Is the AR Panic Over?

Is the AR Panic Over?
After a massive shortage in the past year, AR-15 rifles are back on gun store shelves at reasonable prices. Supply has caught up with demand and manufacturers are producing new models for 2014. Retailers such as Bob’s Gun Shop in Norfolk, Va., are even offering great deals on ARs to consumers who are still eager to buy the popular rifles.
As standard 5.56/.223 chambered ARs become difficult to find, consumers were quick to turn to the lighter, less-expensive-to-shoot .22-caliber rimfire models of ARs. These too then became difficult to find as did rimfire ammunition. Finally, it appears the guns are getting easier to find and slowly, .22LR ammo is also starting to reappear on store shelves.
As standard 5.56/.223 chambered ARs become difficult to find, consumers were quick to turn to the lighter, less-expensive-to-shoot .22-caliber rimfire models of ARs. These too then became difficult to find as did rimfire ammunition. Finally, it appears the guns are getting easier to find and slowly, .22LR ammo is also starting to reappear on store shelves.

The recent shortage seems to have developed more rapidly than at other times. One reason might be the current political climate in which views on numerous issues are pushing both sides further apart. This leads to a mistrust of government at all levels, especially among gunowners who have long been suspicious of politicians who talk from both sides of their mouths when it comes to the Second Amendment.

Another reason for the run on AR-type firearms could very well be because of social media. In today’s world, word spreads quickly when it comes to availability of products of all kinds. Where the guns are and where they aren’t, is there at your fingertips.

There is the mainstream media, and during 2012, steady coverage of several multiple-victim shootings kept “assault rifles” and high-capacity handguns in the headlines. Seven people were killed at a nursing home in Oakland, Calif., five in a coffee shop in Seattle, six in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and six in an office in Minneapolis, Minn. (All of these shootings were with handguns, incidentally.)

The Perfect Panic-Buying Storm

When 12 people were killed and 28 wounded in a Colorado movie theater by a deranged man using an AR-style rifle, demands for tougher restrictions on similar models were all over the news and the Internet. Retail prices escalated rapidly and more than 100 AR manufacturers had to increase production in order to meet the demand.

Then in December, the tragic massacre of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., shocked the nation. Many political leaders and pundits blamed the guns and not the shooter, who had a history of mental problems.

New restrictions pertaining to tactical-style and high-capacity firearms were quickly passed in several states, and familiar gun-control advocates like California’s Sen. Dianne Feinstein renewed their efforts to get legislation passed at the federal level, including outright bans of some models. This occurred in spite of the fact that many law enforcement experts, and even some political leaders on the anti-gun side admitted that the laws being passed would not have prevented the Newtown shootings.

Soon after Newtown, AR-type rifles and ammunition were nowhere to be found. The law of supply and demand became evident by conditions that neither the retailers nor the gun manufacturers could control.

The Blame Game

Many gun owners saw the supply evaporate and looked for someone to blame. Conspiracies quickly developed and the finger pointing blamed everyone including the neighborhood gun store, the big-box retailer, the manufacturers and anti-gun politicians. As is often the case, the conspiracy theories were wrong.

One rumor was that leftist billionaire George Soros was investing in gun companies so he could eventually shut them down. Another was that the anti-gun Obama administration was buying millions of military-style firearms, just to keep them out of the public’s hands.

Even though none of the rumors were true, they served to fan the fires of panic buying so that when rifles would occasionally trickle in to a retail store, buyers were willing to pay any price to get as many as they could.

So who’s to blame for the great AR shortage scare? Mostly, it was a result of panic buying by your friends.

It was certainly not a good idea to cash in your 401K or IRA to speculate on the AR shortage, but it probably happened. Soon, as happens with many hoarding or panic-buying situations, everyone who wanted an AR had bought one or more.

Sales have leveled out across most of the country, and while ARs are still driving a huge chunk of our nation’s gun sales, the guns are once again on store shelves and prices have become more in line with what they were before the panic buying began.

In fact, many standard ARs are selling at great prices, while high-end models continue to hold their prices. If you’re in the market for an AR, 2014 may just be your year.

This article appeared in the January 27, 2014 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

Recommended Resources for Gun Collectors:

Standard-Catalog-20142014 Standard Catalog of Firearms, 24th Edition

Standard Catalog of Military Firearms 7th Edition

Gun Digest 2014, 68th Edition

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  1. Now if we can just do something about 22 LR ammo and loading components, especially powder. I compete in a rimfire league and had I not had a large supply of bulk ammo for years I couldn’t have practiced with equipment mods and calibration at all. As it was I was forced to buy Eley at center fire prices for match shooting.
    As reloaders still account for less than 5% of the shooting public according to my reads it makes no sense to me that powder is almost impossible to get. Except for black powder, 50BMG and a few other large caliber powders I haven’t seen the half a dozen or so powders I’m interested in, in well over a year. I had several pounds of Alliant Power Pistol on order last year from Feb to Nov from Midway USA and never got them. Searches for other powders in stock proved fruitless both on line and in numerous retail outlets that advertise powder. Component bullets were slightly better but in popular caliber/weights still real tough. Some primer sizes are becoming available although still at a big increase over pre-panic prices. When powder was easy to get I used to buy a pound at a time so I could experiment more without worrying about stockpiles of powder I didn’t want and to keep the explosive mass as low as possible. Now I won’t consider less than four pounds if I ever find some.
    I have decided to opt for the single load concept for my own use, limitings my selection to CFE-223 for 223/556 and 308 while CFE Pistol sounds good for most of my handgun calibers, that is if I can ever find it to try. Most places I have contacted haven’t even heard of it and two large sports retailers I asked said they have no plans to carry it. The online houses will often let you backorder it but based on my experience that just lets them use your money for half a year of more for free before they or you cancel the order.
    Bottom line? It’s good that guns are now available and at better prices but they are worthless if you can’t load them.

  2. I enjoyed the article and agree with what Jerry says. I remember going to gun shows over the past couple of years where there was frenzied buying going on. Several retailers were selling AR’s that were all dolled up with added on accessories, and selling them for a lot more than they did previously. How do you spell greed? People were buying AR’s, ammo and what ever else they could get their hands on with the hopes of turning around and offering them for sale at a much inflated price. I still see those same ads in one of our local ‘for sale’ magazines. Those people are now stuck with a firearm that they paid too much for and will probably never use, because the industry has caught up with demand and you can buy AR’s at a reasonable price again. Now where did I put those .22s?


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