Okay, I completed my Handgun Safety Certification exam and fired 20 rounds out the front end of a Beretta M9 without injury to any living thing. Guiding me all the while was an entity I’ll call Potentate Protection Services. PPS oversaw my studies, administered the state test, and then allowed me to grade my own exam. Going the extra mile, PPS thoughtfully left the room while I graded myself so as not to provoke grade scoring performance anxiety. Even more, Potentate Protection showed movies, arranged a field trip to a firing range, provided a plastic baggie containing 20 rounds of ammo, and, as we were walking into the range office, dispensed one mini candy bar to your servant. This may be the ultimate $59 Groupon good deal.
So, trained, tanned, and certified, it’s time to consider which handgun to buy. Very quickly I decide on the Ruger GP100. Reviews are good to excellent, and the price is several hundred bucks less than an equivalent Smith & Wesson. It’s a .357 caliber, which is what I want on the theory that if you’re going to buy a gun, buy a gun.
Primed to close the deal, I drove to Gun Shop 1. And then 2, and then 3, and then 4, and learned nobody has a Ruger GP100. Nobody. Before we go any further, let us keep in mind that I know nothing about handguns. Never owned one. So, the following may be stupid to anyone who knows pistols but not, perhaps, to someone who has never owned a sidearm. For those never-owned personhoods, I’ll be stupid for you.
I mentioned the lack of GP100s to an elderly gun-store guy. He smiled, said, no, he didn’t have one of those. I asked if he would put one on order for me. He said, sure, he could do that, but I might have to wait awhile.
“They have a million on back order.”
Later, I came across an article in Forbes about Ruger. Here’s the essential quote, “In March, the company announced that it had a million-order backlog and that it was temporarily suspending acceptance of new orders.”
Back at the shop, I am incredulous as only a stone-cold outsider can be. “One million guns on back order? How is it possible to have one million pistols on back order?” And that one million is from one manufacturer. What about Derringer, Colt, Glock, Beretta, Taurus, Kimber, Walther, Smith & Wesson? How many bazillion handguns are there on back order?
Meet Chris from San Diego Gun Buyer, a firm specializing “...in the liquidation of large gun collections, high-end collectible guns, and especially older military weapons.” I phoned, he answered, I said, “This Ruger gun, the GP100, impossible to find. I’ve read they stopped taking orders last spring, said they had a million back orders.”
Chris says, “I don’t know. I just know there’s a large demand. From what I understand, it’s not easy to manufacture them. It’s a pretty in-depth process. They just can’t meet the demand.”
Strange. The GP100s have been around for a while, since the mid-’80s. It’s not as if it’s the hot new thing. I ask, “Ruger couldn’t build a new factory?”
“I don’t know,” Chris says. Chris is no dummy.
“I’ve noticed a lot of gun stores are closing. How come? If I was selling a product that had one million back orders, I would be dancing in the street.”
“Yeah,” Chris says, “but gun stores aren’t closing because there is a lack of demand. Gun stores are closing because of local and state regulations. Plus, the federal government is shutting them down.”
“How does the federal government shut down a gun store?”
Chris says, “If they spot an error in paperwork, they have a broad range of decisions they can make. They have discretion in deciding who, basically, can stay in business and why and who can’t and why. They just want more and more regulations in order to come up with a reason why a federal firearms dealer should not be in business. They want to restrict the way people buy guns.”
“Say I want to buy a gun from you...is it like buying a piece at a gun shop?”
“I don’t sell guns at my store; I just have an office.”
“What do you do with the guns people sell you?”
Chris says, “I keep most of them.”
“Is it a collection?”
“Must be a big collection.”
Chris laughs hard and laughs long. “Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not.”
Read Guns & Ammo, Part 1