Charting the Price of an AR-15 During the Great AWB Panic

I saw this analysis on Reddit yesterday, and I thought it was brilliant. Compiled by user RESHP1, it tracks the weekly price of a Colt LE6920 as determined by the lowest and highest price paid for a successful auction on Gunbroker. What’s really interesting is how there are two peaks in the price; one a few weeks after the panic started and another after president Obama announced his support for an assault weapons ban during the SHOT Show. In general, though, the trend is a downwards one. People seem to be running out of money and supply is starting to catch up with demand. The incoming flood of tax refund checks will keep things hairy for a bit, but the worst may well be over. For now. Make the jump for RESHP1′s more detailed analysis . . .

The psychology of a mass panic buying event has always been interesting to me for some reason… that and I’m waiting the market to die down a bit for my own AR-15 so the pricing trends are of particular interest to me. I decided to track the new in box prices of three popular AR-15s since when the Sandy Hook School shooting happened. For each week starting 11/30/2012, I found the highest and lowest price for an auction that actually sold. The prices are for the week following the date of the data points on the graphs (the 11/30 data point covers prices from 11/30-12/6 for example)

I chose to track three guns: The Colt LE6920, the Bushmaster XM-15 Magpul Edition, and the DPMS Oracle. I chose these guns because they are popular and are spread across the spectrum from premium to budget. They were also easy to search for and return results mostly of comparable guns. Filtering which auctions were apples to apples comparisons was sometimes a challenge since some sellers would throw in accessories and there were often subtle changes in features/colors between the guns in different auctions. I tended to be a little more selective for the low end of the pricing, filtering out auctions that deviated too much in features/accessories, but was more lax in the upper end just to show some of the wilder price flucuations.

There were some interesting things I noticed that may not be obvious from the graphs alone. [CLICK HERE FOR THE OTHER GRAPHS]

  • There was about a 3-7 day lag after Sandy Hook. The movement in price was almost immediately noticeable (more accurately, the ratio of existing auctions that closed with a sale increased immediately), but full out panic mode didn’t really start until a week or so. The peak was generally the first week of 2013.

  • Prices spiked again after the recommendations of the Biden Gun Violence Task Force were released on 1/17/2013. Things were starting to calm down before that, where sellers were starting to find the top of the market again and where those top price auctions were not meeting their reserve or even getting an opening bid (Previously, almost every single auction resulted in a sale. The only exceptions seemed to be when auctions were closed early, presumably since the gun sold locally)

  • The price increase was expected, but the variation was just insane. During the first couple of weeks, basically no one knew the value of anything and it was oviously apparent. You had sellers a little slow to adapt offering Buy-it-now prices at what I’m sure they thought was a really healthy mark-up next to penny auctions that got bid up in some cases thousands of dollars higher. On the tail end you also had people impulse buying at ridiculous prices while the majority of other auctions at the time were closing at much lower prices. Those who did their homework definitely made out ahead and those who didn’t were liable to get burned badly.

  • There was a noticeable drop in volume in early January. The last two weeks have seen a recovery from that. Hopefully supply is at least stabilizing. There are now more and more auctions, and the prices are starting to stabilize as auctions are coalescing around a consistent threshold buyers are willing to pay. I’m also seeing a more normal ratio of auctions sold vs auctions unsold (about 3:1 unsold by my quick and dirty estimate), indicating sellers are indeed finding that threshold. You still see the occasional flier auction with a high starting bid, and sometimes they’re still finding a sucker to pay that price, but it’s much more rare.

  • On an interesting side note, there was one guy asking $5000 for a special serial number colt LE6920 before the panic started. As far as I can tell, he seems to be the only seller not to sell his gun eventually through this panic cycle.

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About Nick Leghorn

Nick Leghorn is a gun nerd living and working in San Antonio, Texas. In his free time, he's a competition shooter (USPSA, 3-gun and NRA High Power), aspiring pilot, and enjoys mixing statistics and science with firearms. Now on sale: Getting Started with Firearms by yours truly!

35 Responses to Charting the Price of an AR-15 During the Great AWB Panic

  1. avatarmike says:

    Financial markets (any asset class) behave the same way. Human behavior hasn’t changed the past several thousand years….only the products and technologies.

  2. avatarBrian S says:

    So glad I decided to make the jump and get mine around Halloween before all the panic started (not saying I saw it coming, just glad I avoided it). Saw the same gun I paid around $900 for going for $2,400 on a local classified last week.

    The Troy Carbines we’re a really high value AR, Dick’s really screwed themselves lol

    • avatarJoshua says:

      I picked a Bushmaster up in September. I’m glad I decided to make that purchase instead of waiting.

    • avatarhomobangbangamus says:

      Geee. I wonder how many of Obama’s friends invested in these companies just before the hullabaloo of the moment, and then made a killing because they have created a climate of fear?

      Don’t worry! Their media friends will never say!

      If you are willing to pay it boys and girls, your “friends” down at the gun shop will be very happy to increase their prices accordingly, say another couple of thousand bucks.

      It’s going to be hard not to laugh when the prices fall and all that whining begins. By the way none of this will pass because even the democrats aren’t that dumb, they remember last time. Evidently gun owners don’t.

  3. avatarAaronvan says:

    uhg please for the good of the site remove this bottom frame ad!

  4. avatarI_Like_Pie says:

    That being said…I don’t really feel sorry for the idiots paying $2000 for an entry level DPMS. More along the line of pity for them.

    • avatararaomd says:

      Don’t pity them. They are people who were not “into” these rifles before, but they are now. Our side just got stronger. And stronger with people with more disposable income.

      Better for everyone.

  5. avatarJim D says:

    Off topic, but why are the pop-up ads now appearing on the site? On the bottom of the page, damn things! By Ad Choices,

  6. avatarAharon says:

    Interesting. A few weeks ago, many people were buying Magpuls at $40-50. Now, the general willing to buy price has dropped down to $25-30 (though some retailers are selling them for less when available). Last week, no one responded to my ads for Magpuls priced $30-35 though now at $25 people are buying them.

    • avatarmike says:

      One can only have so many mags. The same with guns and rifles. But not so with ammo. I think ammo will continue to be scarce and prices elevated…. like a new normal.

      Pre-9/11 was one price range. Pre-Sandy Hook was another price range. We’re probably witnessing a new 3rd price range now.

      • avatarAharon says:

        Good observations. The upward pressure on ammo prices (when inventories eventually replenish) will be offset to some unknown degree by the increased number of gun owners taking up re-loading and those who are choosing to fire their guns less frequently. More and more, I hear gun owners avoiding calibers based on the price of the ammo.

        • avatarAlphaGeek says:

          I’m definitely considering a 5.45 upper so I won’t be completely dependent on the 5.56 supply chain.

        • avatarAharon says:

          AlphaGeek,

          Makes sense not to be dependent. I’m very ignorant of the AR platforms though I get the idea of what you’re considering.

  7. avatarBrett says:

    Seriously RF, whats with the bottom page ad? This website is almost more ads than content already.

  8. avatarTama Paine says:

    View from here is somewhat different. We laughed at the January great huge gun show in our parts, seeing drool-slicked sellers toting ARs around with insane price tags ($2K and up, often for pedestrian jobadoos like off-the-rack Olympic Arms or POS rifles apparently cobbled together from parts found in bins in the garage).

    Even more it was an object lesson in how many “free marketeers” really don’t understand how capitalism works. For them “capitalism” is a lottery and orgy in an all-you-can-eat casino, and everybody but YOU is the schmuck.

    I can tell you that those dozens of guys meandering around with their guns-for-higher were still carrying them at the end of the day, sometimes marking them down a couple hundred. Yeah, right, like you’re going to sell at these inflated prices among POTG…who already have our own ARs aplenty? Try that out in the real world, fellas, where the ignint are hopping on bandwagons they don’t understand.

  9. avatarDrewR55 says:

    With any luck the price will drop down far enough by this fall that I can pay a pre-Sandy price for a Colt 6920. I almost impulse bought an M4 upper sans the BCG and rear sight from PSA this past weekend but finding parts is still tricky and they wanted full price.

  10. avatararete13 says:

    The bottom bar ad is incredibly annoying. :|
    Also, this is the first time I haven’t had to do a captcha to post. Guess I’m finally in the cool kids club.

  11. avatarthatiswhathesaid says:

    I got incredibly, incredibly lucky and was able to find a brand new LE6920 online, mid-panic, for only $995. I got a couple PMAGs at normal price too. This was several days after the Sandy Hook shooting and a couple days after Obama was talking about creating the task force and voicing his intention to “do something” to prevent something like what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary from ever happening again.

  12. avatarJim R says:

    I figure by this summer gun prices will be about where they were pre-election. Ammo prices though…yeah, they’re not coming back down any time soon. $20/box for 9mm FMJ is probably going to be the new normal, as is 5.56@ $1/round.

    I think I’m going to stick to .22s from now on.

    • avatarSkeev says:

      When and if you are able to find .22 ammo.

      • avatarmike says:

        Exactly. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this. The shear number of 22LR dwarfs all other calibers. And 22LR is usually mocked and never taken seriously. Now it’s totally gone nationwide? They’re rationing 22LR boxes now, forget cases. RATIONING 22LR…. who woulda thought!

        This fact alone is a huge sign that we are definitely witnessing a sea change again in the markets. Much like 9/11 was. Sea changes don’t happen often, and most folks are in denial for a while cause they fail to look back at history beyond a few years.

        • avatarMark N. says:

          It was the same when Obama was first elected. My Sig Mosquito eats only premium high velocity cartridges like minimags–that could not be found or were $10 for a box.

        • avatarAndy says:

          22 rimfire ammo is the red headed stepchild of the ammunition manufacturers, they don’t make a lot of money on it and do it more to keep customers loyal to the brand. Considering the extreme shortage of center-fire ammunition in the popular calibers I suspect the 22 rimfire shortage is a reflection of ammunition companies shifting resources to a higher margin product.

  13. avatarJH says:

    I told my brother this time last year that if President Obama was reelected that we would see a strong gun ban push. Over the last year I did buy some ammo for my hand guns and ARs. I also bought magazines. After the Presidential debates I bought more ammo and magazines because I thought Romney would not pull it off.

    You would think after all that planning that I would be set. Not really. I could use more ammo, more magazines, a couple bolt carrier groups and a hand full of other guns that were impossible to buy before all this happened.

    Hoping this all gets somewhat back to normal very soon. In the mean time I am not panic buying, but I am putting my name on lists and back ordering things I need. I am not going overboard. Slow and easy.

  14. avatarLance says:

    Shows the idiocy of panic buying we should give our time to push back against Obama’s gun ban. Call your reps and senators and say NO BAN!!!! Instead of wasting money on bloated prices on a AR.

  15. avatarJustAJ says:

    A good one to include would have been the M&P 15 Sport, since a lot of first time (and budget minded) buyers go with that one. I did, and for less than $100, had an AR platform set up exactly how I wanted it.

  16. avatarJustice06RR says:

    I feel bad for whoever paid $3500 for a Colt6920 when they used to be about $1000, and for whoever paid for a DPMS for $2k when they used to be $600….

  17. avatarDavid Smith says:

    I notice in all three cases, the price was already going up (fast) when Sandy Hook happened.

    Anyone know what started the process?

  18. avatarThe Old Coach says:

    I just love repeating it:

    ” Last October I was a drooling, obsessive, ammo-hoarding prepper. Now I am blessed with miraculous foresight!”

  19. avatarSilver78 says:

    This is a great chart but it looks like it has not been updated for a while. Can anyone who knows the original source of the charts encourage him to keep up the good work?

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