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As has become custom in times of national duress, there is a bull market for guns and ammunition.

This is really curious to me because America armed itself to the teeth during the eight years of the Obama Administration. That's when AR-15s were in such high demand that the price of a basic AR-15 from DPMS, Smith & Wesson, Ruger and others went from about $700 to $2,000. An AR-15 probably doesn't cost $200 to make, but people paid it, often for multiple guns at once.

Remember lines forming at the Walmart sporting goods department and customers buying the entire week's shipment of .22 Long Rifle ammo right off the truck before folks at home drank their first cup of coffee? One friend joined the line every Wednesday. For a long time, stores couldn't even keep reloading powder in stock, and primers were unobtainable.

What could people possibly want that they didn't already buy back then? It's all the same stuff, except now, apparently, a new group of buyers is helping drive the market. According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, gun sales are surging in California, New York and Washington. Those are some of the hardest hit states by coronavirus. Gun sales are also very high in New Jersey and Delaware. None are known to be friendly to the Second Amendment, but many first-time buyers are joining the gun-owning public because they fear social unrest and disorder caused by a non-partisan disease. In those states, gun shops have sold their inventory, and they can't get new guns and ammo fast enough to keep up with the demand.

In Arkansas, some gun shops were momentarily knocked off balance by the surge, but they have recovered. An employee at a prominent shop in Sherwood said there was a big run on 5.56 NATO ammo in February, and also on .22 LR, but everything is available now. The AR-15 uses 5.56 NATO or .223 Remington. The cartridges are nearly identical and hold the same bullet.

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]

Limiting purchases helps deter hoarders, panic buyers and prospective profiteers. Ten years ago, comparatively few people bought a disproportionate amount of product, which provoked a lot of panic buying. A good many people bought large numbers of AR-15s per person and sold them for a tidy upcharge as the prices continued rising.

For the longest time, the store I visited had a long-running special on Ruger .22-cal pistols and several models of semiautomatic pistols in 9mm, .40 Smith & Wesson and .45 ACP. All of those are gone, and there are very few trade-ins for sale.

"When people get scared, there's four things they won't do without," said an employee. "Guns, ammo, tobacco and toilet paper."

If you are a new gun buyer, your purchase can be a passport to a world of recreational opportunities and new friendships. With an AR-15, you can shoot targets inexpensively. You can also hunt deer, feral pigs and coyotes.

Your fellow gun owners are a friendly, welcoming lot. They're kind of gruff and opinionated, but like motorcycle owners and guitar pickers, they love nothing more than talking about gear and commenting about your gear.

For whatever reason you bought a firearm, you owe it to yourself, your family and to society to learn to use the thing properly and to be proficient with it. Fellow gun owners are often eager to teach you. Formal handgun training is available at any indoor range. There are also hours and hours of informative videos on YouTube.

Know your firearm. If you have a semiautomatic pistol, go to an empty room or an empty garage where you can be alone. Remove the empty magazine from the frame, ensure that the chamber is empty and then practice, practice, practice racking the slide and getting acquainted with the gun's operation. Disassemble it and put it back together multiple times. The owner's manual tells how, and there are also plenty of videos on YouTube. After nearly 25 years, YouTube taught me how to disassemble and reassemble my Ruger Mk. II pistol. A gun you shoot a lot gets remarkably dirty if you don't clean it properly for nearly three decades.

Practice often until you vanquish any pre-existing stigmas that will prevent you from handling the weapon safely and confidently. I'll bet you'll enjoy it a lot.

Sports on 04/05/2020

Print Headline: Coronavirus ignites bull market in firearms, ammo

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