By Jeff W. Zimba
Without a doubt, everyone has heard an elder family member talk about the “good old days.” It may have been in relation to the economy or in the same breath as an old hunting or fishing story. It may have even been in the context of gun laws. This is just a right of passage and a generational contribution to teaching a significant event in history from their perspective. Rest assured that their parents spoke about the “good old days” and their parent’s parents as well. Some day it will be you, talking about your “good old days” and if you are a member of the gun community, those “good old days” might just be right now.
There have been many changes in the firearms trade in the last decade. One of the most significant changes is the sunset of the Clinton Assault Weapons Ban. To someone who has recently become involved in collecting and shooting military-style semiautomatic firearms, this is a very exciting time. Prices are lower than anytime in the last 10 years and the availability of most of these firearms and their accessories is excellent.
People who have been involved in collecting these particular firearms for a number of years are seeing prices drop close to pre 1994 levels. Individuals who are new to this industry are seeing prices lower than they have ever seen. On September 13, 2004 many businesses started manufacturing these previously prohibited firearms and following the economics of supply and demand, pricing has dropped to a sustainable level. This is fantastic news. There are very good quality “No-Ban” firearms out there at very reasonable prices.
There will still always be a market for collectable or premium firearms and their parts. Obviously, no one started manufacturing “original Colt Thompson 1921 drums” again so those originals still command a premium. Others are manufacturing current versions though and they will be priced accordingly.
Walking through the aisles at the Fall 2004 Knob Creek Shoot and Show, it was obvious that something special was happening in our community. This event was less than a month after the sunset of the Clinton ban and people were still “feeling out” the market. Many items restricted in number by the 1994 ban were now readily available again. The once finite supply was again currently infinite and prices on current manufactured items dropped rapidly. On the high quality semiautomatics that were banned from importation by President Bush in 1989, the pricing has remained at previous market levels as these items are still not replaceable and are quite collectable.
The sunset of the Clinton gun ban is not the only upbeat event in the firearms industry. As you flip through the pages of Small Arms Review and other similar trade publications you will see something else quite exciting. New technology and good old American ingenuity has brought many new players and products to the market.
There are several new configurations available to many older firearms. There are a few belt-fed upper receivers for the M16 family and a few quick-change barrel units available for the same. There have also been several improvements made on the M16 gas system in this same period of time.
There are several companies manufacturing their versions of extremely desirable HK firearms. Some are in traditional configurations and others are heavily modified variants that used to only be available through custom manufacturers.
Several businesses have redesigned many firearms that were once only available as machine guns and are selling them in BATF approved semiautomatic configurations. This allows people who can not afford the high prices of transferable, registered machine guns to own a variant for a much more reasonable price. A few examples of firearms that were not originally available as semiautomatic only that are on the market today, include the Browning .50 caliber M2HB, Browning .30 caliber 1919, M60, Sten, Grease Gun, Bren, RPD, and many others. In most cases these firearms are sold like any other Title I firearm and can go home with the owner with a 4473 and a NICS check. No waiting or transfer taxes.
CETME (Modello C) rifles have been brought back to life in the American firearms market due to the importation of original parts kits combined with US parts and domestic assembly. This once rare rifle, imported in small numbers for a very short period of time, is now readily available in its newest configuration to many collectors who could not afford or locate an original.
Most magazines are available again and at prices equal to or lower than at any time in the author’s memory. Beta C-Mags are being advertised and sold for under $250 again making them much more attainable to many more people. Manufacture is again in full swing and rumors are abounding of new calibers and feed towers not previously available. Lakeside Guns has manufactured a ton of belts for the Tippmann miniature firearms family as well as designing and manufacturing disintegrating links for the same. HK G3 magazines that sold for over $45.00 fifteen years ago have recently been purchased for $2.00 each.
Ammunition in most common calibers is as low as it has been in the last 15 years. 7.62x39mm, 9x19mm and 5.56x45mm is all currently available in the area of $100 per thousand rounds. 7.62x39mm non-corrosive ammunition can be bought for $75 per thousand rounds. Shooting a quantity of ammo over a weekend is financially reasonable again.
New places to shoot (and shop for Class III) are springing up all over the country. Although we have lost the old North Country Shoot, and the HMHS (Maxim) Shoot has been discontinued, many others have started in the meantime. The ALA-BAM-ER Shoot, the Oklahoma Full Auto Shoot and the MG Shooters LLC shoot in Wikieup, Arizona are but a few that have begun operating. There are also many smaller shoots coming through the ranks and getting larger every year. Knob Creek is still going strong and is bigger than ever. The old pole barn has been rebuilt and much more vendor space has been added. The SAR Show in Phoenix Arizona just finished its 5th year with almost 250,000 square feet of vendor space and an even larger show is being planned for 2005.
Other than the 1986 ban on manufacturing new machine guns, things are looking positive for the gun community at present time. With prices and inventories at favorable levels, combined with great new products and places to view and use them, we just may be living in our own phase of the “good old days.”