Gun Deals that Weren't | A Historic view of Gun Pricing

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Today, Merrill pisses in your fun again. Last time it was about ISIS, and this time about daydreaming. He’s a dick, but we’re sure he can’t help it. Mad Duo


Gun Deals that Weren’t–A Historic view of Gun Pricing

Dave Merrill

The other day we ran an piece about some old school toy gun advertisements. It got me thinking about other old ads, namely firearms advertisements. How many times have you looked at one, noted the super cheap prices and groaned, “if only I had a time machine!”

As with most things, the reality of the situation is rarely as awesome as the thought of it. We should all grasp the concept of inflation, if only the broad strokes. For a long time, many viewed firearms as a good investment. I’ve heard “they’ll always go up!” more times than I care to count. While we’ve had multiple panics over the last several years (with .22lr only now making regular appearances on store shelves) 2014-2015 has been the firearms equivalent of the housing market bubble of 2006.

Lots of new companies popped up in order to fill a gap (or take advantage, depending on how you look at it) during panic buys. Manufacturers upped production, hired new staff, only to later drop prices and lay off employees. The end result is what you see today. There’s a lot more to this discussion but we’ll table it for later.

So I sought out advertisements I knew the publication dates of, either because they’re on the picture or because I knew where they came from. This allowed me to do two things: calculate raw inflation and use average working hours as another metric.


For inflation, I used a calculator by Morgan Friedman. In order to figure out how many average hours of work it would take to obtain something, we need to find out the average incomes for each given year. How many hours a year someone works is widely variable, but government employees figure they’ll work 2,087 hours a year so we’ll use that. Average wages come from the Social Security Administration.

This is far from perfect. Hours worked can change (the government has changed how they run theirs many times), tax rates fluctuate, etc etc.There are many more variables (I only have income data up to 2013) but this will get us closer to the ballpark than just oogling and drooling over raw numbers in print ads.


As you can see, the above is from 1966. Everyone knows the Remington 870 so we’ll go with that one. Just going with raw inflation, $99.95 in 1966 money is $708.12 in 2013 (I’m using 2013 money because that’s the latest year I can get average wage info from the SSA). Full boat MSRP on a Wingmaster is currently $830 (We’ll ignore the 870 Express which has a current base model price of $417), so it was a bit less in 1966.

But what about man hours?

Average wage in 2013 was $44,888.16, which comes out to $21.51 an hour before taxes

Average wage in 1966 was $4,938.36, which comes out to $2.37 an hour before taxes

Cost of 870 in 1966: 42.17 work hours

Cost of 870 in 2013: 38.59 work hours

Either way you cut it, not a significant change in either direction.



The year was 1994, and the publication was the favored Shotgun News. For the next example we’re going to use Russian 7.62×39. 1,320 rounds for $299 comes to $.23 cents each. $.23 in 1994 is $.36 in 2013. Those same two tins of ammunition would be $475.20 in 2013. Right now, it can be had for the same price per round as 1994–without even accounting for inflation.

Remember, $21.51 an hour before taxes in 2013

Average wage in 1966 was $23,753.53, which comes out to $11.38 an hour before taxes

1,000 rounds of Russian 7.62×39 in 1994: 20.2 work hours

1,000 rounds of Russian 7.62×39 in 2013: 10.7 work hours

It costs around half the price now than two decades ago.


I chose the Russian ammunition in that last example for one reason: it’s still available. The largest price disparities exist with items that are no longer available or no longer produced. Surplus item supply will eventually dry up, and any importation can be subject to bans (as we recently saw with Saiga rifles). The best we can do for price comparison on those items is check out Gunbroker or other firearm auction sites and divine accordingly. Even then they’re rarely new. Let’s check out some of that:


1987 advertisement of Israeli FALs. Let’s look at the heavy barreled one wearing a bipod. $695.95 in 1987 is the equivalent of $1,405.24 in 2013. Gunbroker shows a similarly equipped FAL with a $2,000 ‘Buy it Now’ price.


Wages were $21.51 an hour before taxes in 2013

Average wage in 1987 was $18,426.51, which comes out to $8.83 an hour before taxes

Israeli FAL in 1987: 78.82 work hours

Israeli FAL in 2013: 92.98 work hours

I heard many lament that buying guns is a good investment because prices “never go down” or as a hedge against inflation. Hell, I used to believe the same thing myself. I still advocate having a lot of ammunition on hand so you’re shooting, and not scrounging shelves, during the next inevitable panic. A goodly part of the reason AR-15s are so affordable right now is due to the glut of manufacturing that took place in anticipation of a ban that didn’t happen. It would be far more accurate to say some guns are good investments, namely: Surplus, imports, and rare collectibles. Either finite in number or subject to new importation/home-nation export regulation.

However, just because it’s rare doesn’t mean it’s desirable. Picking guns for future investment is like playing the stock market. Even the always-increasing-prices of the transferable machine gun market has stagnated quite a bit over the last five years–there are prices people aren’t willing to pay. Eventually they’ll top out, and may not even adjust with inflation.

Of course, in order for it to be an investment, you have to sell em’ eventually. Fuck that.

Just some food for thought next time you see an old ad in a gun rag and start dreaming.


Mad Duo, Breach-Bang& CLEAR!

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About the Author: A combat veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Dave “Mad Duo Merrill” is a former urban warfare and foreign weapons instructor for Coalition fighting men. An occasional competitive shooter, he has a strange Kalashnikov fetish the rest of the minions try to ignore. Merrill, who has superb taste in hats, has been published in a number of places, the most awesome of which is, of course, here at Breach-Bang-Clear. He loves tacos, is kind of a dick and married way, way above his pay grade. You can contact him at Merrill(at) and follow him on Instagram here (@dave_fm).


Emeritus Dave Merrill wrote for Breach-Bang-Clear from late 2013 until early 2017, including a year as its Managing Editor. He departed our ranks in May of 2017 to accept a well-deserved position as social media manager for RECOIL Magazine. He is a combat veteran of the Marine Corps who describes himself as a "...former urban warfare and foreign weapons instructor for Coalition fighting men." Merrill's articles are well worth the time it takes to read them - there's a lot of knowledge tucked away in that skull.

DFM has 82 posts and counting. See all posts by DFM

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