It’s an election year here in the United States, and that means anything related to firearms and ammunition is going to go nuts for at least 18 months. Politicians, lobbyists, and merchants will all try to use gun control — or the specter of gun control — to drive their agendas. This will cascade into the government regulatory agencies, and then into firearms training service industry.
In short, everything is going to become more expensive, and it will take longer.
The most unfortunate thing is that the only way to protect yourself from this phenomena is to take part in it. The only difference is when you start to react, not if you react at all.
Here’s a guide to surviving an election year.
Buy it cheap and stack it deep.
- The anti-gun rhetoric will start. Democrats trying to make a name for themselves will call for a ban on certain firearms, or increased firearms restrictions. Republicans hoping to scare people away from voting for Democrats will say that any Dem elected will personally come into someone’s home and take their guns. Unfortunately the Republicans can use history to validate their fearmongering. Bill Clinton signed the dumb as toast Assault Weapon Ban in 1994. The Gun Control Act of 1968 was signed by Lyndon Johnson.
- Guns prices will go up first. Firearms prices will increase across the board. Expect “assault” rifle prices to rise between 30% and 75%. I remember when WASR AK-pattern rifles — usually considered the “bottom of the barrel” of the AK world, were selling for up to $650 by the end of 2008 when Obama got elected. The usual market price for this rifle is around $349 – $469 depending on options, promotions, etc.
- People will buy firearms anyway. Popular firearm etailer Centerfire Systems reported hundreds of backorders a month for their most popular firearms. I remember when Saiga-12 shotgun backorders spiked from 300 to 700 in a single month and kept growing.
Most gun owners won’t understand how to buy firearms over the Internet, which means that local gun and sporting goods stores are going to be picked over like a Wal-Mart in the apocalypse. Again, guns most likely to get banned by a short-sighted politician will sell out first, such as handguns designed for concealed carry or long guns designed for civilian defense. I can’t find any data, but I’d be curious to see if “hunting” style rifles experienced a panicked upswing in sales.
- The infrastructure for background checks and permits will be strained. States with modern background check procedures, such as Virginia’s advanced system that checks with state and federal governments, will become overburdened. People with common first and last names can expect to experience a delay from the typical several minutes to several hours if not days. My friend Bond’s father had a multi-day wait due to an over-taxed Virginia State Police background check system.
States with manual processes, such as ones requiring permits and approval from law enforcement officers, will basically grind to a standstill. I feel like this is a righteous penalty for living in a firearm-unfriendly state, but it still sucks for those of you stuck in them.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms is already feeling the strain from the election year. The length of time to process a National Firearms Act items, such as short-barreled rifles and suppressors, has increased by 52% in the last six months (data courtesy of NFA Tracker). It’s only going to get worse.
Concealed carry permit applications will spike. Unless states have learned from prior election years, these departments will be understaffed.
- Ammunition will go next. Prices are going to get ridiculous. Practice ammunition for my AK-pattern rifles (you are practicing a lot, aren’t you?) averages about $0.22 a round during non-election years. Prices were as high as $0.75 a round immediately after Obama’s election. That’s a 340% increase.
The worst part? People bought all that they could. Rumor was it that Obama favored a 500% tax on ammunition, which would put the cost of practice rounds above the reach of most Americans. This fear is the epitome of living through an election year: things don’t have to be true, they just have to be plausible. You can read more about the ammo tax issue on FactCheck.org’s discussion page.
- Magazines and accessories will dry up. Part of the Assault Weapon Ban was a restriction on “high capacity” magazines that could hold more than fifteen rounds of ammunition at a time. Election years cause that boogeyman to rise from the grave, and folks will buy as many magazines as they can afford. This means that the good magazines will sell out at outrageous prices, and lesser quality magazines will also increase in price and then sell out, too. Expect quality holsters to sell out or be on long back orders. Newer gun owners may not appreciate the value of a sturdy, reliable holster and settle on designs and materials that are not as safe as others.
- Basic training will spike. By basic, I mean really basic-ass-basic. Like people sitting in a classroom for eight hours, shoot 50 rounds of ammo at a range, and apply for their concealed carry permit basic. All sorts of “instructors” will pop up to capitalize on the influx of new gun owners, and several things will happen:
- You will have a difficult time figuring out who’s a quality instructor from a shill instructor.
- Instructors will be more inclined to teach classroom-style CCW courses since they can pack more students in during a shorter period of time and make more money.
- Practical training that will actually help you shoot more safely, accurately, and usefully, will be harder to get.
For more information, here is an incredible infographic hosted over at Ammo.net about the impact Obama’s election had on the firearms industry.
Okay, so just to recap: firearms, ammunition, magazines, and accessories are going to go up in a price and decrease in availability. Permits and licenses will be take longer to obtain. Training will plummet to the lowest common denominator to capitalize on quantity over quality. Everyone will complain on gun boards and Facebook. A lot.
Great, now what?
Living through an election year is like watching someone slide down an icy road and smash into another car. I hope that the driver corrects in time, but the crash is inevitable. The worst part is watching it happen in slow motion, and not being able to do a damn thing about it.
Here are some mitigation strategies I do so I’m not caught waiting or wanting while the insanity is in full swing. Yes, I realize they add to the hysteria of an election year. Yes, I understand this means I am participating in the cycle sooner than later.
- Buy as much practice ammunition as you’ll need all year by the end of this spring. Prices are already going up, and retailers are already using phrases like “last chance” or “supplies drying up.” Visit Web sites like AIM Surplus, Centerfire Systems, or J&G Sales to purchase ammunition and have it freighted to your home. You may also use ammunition cost aggregators like AmmoEngine. I really like SG Ammo for my self-defense ammunition, but in my experience self-defense rounds sell out more slowly than practice rounds.
- Resist the urge to buy new tools, but if you are … buy now. I believe you’re better off practicing with the firearms you have than buying additional ones that may sit in your safe (you do lock your guns up, right?). However, if you know that you will be in the market for a firearm(s) in the next year, go ahead and buy them now. Be mindful of any state laws that put a restriction on the number of firearms you can buy within a certain timeframe. For example, if you live in a state where you can only buy one handgun a month, buy the more popular models first. Consider using layaway.
If you participate in promotional pricing due to your status as a club member, law enforcement officer, military service, or firearms instructor, start buying those now. Expect firearms eligible for promotional pricing to dry up quickly. The Glock Sport Shooting Foundation already has a problem with participating dealers refusing to sell to club members so they can sell at full retail prices instead. Things like this are only going to increase with demand.
- Find good instructors now — and book classes with them. Please email me for suggestions on firearm instructors in your state. In general, you want instructors who teach fight-focused techniques on outdoor ranges and specialize in civilian training. Ask your friends whom they have trained with in the past.
Unfortunately there isn’t much we can do to halt the hysteria that happens around an election year. All I can do is make you aware of it and share some of the strategies I use to cope until things stabilize again.
Good luck this year