I talked to a former military sniper about the weapons and ammunition they captured in Iraq. According to him, they'd capture all kinds of weapons. U.S. M1919 medium machine guns, Jordanian copies of the H&K G3, WWII surplus Mauser K98 carbines, Kalashnikovs from all over the world. They'd find Saudi, Chechen and other foreign passports on dead insurgents. In general, it looked like a hodge-podge of men, some very serious contenders, and whatever weapons they preferred or were stuck with.
I picked up on a general vibe in talking to several other guys that they fully expect arms manufacturing in the US to go into a low tech black market mode if serious damage is inflicted upon the legal market by gun prohibitionists. Personally, I think it's more likely that stolen and illegally imported genuine military weapons will fill that potential black market -- as is the case in Mexico -- but all of this is, and hopefully will remain, mere speculation.
AR-15s were in short supply, but they were available. Prices for them ran about 200 to 500 bucks above what I would have expected three months ago, and lightly used guns seem to hold about as much value as brand new ones. I saw little in the way of parts for them. AK-pattern weapons were much more common at the show than they are locally in the gun shops, but they're still in relatively short supply, and only for about twice the money they were commanding a few months ago.
There were a few private sellers offering a used AR-15 at steep asking prices. It seemed clear that they'd decided the potential profit margin in this panic market was just too great to ignore. One guy had a placard in his car windshield offering AK magazines at an inflated price. Another wore a sign offering 7.62 X 39mm rifle ammuntion for sale. And there were a few other odd private sale offerings, but not really very many. In fact, there are rarely many men offering guns for private sale at the local shows and from what I have seen, they usually aren't able to make a sale. People simply want what they want, and it seldom happens to be exactly what the individual private seller happens to offer. Private sellers also tend to be a bit circumspect about who offers to buy -- quite the opposite of what most journalists tend to assume. They don't want to have anyone tracing a crime scene gun back to their names any more than anyone else does.
Other, less common, military pattern and high performance firearms were available in very small numbers, and often at panic prices. No one had an FN FiveSeven pistol for sale. No one had anything in .50 BMG for sale. I saw no Springfileld M1903s, M1 Garands, M1As, or M1 carbines -- which is quite unusual. And I saw no original military M1911 pistols, either. No one had any detachable box magazine semi-auto shotguns, like the Saigas. Glocks and Sigs were in short supply. 9mm pistol ammo was a bit tough to find, and usually only available in the more expensive hollow point forms. 5.56 NATO and 7.62 NATO rifle ammo was in very thin supply.
Magazines for ARs and AKs were two to four times what they'd been a few months ago. And I didn't see much in the way of OEM pistol magazines in capacities over 10 rounds, but wasn't really looking for them. In fact, I wasn't looking to buy anything, really. It's simply the wrong time to buy.
Ammunition was thin, but available in a wide selection. There was very little in the way of large quantity ammo sales offered and prices for ammo tended to be about 30 to 100 percent over the old normal. There were a few reasonable exceptions to be found.
Collectable military weapons of all types were a bit thin. I'd heard just last week from a contact out west that the old WWI and WWII era military surplus rifles had flown off the shelves, so perhaps the same happened with the stock these local gun show dealers are handling as well. I didn't ask. But it stands to reason that collectors would try to get ahead of restrictions on importation of interesting weapons, and collectors are usually a well educated and financialy secure segment of the gun owner demographic -- so they can really spend some bucks fast if motivated. I didn't see much in the way of vintage hand guns, either.
The photo above is of a solid Alcoa aluminum forging used in the manufacture of AR-15 and M-16 rifles, carbines and pistols. I bought it as a paper weight some years ago. It would be possible, of course, to cut away all the right bits of metal to transform this solid forging into an AR-15 receiver and assemble a weapon on it. This would also, currently, be legal for a private citizen to do. But I'm not interested in spending hundreds of hours doing this work with common hand tools, just to get a mediocre to poor project gun in return.
There are, however, AR-15 and AK-type project parts available that are between the state of this forging and what is legally a firearm's receiver. They're commonly referred to as 85% receivers, though they're often much less complete than that -- particularly with the AK variants. I did see one AK sheet steel partially manufactured receiver for sale at the local gun show this weekend, but I didn't see any other project receivers -- not even the more common fully manufactured and fully regulated receivers so popular with hobbyist shooters here in the US. All of those are apparently going into production of complete weapons right now.
It would appear that if the Obama administration gets major gun laws passed, the shooting public will already have drawn suppliers right down to the bottom of the proverbial barrel. The market will of course recover, but whatever happens, it's clear that the public has absorbed a vast quantity of new weapons and stocks of ammunition over the past few months, and they will not be keen to give any of it up or lose access to ammunition for those new guns, either.
What happens next is unclear, but with any luck cooler heads will prevail all the way around and we'll at least get to a period of lower tension in the near future. One thing I really think worth mentioning is that gun owners at this show seemed very calm, rational and resolute. They seemed to be settling in for the long political and cultural struggle that does in fact seem to be deepening in severity all around them. I myself had to deal with a former girlfriend spitefully "outing" me as a second amendment supporter in the company of some liberal friends last week. I managed some good damage control on that one, but only with great effort and some silver tongued wizardry. I don't keep my views secret, but I've learned not to throw myself under the proverbial bus, either. I've just found it much easier to let people assume what they want to about me and slowly work from where they are on hot button issues we may disagree on. I do like to keep in touch with people from all over the social and political map. Not an easy thing to do in this polarized political climate, but I think worthwhile.