize back to what we’ve expected to see based on the last decade and will stay there indefinitely.

        Of course that entire model I just presented is based on the assumption that the political status quo will persist through this next Congressional session and no new legislation will pass at the Federal level. Should new legislation pass all of that goes out the window. Additionally should there occur another mass shooting in the same vein as Sandy Hook as opposed to say that of Aurora during Obama’s presidency then once again, all bets – as they say – are off.

  21. avatarMD Matt says:

    We’ve been hearing about how the manufacturers have been producing at maximum capacity since the beginning of the Republican primaries. I started shooting back in 2009, and I remember then many of the veterans griping about how a bunch of fear mongering newbies had bogartted their hobby, buying a thousand rounds of .308 for rifles they didn’t understand or ever intend to shoot.
    The following run on military calibers due to government consumption and market forces drove all ammunition costs so high that .38 and .357 were the same price at my local range. While .9mm has calmed down, other calibers haven’t returned to their 2007 levels. That was 4 years ago.
    People bought lots of guns, especially semiautomatics. Then a year later, with the economy still down and no major action taken, the consignment shelves filled up.
    That was due to real market forces and a single potent but limited period of fear.
    Now we have a president openly supporting gun control, a public outcry, major action taking place on the State and federal level, and an economy in flux.
    Things were bad in 2009. Now they’re worse. I don’t see prices coming down any time soon. As several others have said, much rests on what happens in congress. The only way to decisively lower costs is for gun control to be definitively stopped in its tracks. If political and media pressure keeps up, the uncertainty will continue to feed the fear.
    At some point the bubble will break. But that’s a ways off. Worse, there are far more catastrophic economic forces at work than there were 4 years ago.

    My advice is to let the market do what it’s going to do. You can still find some excellent deals on less modern firearms, particularly in non military calibers. I just found a marlin 1895 in 4570 for $625. I haven’t been able to find one for the past two years. I recommend focusing on less volatile platforms.
    If you pay the inflated prices, you’re feeding the beast. Assuming assault weapons get banned, you’re going to be stuck with a heavily regulated item and a huge hassle. More likely prices will even out when the AWB dies a silent death. Then you’ll have paid 3-4 times the value of the gun and over paid for the ammunition.
    Now’s a great time to get into reloading. Take an old gun and get some custom work done on it. Pick up something in .22lr or grab a conversion kit. See if you can barter with a friend for parts or new platforms. Upgrade your scope. Save for when the market crashes. Fight the trend.

  22. avatarIdahoPete says:

    If you wait until the hurricane hits to buy plywood and stock up on food, don’t be surprised if the prices have gone up, or the supply is gone.

  23. avatarTheSleeperHasAwakened@wakeup.org says:

    The price gouging that has been the biggest shock to me was seeing Mosin Nagants being sold for $200 at the last Gun Show I went to this past weekend.

    NOW THAT IS TOO HIGH!

    • avatarJWhite says:

      I saw one at the gun store here in town for $198 – two weeks before all this madness occurred.

    • avatarspeedracer5050 says:

      Holy Bat Crap Man!!!
      Our LGS has a Mosin that is a consignment sale. The owner is asking $250 for it and, in the opinion of the shop owner and myself it is a $100 rifle at best. The wood is atrocious, the markings and finish are very very worn and the bolt is stiffer than a preacher in a cathouse.
      The LGS told the owner there was no way it would sale at that price and asked for his bottom dollar and he said $250, no less.
      Been on the shelf for 3 weeks now and only one looker, a young man who offered $150 for it because of the condition. And no accessories with it at all.
      Now my Mosin isn’t perfect but it runs and is accurate as all get out, I hog hunt with it with open sites.
      The markings are still very well defined,( built in 1924 in Izveshk(?) Ordanance Factory), and I gave $125 with two bayonets, cleaning kit still in cosmiline and a era correct sling with leather straps.
      Won’t sell mine but wish like crazy I had gotten a case or two when they were $60 or $70 each. Could sell them all now for $100-$125 each now.
      We need to find five or six cases of Mosins and SKS’s for $60 or $70 each, slap a $100 each on tem and donate a portion of the profits to Fisher House or another reputable Vets Organization!!!

  24. avatarJWhite says:

    what?

    I think an upper under $650 to be an “inexpensive passable” upper. I’m not made of money, but what I’ve seen on BCM, and the various other manufacturers and distributers, $700 is cheap for an upper, even before this craze.

    If you can buy an AR15 for under $800 you’re a lucky guy. I havent seen one for that much that wasnt a no-name or some other crappy company I’ve never heard of. Hell… If you wanted cheap all you had to do was buy an AK lower. $450-600 after tax and shipping of all the parts and time.

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