February 2013

Gun-Buying 2012: We Want It All

At the end of the year, worries about gun bans provoked a buying spree for AR-15s, AKs, and semi-auto pistols all across the country. Here are a few stories about the craziness that ensued.

Tales from Retail 2012 — And Beyond?

The rock band Queen has a song entitled, “I Want It All.” That is the attitude that many people are taking toward a potential assault weapons ban. I have seen an individual buy a shopping cart full of magazines. I asked him if he has a rifle for them, and he told me no, but he is buying them as an investment. I have seen a gentleman with his arms full of 5.56 NATO 20-round ammunition boxes, about 50. I guess he did not have the time or sense to get a shopping cart or basket. I said, “You have a lot of ammo.” He replies, “Yes, I do.” I asked him if he got it all? He replied, “Yes, I got it all!” He added that he was going to another store to look for more, and if he found it, he was going to buy all that, too. I asked him which store, and he said he would not tell me, because I might beat him there. — Freddie Mercury

I saw a customer spend several thousand dollars for a SIG Sauer Model 551 rifle in 5.56 NATO. The rifle is similar to the SIG Sauer Model 556, but there is a key difference. The 551 takes proprietary magazines that are in short supply and currently sell for more than $75 each. The 556 rifle uses standard AR-15 magazines. The lowest price I have found on Magpul 30-round AR magazines is $40 each, but $60 is common. However, the less common magazines will rise in price faster. SCAR 17 magazines, which used to be $32, are now $200. Kel-Tec PMR-30 magazines, which used to be $30, are now over $80. One man was selling 49 PMR-30 magazines online for $4000, Buy It Now. Someone who wants them all and wants them now will pay it, most likely on a credit card. So many people are spending money they don’t have on guns and ammo that has doubled or more in price, it is insane.

I saw someone pay $50 a box for 5.7x28 ammunition, and they were so happy to find it. They bought it all, 30 boxes, $1500. I overheard him say to a friend that if the store had more of it, he would have bought it all. That ammo used to sell for $25 a box. I looked online. Some of the 5.7x28 ammo is selling for $100 a box! I guess he got a great deal. I am glad I purchased five boxes of 5.7x28 six months ago. I wish I had ordered 20, 50, or 100 boxes. If I can find a good deal, I am going to buy it all! Am I insane? — Off the Deep End

I saw an exchange like this at more than one gun counter over the holidays:

“Do you have any AR-15s?” a customer asks.
The counter salesman says he has some, then the customer asks, -“How many can I buy?”
The salesman replied he has three in stock, but there was a limit of two per day.
The customer says, “I will take two. What are they?”
“I have two Bushmasters and a SIG Sauer,” the salesman says.
“I’ll take the Bushmasters.”
“Would you like to see them?” the salesman says.
“No, I don’t need to see them.”
After his sale was complete, I asked him,
“Why did you choose the Bushmaster over the SIG Sauer?”
He said, “Because that’s what I heard on TV the shooter used in Connecticut.”
“What are you going to do with these rifles?”
He says, “I don’t know.”
“Do you know how to take them apart and clean them?”
He says, “I really don’t know anything about them, except they are AR-15s.”
“Do you have any magazines?” I ask.
He says, “No, but when I find them, I am going to buy them all.” — Name Withheld

Over the holidays, I saw someone purchase a Remington R-15 chambered in 223 Remington, then he asked for 5.56 NATO ammunition. The salesman sold it to him. I warned him that it was not safe to shoot in his rifle, and he should purchase 223 ammunition instead. He accused me of trying to trick him into returning his rifle so I could buy it. I told him that the store we were at has a no-returns policy on guns and ammo and that he could not return either the gun or the ammo if he wanted to.

One of the salesman jumped in and said I was correct, and that the R-15 buyer bought the wrong ammunition. Also, the salesman said the store was sold out of 223 Remington and that the customer bought the last of the 5.56 NATO ammo. The customer said a hasty “goodbye” and left the store. — Got Mine

In this heavy buying situation, I think it would be helpful for Gun Tests to give readers some helpful guidelines about what to buy and how much to spend. We readers are educated and know what we want for ourselves, but our friends will often ask us what they should buy. The question is not so difficult if they can tell us what they want a gun for. But the questions we are getting are, what guns should our friends buy before guns are banned? — Name Withheld

No offense, but we’re leery of telling a neophyte that they should just go buy a gun. If someone wants to take on the responsibility and lifestyle needed to be safe, we’d probably recommend a local trainer first. Then after they’re grounded better, we can have a product conversation that makes sense for their situation. That said, for GT readers who are buying now, we’d check the archives and look for a high-capacity pistol over 10 rounds, more is better, that is a good brand. We’ve rated several pistols from Glock, Springfield, S&W and others highly, so there’s plenty to choose from. Then consider the current market price of the magazines, with a plan to buy at least five. For example, if you find a good deal on an HK, but the current market price on Gunbroker.com, GunAuction.com, or at a local gun show is $150 each for its magazines, then switch to a Glock whose magazines are $40 each. Similar advice for AR-15s. Make a package deal with the seller so you get a quantity of magazines at a good price. Buy an AR-15 and an AK-47 if you can afford both. Buy at least 1000 rounds for each firearm you own — 2000 or more rounds is better — if you can find it at or near the old prices. —Todd Woodard

I was at Bass Pro Shops in Houston over Christmas break and saw a customer at the counter ask, “Do you have any AR-15s?” The salesman replied that the only one he had left was a Colt LE 6920, but it was a California model with a 10-round magazine and a bullet button for the magazine release.

The customer turns to a friend and asks him, “What do you think about that rifle?”

His friend says, “You don’t want a California model, it only takes 10-round magazines, and you can’t push the magazine release with you finger.”

The customer says, “I’ll pass on it.”

When the customer left, the next guy in line said, “I’ll take it.” Then he tells the salesman that it does accept 30-round magazines, and the bullet-button magazine release can be easily replaced. The salesman said that Bass Pro is completely out of stock, and they are not re-ordering any Modern Sporting Rifles. Bass Pro will not be selling AR-15s anymore. It is rumored that BPS sold its remaining stock to gun distributors, but that is not confirmed. — Gun Buyer

We contacted Katie Mitchell, corporate PR representative for Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Missouri, to confirm what BPS’s AR-15 policy is going forward. No word as yet. — TW

Here is a significant aspect of the recent gun-buying rush to consider. Several major retailers have instituted a new policy of not displaying any AR-15 or AK-47-style rifles. They are kept in the back room, and in many cases, you need to know exactly what to ask for. At one store, I hear a salesman answer the phone, “No, we don’t have any AR-15 or AK-47 rifles, magazines, or ammunition. We are completely sold out, and I don’t know when or if we will be getting any more.”

One minute after that call, a customer asks at the counter, “Do you have a Remington R-15 Varmint rifle?” “Yes, we do,” the salesman said.

“How many do you have?”

“We have three, but I can only sell you two.”

“I will take two.” Then he walks down an aisle and calls his buddy, “They have one here.”

Then he finishes the paperwork, and the store fills out a Multiple Purchase of Firearms Form, which is required if you buy two or more ARs or AKs and certain other rifles within the same week at the same store. If you buy two or more handguns, then they fill out a Multiple Purchase of Handgun form. In either case, the form is faxed to the ATF within 24 hours. I saw another customer purchasing a single rifle, but they were doing a Multiple Purchase of Firearms form on him because he had purchased one two days prior, and the computer told the salesman that the form was required. The forms are filled out by hand, so I suspect it will take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months before the investigations commence on anyone who purchased more rifles than whatever threshold the ATF sets.

I also think it will be something like more than five. I think they will start with the highest numbers first, such as 50 or more, and work their way down to possibly as few as two. These people may get a phone call and/or a visit from an ATF agent, who will ask them questions such as, “Do you still own these firearms?” “Who did you sell them to?”

The government wants the AR- and AK-style rifles to be socially unacceptable, and many retailers are complying. When you walk into a convenience store in a small town and buy a soda, you can ask the clerk if they sell Hustler magazine? If so, they keep them under the counter and put the skin magazines in a brown bag so no one will know you bought it. It is the law in the United Kingdom, and we may be headed that way on guns. I have been to gun stores in the UK recently. When you look in the store window, you will not see any guns. It is unlawful for a gun store to have guns visible through the shop window. People will not see guns if they walk down the street past the store. They will see hunting clothes and fishing rods. If you walk into the store, down the hall, around the corner, you will see guns in racks. They are expensive compared to U.S. prices. A gun transfer is over $100, and they are rare.

I have heard that the U.S. government wants to reduce the number of FFL dealers from 60,000 to 15,000, and they can easily do it over a three-year period. All they need to do is raise the renewal fee from $90 for three years to $500, $1000, or maybe $5000. The large shops and retailers would gladly pay it. If the misrepresented “gun show loop hole” closure passes, that would end all private sales of firearms. Then the dealers would be swamped with transfer requests. Transfer fees in Texas usually range from $25 to $75 per firearm. Imagine what those fees would be if there were no private sales of firearms permitted, and the number of dealers nationwide was reduced from 60,000 to 15,000?

I was pleased to see Sen. Lindsey Graham on television, telling the world that he has an AR-15 in his home. — A Proud Gun Owner

Re “A Brace of 338 Win. Magnums: We Pick
Winchester Over Ruger,” December 2012

On page 16, the picture of the ends of the gun barrels reveals very significant copper fouling in each of the guns. Is this of any concern? Is that degree of copper fouling due to testing with solid copper bullets? Is that a normal amount of fouling? Does that negatively impact rifle accuracy? I try not to let fouling build to that degree. Am I being overly sensitive to such copper fouling? Thank you very much for producing such a wonderful magazine. —Alan Wolf

That copper is a very thin wash remaining in the cleaned barrels that has virtually no effect on accuracy. It can be removed, but will always be there after you fire any shot with gilding-metal (not solid copper) bullets. If it builds up, it can cause lumps in the barrel, but that’s just neglect. The amount of wash you see there is harmless. — Ray Ordorica

Re “Compact Polymer 45s: We Pit Glock and
 Springfield Armory,” January 2013

I’m a little confused regarding the article pitting the Glock G36 against the Springfield Armory XDM 3.8 45 ACP. In the individual test results, you gave the G36 a B+ and the XDM an A-. But in the Report Card Summary, you gave the G36 an A, while the XDM 3.8 dropped to a B+. — Dale C. in Wisconsin

My mistake. I picked up a Report Card box from another story and didn’t change the grades. The module grades are correct. Your letter and others led me to review what the function of the Report Card box was, and it seemed redundant with the module grades. So I deleted it effective with this issue. — tw

Looking for a Pump 22 LR

Does anyone make a good-functioning 22 LR pump rifle anymore?
—RC in Monrovia, Alabama

In the June 2003 issue, we tested the Winchester Model 62A, about $600. The rifle was well made, and if our test piece was any indication, the Model 62 was built to keep on shooting for a long time. A Taurus M62 got a Conditional Buy recommendation. One gun in that same test that’s still in manufacture is the Pump Action Octagon from Henry. It was Our Pick. — TW

Gun Tests Report Card Grading

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