Let’s cut to the chase. Things got really ugly real fast in the suburban city of Kenosha, Wisconsin last week. I won’t get into the politics of what happened, but let’s talk about the business side of things after the fallout.
The pandemic had already pushed millions of Americans to run out and clear the shelves of guns and ammo. In an election year. Everything ran out very quickly and stocks depleted, though in a manner that would catch up quickly. Then George Floyd was killed and a whole bunch more unarmed people decided to arm themselves, pushing demand to all-time highs.
So what now?
In my time in this business, I have a lot of friends that I’ve made and helped out over the years that also are in the industry. Everyone helps each other, and I got a phone call from my buddy Scott last week. He told me he was sold out of so much stuff that he’s scrambling to get the shelves filled back up. He asked me how many Ruger LCP’s and Anderson stripped lowers I could spare.
I checked in the inventory and gave him the count: about 5 LCP’s left and just under 100 lowers. He said great, consider them sold. Wire transfer is inbound.
I asked him what’s happening and his answer was simple: everyone’s buying everything faster than he can possibly replenish it. The Anderson lowers that normally sell for $35 or $40 during normal times are now selling for $100 and he has a waiting list for them.
We’re having a tough time with every single one of our vendors. Every week we’ll make the requisite calls to all of our suppliers and there’s just not enough in the supply chain to run a business. I got my first ammo allocation since May last month.
How much ammo did I receive? My August delivery consisted of eight boxes of .40 S&W Remington Golden Saber. My rep didn’t mince words. “You want the eight or you want nothing?”
No sooner than I said I’d take the eight, I thanked him and told him to keep me posted.
The industry is dealing with this from every wholesaler out there. Dealers like my friend Scott are buying items at retail prices just to meet the demands of their clamoring customers.
The wholesale reps are just as frustrated as we are. They have no product to sell. Or the stuff that does trickle in gets blasted out via email at 9:00AM and is fully spoken for by 9:03AM. My rep at a large southern outfit has been at the company for a long time and he told me flat-out that the demand this time is greater than it was post Sandy Hook.
Buyers are placing purchase orders with no delivery dates in sight. I was forwarded an email from a friend who was drafted by his buying group that raised minimum order sizes on guns and ammo from $500 to $10,000 effective immediately. Items ordered today would be filled on a best-case scenario in 6 to 9 months.
This is the impact of bad nightly news, widespread shifting of the political winds and the total depletion of available stock. When all these things combine, we’re seeing a perfect storm of headaches.
What are we telling customers? The truth. We have NO idea when things will be in stock and if they see something they like — not even necessarily love — they should snap it up fast, because as each day goes on, we run out of more product.
For the past four months, even after adjusting prices upwards with demand, our shelves and showcases are still empty. No GLOCK 9mm’s of any kind. No SIG classic or polymer framed guns. No CZs. Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0’s flew out the door as fast as freshly smoked brisket at Franklin BBQ at 10:31AM. And, of course, the ammo for them is as hard or harder to come by.
Apocryphal reports from my gun nut friends are that, just as it was in the months leading up to the Obama inauguration, people are lining up early at the big box joints like Cabela’s and Academy and snagging all the ammo they can and posting it for sale on the gun boards before lunch.
Based on some of the posts I’ve been seeing — I don’t know if it’s fake news or not — but there are a LOT of new folks on the forums and the boards selling 9mm FMJ for well over $20 a box.
Even after telling folks that what they’re looking for isn’t available, I’m inevitably pressed for a better answer. Come on, there’s got to be SOMETHING you can get me!
And they’re not entirely wrong. There are a few things out there left in the warehouse. Bolt action and lever guns in odd calibers and some expensive items like $1540 CZ 75’s and other out-of-the-mainstream items. To give you an idea of what’s happen to prices, we are now paying wholesale what we used to sell some stuff retail for.
Some of my customers used to love the Bulgarian made Arsenal milled receiver rifles. They weren’t cheap, but to get a decent AK, you have to spend some money.
Nowadays? I can buy a stamped Arsenal receiver rifle like the 107R that nobody seems to want, and I’ve got to pay wholesale for what I used to sell the milled receiver guns for to customers.
Paying more and getting less seems to be a sign of the times. I don’t want to sell someone a product I wouldn’t buy myself or that I don’t believe is application-appropriate, but there is just so much out there that is sold out, with no ETA on restock that folks are willing to deal with the risk vs. the uncertainty of not being able to get their first choice.
It’s not just Title 1 stuff, either.
Every suppressor manufacturer that I have spoken to is backed up on orders bigtime. We have not gotten any Advanced Armament pistons or mounts in months. Dead Air products are also tough to come by. Our shelves have been out of Sandman rifle silencers for months and Ghost 45’s for longer.
Silencerco Osprey 45’s have been out at our preferred wholesalers for weeks. Some of that stuff is trickling in, but we’re getting two or thee units at a time when we are more to 20 or 30 units at a time.
As a joke, I devoted a small section of the whiteboard to all the guns and ammo that the UPS driver delivered in in the month of August. Here’s the full list:
Springfield Hellcat: 1
Glock 43X: 1
40 S&W Remington Golden Saber: 8 boxes
Gemtech Lunar 45: 1
Dead Air Mask 22: 2
Worse still, the more I talk with other dealers and vendors, the more I am convinced that this is just the beginning.
To hear stories of dealers buying stuff at retail just to restock is one thing. To be a counterparty to the transaction and witness it firsthand is another. My gut tells me that we’re on track to see a lot more empty shelves before we see stuff begin to come back.
Hopefully, everyone is stocked up with sufficient supplies in case things go sideways because as readers know, if things can get that strange in a city of under 100,000 people in Wisconsin, it can happen anywhere in the country.