By Bud Harton
In 1994, I was a senior Infantry NCO on active duty with the US Army and assigned to an Illinois Army National Guard infantry unit in Elgin, Illinois. Bill Clinton was the President and with the able assistance of the Democratic controlled 103rd Congress, the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban was passed and signed into law. Along with many other Americans, I was desperate to get an AR before the ban went into effect and I rushed to a local gun shop, R Guns of Carpentersville, Illinois. I quickly selected and paid for a Colt A2 Sporter and was amazed that it was still listed at and sold at the same every day price without any price increase. That was when I first met Roger Krahl of R Guns . . .
Twenty-one years later, I returned to R Guns’ new warehouse and retail outlet and met with Roger to interview him. Entering the incredibly impressive store, I first found an AR builder’s dream showcase of AR uppers. On display were literally every size, color and configuration of AR upper receivers anyone could imagine.
Along with dozens of both new and used handguns and long guns, it was a far cry of what I remembered as a storefront gun shop in a strip mall a generation ago. I spotted Roger and we sat down to discuss how he started and has grown the business.
I told Roger that we had met years before and I still remember that he hadn’t jacked up the prices on his rifles back when the assault weapon ban was looming. He laughed and said, “Yeah I sold out quicker than anyone else due to the price gougers in the market place. I kept the same policy in place in December, 2012 when Newtown occurred.”
“The post-Newtown surge came on the heels of a previous buying frenzy when President Obama took office. The market was still catching up to demand when the Newtown shooting happened. But that was entirely different because the frenzy was closer to a full blown panic.”
“We were working from 7AM in the morning until 10 PM at night trying to get orders out. Then, each morning we would come back in to get started again and we had received 750 emails overnight alone to deal with. We shipped orders between 7AM to 10PM seven days a week. It was insanity.”
“Because we didn’t change our prices, we were overwhelmed with business and it took us months to catch up. That caused some customers to feel that we took too long to process their orders and they were right, but the volume didn’t slacken for almost a full year after Newtown. We did our best to try and keep up.”
Roger opened the original store shortly after completing his enlistment in the Marines in 1988. When the Assault Weapons Ban went into effect, he had to change direction a bit and started importing firearms and parts from all over the world. He has traveled throughout Europe, the far east, Ukraine, Africa, Central America, and southeast Asia in his search for firearms. He grinned when he said, “The hunt for something unique is especially cool. Finding something that no one else has for sale, getting through the incredible logistics of making the deal, shipping, importing and clearing Customs becomes a major challenge. But it’s all good.”
Roger has several pallet loads of Yugo M48 rifles that he just started selling. Picking one up, I could see the marks from the original manufacturer of what used to be known as a Mauser 98K.
Roger’s 25,000 square foot warehouse and shop facility is also a long way from his original store. He has stacks and crates of AK47 parts being assembled into kits while other employees are assemble both lower and upper assemblies of R Guns manufactured AR15s, rifles, carbines and pistols.
But it’s not just firearms. There are cases and cases of Yugoslavia military 7.62×39 (M67 brass cased lead core) ammunition on stripper clips as part of a huge selection of ammo from overseas R Guns carries. Here’s an idea of how much he has on hand:
Those are several pallets of Mauser 98K rifle stocks in front of the 7.62×39 Yugo ammunition.
Roger’s optimistic about the future of firearm sales in the US, but admits that things have slowed down since the frenzy of early 2013. He feels that there are going to be a lot of business casualties in the industry in the coming months. “There were a lot of startup companies who responded to the rush and they are now beginning to experience normal times and finding it to be tough going.”
Roger Krahl is pretty proud of his accomplishments and rightfully so. He has come a long way from the strip mall store front and has had some memorable experiences along the way. But he isn’t sitting back and enjoying the success though. “The ‘hunt’ still goes on, there’s another unique deal out there and I just need to find it.”