March 27, 2009

Frank Advice from Frank Brownell on Buying AR15s

[Administrator's Note: We saw Frank Brownells' advice in the March 27 Brownells Web Bench e-letter and thought his comments about current AR15 market shortages were on point. We got permission to post them on]

This month, let's take a look the two segments in the hunting and shooting world that are plagued with scarcity - the AR15 market and the ammunition market; specifically the .223, the .308 for your rifles and .45 and 9mm for your pistols. (As a side note, another product segment where we are seeing a huge increase in demand is the semi-automatic handgun, high capacity magazine market.)

In the AR15 market, it is mighty hard to find a rifle on the rack. Suppliers have extended lead-times and when they are able to deliver a few guns, there is a line of customers already on the list ahead of you. So what options do you have left? There are three things you can do to improve your odds:


Courtesy Brownells

On, use the company's AR15 builder to "parts out" the gun of your dreams.

Order standard - you can always accessorize later. Manufacturing is geared to deliver standard configurations. Products are produced in mass and the production schedules are already set. Anything custom will incur a delay. The AR15 is one of the most customizable firearms produced, it is easier to get your stock weapon and then you or your gunsmith can add accessories later on.

Buy the components which have the potential of being banned. These are 30-round magazines, collapsible stocks, threaded barrels, and bayonet lugs. The huge demand for AR15s is predicated upon a potential reinstatement of the '94 assault weapons ban. The four items listed above are the items specifically called out in this ban. You could still buy your AR15 stock as long as they didn't have these components. If any legislation does come out with restrictions, which we are hoping won't, there is a high potential to include named components. Order these now or get in line to have these ordered. Brownells currently has the 20 and 30-round magazine available for purchase as well as many of the items banned in the '94 law.

Purchase a used AR15 in any configuration as long as you get a quality upper and lower. Just like #1 above, AR15s can be accessorized and fixed more easily than any other firearm out there. The idea here is to get the core action in your hands and from there you can accessorize to your heart's content. These are quick and practical solutions when buying in a market of scarcity such as the market we are experiencing right now. We've made a list of some popular AR15 products currently IN STOCK.

Ammunition also has seen an unprecedented run in four calibers: the .223 and .308 for your centerfire rifles, and .45 and 9mm for your pistols. There are only two real solutions we can recommend in a situation of ammo scarcity. They are:

Start reloading. Reloading is an economical and easy solution which keeps you in charge of your own ammunition supplies. Sinclair International just launched their new website which includes entry level specials and many components to get you back to the range, shooting. I would strongly suggest you consider reloading as a way to keep your ammo stocks full as well as those of your buddies who may be shooting the same caliber as you.

Purchase a .22 conversion. Most firearms and calibers in the market today have a .22 conversion available. The two most obvious benefits are the greater availability of rimfire ammunition and the much lower cost of shooting rimfire ammunition compared to shooting centerfire ammo. If you can't find the ammo you are looking for, seriously consider purchasing a .22 LR conversion. They are very fun to shoot and may be the only way to find ammunition in your area. (type "22 conversion" in the search window).

The silver lining in all of this is: there are thousands of new shooters out there now familiar with the AR15 and their voices are being heard in the market place and in D.C. It is very hard to guess which way the AR and Ammo market is heading. The inevitable fact is that manufacturers will eventually catch up with customer demand, but we do not anticipate this happening for some time.

So the solutions left on the table are to go without, wait in line or one of the suggestions above.

Comments (10)

I think gun manufacturers are holding back a little because they do not want to flood the market with their product. I'm sure they are watching the market closely and planning their production schedule accordingly. If they flood the market, the price comes down. Better to increase production 25% and attempt to manipulate and sustain the market over time than to double production, satisfy demand and then have production and profits fall off.

Posted by: JWallace | April 8, 2009 11:15 PM    Report this comment

Maybe these companies do not want to increase production at a time when the government might pass anti-gun laws that will kill their business. Demand is up, look at these companies stock prices, they are the few doing good in this market. Its hard for a business to change their structure to meet demand when it may change any moment due to legislation.

Posted by: Robert J | April 8, 2009 9:19 AM    Report this comment

I'm going to wait for the gun market to become flooded and burst before I make my purchase. Kinda like the housing market.

Posted by: JWallace | April 7, 2009 12:16 AM    Report this comment

this is good ol american stick it to yah capitalism at its best. when demand is up and supply is down price goes up. this is what the gun companies and ammo makers were hoping for. wouldn't surprise me if they did not vote for good ol uncle sambo themselves.

Posted by: pa-cman | April 6, 2009 11:50 AM    Report this comment

Reload??? Have you tried to find primers lately?
No only is ammo scarce... components are even more so

Posted by: dickinsonc | April 4, 2009 6:32 PM    Report this comment

Good post John,

I agree that a lot of this so called inability to keep up with demand by the manufacturers is pure bull, what, in this economy all of a sudden everyone have $600-$1000
to spend on buying ar's, I don't think so.

Look at ammo prices too. Everything that has been going up in price was blamed on the rising price of oil with demand for raw materials from China and India included, well their economies are tanking too with net growth almost halved. Gas prices and commodities have dropped then why not the price of ammo?

I'd like to see a big gun magazine do an indepth investigative look at the cost of ammo and how do the ammo manufacturers justify the high prices.

We don't need the traitors in Washington to pass anti-gun legislation, the ammo prices alone will stop us cold!

Posted by: LAiglon | April 3, 2009 2:53 PM    Report this comment

7.62X39 ammo is very scarce and 7.62X54r is moderately scarce and way up in price as are all ammos in Brownell's article and this email.

Posted by: Walrus | April 2, 2009 1:15 PM    Report this comment

I would like to thank Frank Brownell for his honest assessment of the firearms market. Too many people in the pro-gun media have or at least give the impression that everyone is overreacting. I'm afraid the worst is yet to come and Mr. Brownell's comments are honest and accurate.

Posted by: 3percent | April 2, 2009 9:29 AM    Report this comment

Just as an aside, I own a Bushmaster, and in anticipation of some government intervention I decided to buy a few spares. I ordered a complete bolt-assembly (among other parts) the first week of January, and Bushmaster estimates 4-6 months before the parts will be shipped. I may be incorrect, but I think the vendors are creating an artificial shortage of parts. Same applies to powder, primer, ammo, and bullet vendors. I just do not think that demand has outstripped their ability to keep up with products to the extent that we are seeing. I would like to see a professional economist's supply / demand curve for the parts and pieces in question. I'll bet it would surprise us all.

Posted by: Corespray | April 2, 2009 8:53 AM    Report this comment

I built my first AR-15 back in 1982. I'd have given my eye-teeth back then for the wealth of information and parts that we have available now. Today, anyone with a modicum of skill with handtools, even without any gunsmithing experience, can put together a service-grade AR that will be both reliable and durable.

Hell, I'm tempted to tell the wife and her budget to go to blazes and start on that 24" A4 tackdriver that I've been wanting.

Just tempted, you know?

Posted by: Gaviota | March 27, 2009 6:26 PM    Report this comment

Add your comments ...

New to Gun Tests? Register for Free!

Already Registered? Log In