In the past few months, conflicting claims have been swirling around the Internet regarding the sales of firearms, ammunition, and accessories. There are rumors of a “panic buy” similar to what occurred after the 2008 election. Forwarded e-mail is flying around about the United Nations and microstamping, and political groups cherry-pick statistics to fit the agendas they push. Will Panic Buy 2012 be worse than Panic Buy 2008? Has it already started? Everybody, lets calm down, cut through the crap and try to answer a few basic questions about what is going on with the American firearms industry and our 2nd Amendment rights.
Is There A “Run” On Firearms Right Now? YES
There have been several articles in the mainstream media about the boom in FBI NICS background checks. NICS checks only track sales of firearms through Federal Firearms License holders, so it is not an exact science. Guns sold in private sales between individuals do not require a NICS check (this is what politicians like to call the “gun show loophole”), so the NICS checks don’t represent the total number of guns sold. On the other hand, many gun stores, pawnbrokers, and online Web sites deal largely in used firearms, so not every NICS check represents the sale of a newly manufactured gun just entering the firearms market for the first time. The FBI says it received 16.3 million inquiries for NICS checks in 2011, up from 12.7 million in 2008 and 11.4 million in 2007. However, that does not mean four million more new-in-the-box firearms were sold last year compared to 2008. The Brady Campaign is actually circulating a claim that the number of total firearms owners in the U.S.A. is going down, but facts have never been important to them. Many Americans are buying their first gun, but there is also some anecdotal evidence that this surge in sales is due mostly to existing gun owners adding more guns to their collections. However, there are no hard statistical numbers supporting this, and as 2nd Amendment supporters we do not particularly want the government or anyone else to keep track of how many guns each gun owner keeps in their safe. Nevertheless, it is abundantly clear that right now, people are buying guns faster than manufacturers can build them. We heard this over and over again at the 2012 SHOT Show when asking gun makers when we could expect to see their newest products on the market. Without exception, they all said not to expect the new products anytime soon, because they were focusing all their resources on filling the backorders for their existing product lines. Ruger announced on March 22, 2012 that they are temporarily suspending new orders for guns, because they have exceeded a million orders for firearms they have not built yet. That’s a pretty big backlog for a company that doesn’t outsource any components. Ruger makes everything in house so it’s not as if they are waiting to receive springs or magazines from some other company that has problems with production. They just simply cannot meet demand.
Are Ammo Makers Cutting Production Because of An Ammunition “Glut”? HECK NO
Ammo sales have followed gun sales and are currently at record highs. Ammo companies are building cartridges as fast as they can, but raw components are harder to get and now cost more than ever before. Bulk military surplus ammo is largely a thing of the past. An executive order by President Bill Clinton in the late 1990s made it illegal for the U.S. military to sell surplus ammunition unless it was done through the government’s ODCMP Civilian Marksmanship Program. The Program does sell ammunition but has no U.S. government surplus on hand at this time. Cheaper Than Dirt sometimes gets inquiries about the bulk 5.56 NATO ammo we sell, asking whether it is some kind of “factory seconds” that didn’t make muster for the military. It is illegal to sell ammo intended for use by the U.S. military due to that executive order. Millions of rounds of that ammo, paid with your tax dollars, is burned every year instead. At the same time, a two-front war in Afghanistan and Iraq for the past decade has consumed untold amounts of cartridge components. The Government Accounting Office reported last year that the U.S. military fired an estimated 250,000 rounds of ammunition for every insurgent killed in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past ten years. Surplus? I wish! In fact, the U.S. military had to make a special ammo order from Israel to supplement the best efforts of ATK/Lake City. Total usage for training and combat has now reached about 1.8 billion rounds per year, or almost five million rounds of ammo expended every day. Those numbers are pretty difficult for me to comprehend. Even if you don’t own a 5.56 rifle and you only shoot a .270 Winchester, the wars have greatly affected the cost of the components used to make your ammunition too. The lead and copper to make bullets, and the brass to make cases, all cost more now because we took all we had and shot it at bad guys halfway around the world. The cost of new ammunition has risen about 8% so far this year and we are just in March. Hornady is selling innovative “Steel Match” ammo in an attempt to prove that not all steel cased ammo has to be inaccurate Russian-made stuff. They would never have considered doing that only a few years ago. They just have to do something, anything, to keep their ammo affordable, and buying more brass isn’t affordable anymore. Look for other ammo companies to follow their example soon. Polymer-cased ammunition is also making a comeback. PCP Ammo came out with an improved plastic casing design and was promptly swamped with orders at SHOT Show this year. Where has all the brass gone? Well, it’s all over the ground in Fallujah and Marjah.
Why Are Evil Black Rifles Sales Leaders? THEY ARE SCARY
It is hard to believe that nearly 20 years have passed since the adoption of the Federal “Assault Weapons Ban” prohibited possession of rifles with folding stocks, flash hiders, and other “evil features” that made politicians afraid of them. In 1994, most Americans believed that the ban had something to do with machineguns. For most of the country, this silly law expired 10 years later, but a few elitist states continue to insist that a muzzle attachment should be the difference between a legal firearm and a felony conviction. What the ban did more than anything else was draw attention to a small segment of the firearms market and tell Americans that the government didn’t really want us to have these scary things, but couldn’t quite stop us from getting them. It’s always a mistake to tell Americans that. Since the “sunset” of the ban in 2004, the market for tactical firearms has grown by leaps and bounds to eclipse the rest of the firearms industry. Thirty years ago, in the 1980s, the guys who were into AK-47s and AR-15s were on the fringe. They were a little weird and a little scary, talking in whispers about fighting the Russians on the home front during World War III. Most “ordinary” shooters hunted with bolt action .270s and thought those guys had watched “Red Dawn” too many times on their VHS players. An AR-15 shooter at the local range would be challenged with “What does anyone need a 20-round magazine for?” and “You can’t hunt with that thing anyway.” Fast forward to the present day and a cultural change has taken place in the shooting community. Even many first time buyers now deliberately seek out the scariest, most aggressive looking tactical rifle they can find, and Surefire is selling 60- and 100-round magazines to any civilian shooters who don’t already have a Beta C mag lying around. Talking openly of laying waste to zombie hordes does not make you a weirdo when many gun clubs now hold special zombie shoots on weekends. In fact, it is so commonplace that some people think the zombie meme is getting worn out. In 2012, the weirdo is the guy with a wood-stocked .270 at the end of the shooting range who doesn’t know the difference between an AR and an AK. We are living in the golden age of the black rifle and no matter how many companies announce that they too are building a tactical rifle, all of them are having difficulty keeping up with public demand for these guns. Once demonized and attacked for being scary guns, the black rifles are now prized possessions because they are scary. Many folks in states like California install “bullet buttons” and block off Magpul PMAGs to 10 rounds capacity in an attempt to make their less-functional rifles look as military as possible. Even .22 LR rifles are now being made to look as tactical as possible to promote sales, although there is nothing truly tactical about rimfire plinking guns. They are popular because they look military and aggressive while still being affordable to shoot. What that says about our American culture as a whole, dear readers, you may interpret for yourselves.
Is Obama, the UN, or the EPA Coming for Our Guns? NOT TODAY
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that President Obama’s administration is anti-gun. Promising Brady Campaign representatives that he would work on gun control measures “under the radar” was followed by the “Fast and Furious” debacle. While the BATFE provided drug cartels with thousands of weapons in an ill-conceived “gunwalking” scheme, government mouthpieces blamed American gun owners for Mexican drug violence. Some people see clumsy government ineptitude, others see a sneaky attempt to undermine the Constitution. You decide. Likewise, there is no doubt that President Obama is personally anti-gun. Author John Lott recalls that he first met Obama when lecturing at the University of Chicago, years before Obama became a Senator. Lott claims Obama’s introduction was, “Oh you’re the gun guy… I don’t believe people should be able to own guns.” However, what Obama personally believes and what he can accomplish as President are two different things. There is no hard evidence whatsoever that UN disarmament initiatives are getting anywhere. Yes, a microstamping technology law was proposed in New York for the fourth year in a row and is very unlikely to ever see a vote. There is a petition written by the left-wing Center for Biological Diversity calling for the EPA to ban lead ammunition. The EPA first started looking into this in 1999, and is planning on making no regulatory changes whatsoever. The lead-ban petition has as much political clout right now as the online petition for Congress to take Jersey Shore off the air. Last, the Department of Homeland Security recently purchased 450 million rounds of .40S&W ammunition from Federal and ATK for police use across the country. An Internet rumor has them instructing ammo manufacturers not to sell common pistol and rifle cartridges to civilians in preparation for a nationwide declaration of martial law. While that sure is a big ammo order, the rest of that story is simply not true.
Who knows what laws will be proposed and passed during a second Obama term or a first Romney term? Right now, state legislatures are proposing and passing pro-gun and pro-self defense laws all across the country. In the wake of the D.C. vs. Heller Supreme Court case affirming the 2nd Amendment, courts around the nation are also striking down anti-gun laws and holding up the 2nd Amendment as an individual right to not only keep but bear arms. The past three years or so have been a dark chapter for anti-gunners. Despite some setbacks, much progress has been made in the name of liberty and individual rights through brave legislators and strong legal challenges. So do a little research about what’s really going on before forwarding that chain email about men in blue helmets driving FEMA trucks escorting drug runners on the Mexico border. Not everything you see on Facebook is true.