Gun Digest

Is the AR Panic Over?

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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.

Tactical guns and ammo have been on short supply the last few years, but supplies are easing and the coming year may be a good time to buy.

The great AR panic and shortage of 2012-2013 now seems to be behind us. Until a few months ago it was almost impossible to find an AR-style rifle for sale in any gun store or gun show in America.

This was also true for other military-type semi-auto rifles and carbines. If you did occasionally find one, the price tag increased significantly, sometimes double the price or more.

Over the winter and spring ARs, AK’s, FAL’s, Mini-14’s and other rifles the media likes to refer to as “assault weapons” disappeared from the shelves at all levels of the firearms retail business, from local gun shops and sporting good stores, to the big outlets like Walmart, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s.

Early Warning Signs

Why, and how, did this happen? It isn’t as if it hasn’t happened before. The push for tougher gun control laws has surfaced many times over the years, going back to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy just over 50 years ago.

Depending on which party controlled the White House or Congress, proposals for more restrictive controls on the design, ownership and sale of firearms has come and gone many times. In many cases shortages quickly occurred in the category or categories of the firearms being legislated against.

The Assault Weapons Ban of 1994, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, led to shortages of numerous semi-auto rifles and high-capacity handguns. When the legislation expired by way of its sunset provisions 10 years later during the Bush administration, the guns involved became available again.

Distrust of Government Motives

More recently, the long and contentious re-election campaign for President Barack Obama convinced many gun owners that a continuation of his administration was sure to bring new and more restrictive federal regulation of firearms.

Soon the “get’em while you can” slogan was being heard in gun stores and at gun shows. Long before the election, shortages began to develop in gun stores across the country, especially of AR-style semi-auto rifles.

After the re-election of President Obama, some concerned citizens opted to become gun owners and, believing AR-15s would soon be banned, decided that their first, and perhaps only gun, had to be an AR.

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:

2014 Standard Catalog of Firearms, 24th Edition

Standard Catalog of Military Firearms 7th Edition

Gun Digest 2014, 68th Edition

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