This guest post by Victoria S and entry in our non-fiction writing contest.
This weekend is the weekend of the first big gun show of the year in our area – held in Springfield.(yes, the capital of Illinois, where the evil legislators tried to sneak in draconian gun control on the first part of the year… if only they knew what the masses would be doing later in the month…) Obviously, with it being Gun Appreciation Day, we had to go … but we were planning on going anyway. I figured I’d write our experiences up for everyone in the Pack to enjoy … this will be more informal than my usual writing, with lots of ellipses and parentheticals. I apologize in advance.
Normally, spouse, manchild and I don’t kill ourselves to be early to a gun show. We get there a few hours after they open, and don’t rush around. This time, we were actually wanting ammunition, so we needed to get there early to make sure we had our best chance of actually securing some. We also needed to price primers and bullets, and if they were better priced than our local supplier, we planned to pick some up. I also had some other items on my buying list – I wanted some stripper clips for our Nagant, we wanted to try out some Howa rifles we’re thinking of buying, we hoped to do the same with the Thompson Center Dimension interchangeable rifle, and I wasn’t adverse to picking up another Nagant at a decent price (or an SKS that wasn’t made in China.). I was also hoping to trade in some mother of pearl grips for a 1911 Colt Gold Cup (don’t ask – there’s a reason that gun is called the “pimp gun”) for something else, pick up some “dress grips” for a few other guns, see if I could find Ruger Mark III mags for spare, and continue our fruitless search for 7.62x54R reloading dies…(I’m going to end up just ordering it but I keep hoping…) In the end, we managed to secure a good bit of what we wanted, without being crushed or run over or going insane, but wow, it was an … interesting day.
We arrived 20 minutes before the show opened and there was a line stretching about 150 yards waiting to get in (Hubby provided the length estimate – blame him if someone else there disagrees). They let folks in 10 minutes early, and by then, the line had doubled in length. Luckily, it was a gun show crowd (well, mostly … the people in front of us were newbies at the whole gun show thing) so it was polite and orderly.
Once in, we headed right for the usual dealer that does mostly ammunition (and magazines, but we weren’t interested in AR-15 mags, thankfully). They did have some .22LR available at a bearable price – so we picked up 3 boxes. Then we started waiting in line. And waited. The table (well, it was actually a square – three tables long with two deep) was surrounded two deep with people, all trying to buy from two very very very harried sellers. While hubby waited, I took a spin through the floor, checking for more ammo and seeing what else struck me on a quick inspection. Son was off drooling on revolvers…
I did find one other person selling .22LR ammo, but they were pretty high on all their prices, so I avoided them and went back to wait with hubby. While waiting, we watched the ammo sellers sell at least 20 boxes of .223 (500 rds) at $420 a box. They were also doing a brisk business in 9mm Luger at $125 for a 500 round box. Eventually, we got to the head of the “line” and added another box to our check out (leaving four boxes of .22LR on the table for someone else) total. Paid $26 a box for 500 rounds. We called child over to take the ammo out to the car and started hunting down primers and bullets. Those we found easier, and at normal prices and in decent amounts. In fact, we found a new supplier of bullets at better than our usual purchasing price, so we bought a good bit. Child to the rescue again… sent him off to the car with the bullets and the primers (It’s good for him to exercise, right?)
With the “must” purchases out of the way, we started systematically strolling the tables, checking out prices, checking out guns, and generally getting the lay of the land. This was about 40 minutes into the show (50 after they let us in) and the line outside was still about 150 feet long. Luckily, this show stamps, and has an expedited line to get back in if you are stamped, so the poor child didn’t suffer too much.
Impressions from this time are that gun stocks are low. Shotguns (which are always popular in Illinois because we’re not allowed to hunt deer with rifles, just shotguns) are probably in best supply, with bolt action rifles and revolvers probably next in numbers. There were ARs and the like available, along with older military rifles, and even a few AKs, but they had doubled or tripled in price. Same for most modern parts. Older military guns had gone up a bit, but not horrid. SKSs (which were rare) were about $300 or up, and we only saw three Nagants - one for $140 which was pretty beat up, one for $200 which had been thoroughly cleaned, and one for $750, which was beautifully restored with a scope. Handguns are still available, but not nearly in the numbers they were before. Anything that could possibly be concealable was commanding a premium price – if you could find it. If it was used, it was priced at new prices. New manufacturers suggested price. The sky seemed to be the limit for people selling anything modern and “assault rifle looking”.
Most of the “big” sellers had much smaller stocks than usual. Several of the regulars had only one layer of rifle boxes, unlike usual where they have three or four levels of boxes on the tables, with more under the tables. Not the case now. Collectible and/or antique guns haven’t seen quite the hit, although the “cheap” end was noticeably lower in quantity (See above about SKSs and Nagants)
Reloading supplies and other parts (besides mags) are still available, and I didn’t really notice a price increase. Brass is starting to disappear, but it was still available, as long as you didn’t want .223. There were a lot of people selling high capacity mags but they were definitely increased in price. One seller told me that he’d started his pmags at $30 first thing in the morning. After half an hour, he said he increased it to $40, bumped it again to $50 shortly before I talked to him, and was going to keep increasing until he either sold out or hit a point where people weren’t buying. Yikes!
During this period, we passed back by the ammo seller we’d bought from earlier – they were out of .22LR, and the .223 stock was definitely lower. Although it was really hard to tell, because now the table was surrounded by people THREE deep. It never got less than that while we were there. I never did get close to any of the AR specialists – I’m not that interested and it wasn’t something I was going to fight the crowds for.
I noticed a few new sellers – so we had two sellers of emergency freeze-dried food. Paracord was not up in price, but more folks had it. Some “prepping” items were harder to find or up in price – especially some of the mil-surplus stuff like can openers or web gear.
Two hours in and the manchild had to get going to get to work. So we sent him off and noticed the line was still 150 feet long. The aisles were definitely packed and crowded. Lots of new people who I overheard discussing that they were at a gun show for the first time. Lots and LOTS of folks filling out 4473s at the various booths. Several very enterprising folks wandering around with secured guns trying to sell them. One guy had stuck a laminated sign on a stick into the barrel of his gun (which was slung over his shoulder) giving the specifics of the gun – nice nice idea! Another guy had a sign taped to his backpack doing pretty much the same thing – great advertising and a good way to get word out.
We wandered for probably another hour – just didn’t see anything else that grabbed us. We did find a place with the Howa rifles we wanted to test out. Took a card from them, so if we go that route, we’ll probably buy from them. Didn’t find any Dimension rifles so still need to try them out. Their stock is a bit different and we want to make sure we like the differences before going with that interchangable rifle system. No one was selling grips in any numbers so we didn’t do anything at all on that action item. We found plenty of Ruger Mark II mags, no Mark III mags, so I guess I’m going to have to keep looking. In general, mags were available, but not nearly in the numbers we’re used to seeing. As usual, we never saw a set of 7.62x54R dies…
Didn’t really see anything that odd or different or new at the show. There was a bit more toolish type things. More emphasis on cleaning and a few more folks with reloading stuff. Ammo cans were selling very briskly, but not at inflated prices. Did see two guys that were selling caching tubes for guns. That was a first.
This has always been a nice show. It’s held at the State Fairgrounds, but apparantly our governor is offended that state property is hosting such evil things as guns. The event organizers told us that this would be the last time probably at the fairgrounds, but we’ll see what happens.
After the show, we stopped by a local Scheel’s (think Cabela’s but a bit smaller) to see what was going on there. They had some .22LR - limited to 250 rounds per customer – so we each bought our limit. They were also limiting customers to 100 rounds of handgun or rifle ammo. No limit on shells for shotguns. We’ve been stopping in there about once a week lately for other reasons, and been watching the gun stocks slowly diminish. They are down a LOT on handguns. There are only two Smith & Wessons and two Taurus pistols in the case. A few more Rugers, but not many. Glocks are pretty much sold out. Same with most of the rest of the big names. Oddly enough, the Springfield Armory selection is a bit better – probably because the “man on the street” hasn’t heard of them so isn’t sure about whether to trust them. They still had some Colts – but they were mostly the presentation fancy guns. More revolvers than semi-autos, which isn’t surprising.
Any rifle with military styling is pretty well sold out too. Plinking rifles are still available, but not nearly as many of those as they used to have. Their used rifle selection is halved. Shotguns haven’t had quite as big a hit – they are mostly still available in a wide selection.
The big shocker was the line of people with filled out 4473s waiting to turn them in. It was about 40 or so people waiting to get their background checks done. I’ve never seen a line that long there. They had to bring in extra folding tables for the folks that were still filling out their paperwork. Also some of those poles and lines used to corral people into orderly lines. I snapped a couple of pictures, and blurred the faces out, so that folks can get a good idea of just how popular gun purchases are.
We left Scheel’s glad that we’ve mostly completed the handgun purchases we’re wanting to do for the next few months. Also glad we’ve got the brass and reloading situation under control (it’s not great, but I can live with our supplies except we need to get the equipment to reload shot shells.) The main thing we’re looking for now is a high powered hunting rifle to add to the Nagant – we’re leaning .308 but might go for a .30-06. Those types of rifles haven’t had near the hit that the “military styled” rifles have, so thankfully we’re not running into issues getting those. Just need to try out the Dimension before committing.
The main concern I have now is the availablity of .22LR. Son and I are shooting in a pistol league so we’re going through a decent amount of .22LR and since you can’t reload that… it’s a concern. If we didn’t reload though, I’d be very very very concerned about ammo supplies. If we didn’t have our pistol situation mostly under control, I’d also be concerned. Since we don’t have an AR, I’m not that concerned about high capacity mags and such. I’m certainly not going to buy an AR right now … the pricing is insane and we can get much of that functionality without having to pay inflated prices, if you’re smart about things.
I was too busy shopping and gawking to actually hug the guns yesterday. But I figure buying things for them will make them feel appreciated, right?
This contest will end on February 16 2013 – prizes include:
- First Place winner will receive Two cases of MRE’s courtesy of Camping Survival, A Wonder Junior Deluxe hand-mill courtesy of Kitchen Kneads, $150 gift certificate for Fiocchi Ammo courtesy of LuckyGunner Ammo, A Big Berkey Water Filter System courtesy of TruPrep Emergency Preparedness and a one year subscription to Personal VPN service courtesy of unspyable.
- Second Place: A $200 gift certificate for any order from their store courtesy of Shepherd Survival and A Doom and Bloom Mini Trauma Bag courtesy of LPC Survival.
- Third Place: A Bar-ricade door bar courtesy of My Locksmith, Inc.