Today’s post is for those in their 20s, 30s and early 40s, the generation of shooters and preppers who are too young to have witnessed the impact of the original assault weapons ban, which passed Congress in 1994 and resulted in a ban on certain guns and magazines with more than 10 rounds.
Congress is looking at enacting similar legislation, without a 10-year sunset clause. Because of the number of RINOs in Washington, we have to be aware of the possibility that it may pass, and this time it won’t include a sunset. Yes, call your representatives and senators, but prepare for the worst and lay in a supply of weapons and magazines.
The Clinton Assault Weapons Ban
I was a young shooter when President Clinton signed the first assault weapons ban into law 28 years ago. Back then, I owned two revolvers, a 1911-style semi-auto, a Remington 870, a Ruger 10/22 and a Glock 22. The ban affected only the Glock, which used 15-round magazines. I had five magazines, but I bought three more.
After word of the impending legislation spread, I went out to buy an assault weapon. I didn’t have a particular use for it, but my rebellious nature led me to believe that if the government didn’t want me to own it, I probably should get one quick. I bought a FAL because it was available and there were plenty of inexpensive surplus magazines on the market. It cost $700, which I thought was pretty expensive, but would be a bargain today. I would have preferred an AR-15, but no one had them in stock locally. They had sold out, and there were fewer manufacturers back then, with Colt and Bushmaster being the most prominent. The majority of the many AR15 manufactures we enjoy today came about after the ban expired.
More importantly, I started stocking up on what became known as “high capacity magazines”, even though they were standard capacity at the time. I bought magazines for the Browning Hi-Power, CZs, Uzis, different Glocks, original GI magazines for the M16, and Vietnam-era M14 magazines still in their original wrappers. Some of these I kept and later used; I sold many of them after the ban, making a significant profit.
The Ban Years
During the ban, manufacturers continued to make weapons that functioned and looked similar to the banned weapons, but they changed things to make them meet the law’s criteria. For example, I bought a Bushmaster that had no flash hider and no bayonet lug. That made it compliant. Other people bought AK-47s fitted with thumbhole stocks. After the ban expired in 2004, I had the barrel threaded and I added a flash hider. I expect they switched out those thumbhole stocks as well.
While the ban had little impact on firearm availability, it created an immediate drought of magazines. There were very few magazine manufacturers at the time and most of them were made from aluminum or steel. Magpul magazines did not exist. ProMag made some after-market magazines, but their reputation wasn’t that good back then. There were some polymer magazines from Canada, but the best and most-sought-after AR magazines were from companies who made them for military contracts, like Okay and Labelle. The price of these rose after the ban. Magazines that once sold for $8 jumped to $25 dollars and went up from there.
At the height of the ban, full-size Glock magazines sold for a minimum of $75. Glock continued to sell the large-frame pistols, but they shipped with 10-round magazines. If you bought an M1A from Springfield Armory, it came with either 5 or 10-round magazines. Same with AR clones. Development of 15 and 17-round pistols in the U.S. slowed because no one could buy them with the intended magazine except law enforcement.
Magazines are Key
Based on my experience, I recommend you stock up on magazines before any possible ban. Get them now, while they are available and inexpensive.
This is where standardizing on a single platform comes in handy. If everyone in your family or prepper group uses AR15s, you can buy 100 magazines and be in good shape. If two of you use an AR15, someone has an AR-10, a couple people shoot MA1s, and some prefer the AK74, stocking up magazines is going to be a logistical challenge.
There is some advantage of owning guns that have a large supply of surplus magazines. For example, I have seen surplus CETME/H&K91 magazines in .308 as low as $2.99 each. Surplus AK-47 magazines can be found from all sorts of former Eastern Bloc countries. By now, the AR is so pervasive, I expect there are enough unused magazines out there to last a decade or two after the ban.
Remember, magazines can be lost, left behind in a firefight, or break. Springs wear out, feed lips break or dent. Given no prospect of resupply, I’d recommend a minimum of 12 per gun with 25 or more preferred.
Buy Receivers, Too
If I was worried that I would not have enough AR15s to outfit a growing family, I would have or buy one complete gun and spend my limited budget on lower receivers and lower receiver part kits.
If your objective is to stock up before a potential ban, don’t spend your money now on optics, bipods, special triggers, flashlight, lasers, and other accessories. You can buy these and all the parts necessary to complete your build after the ban. The key is to lock in the receiver while it is legal to do so.
Since it may become illegal to transfer weapons to others, give guns to your children, even if they are six months old. Document it in a letter. Alternately, if transfers are to be banned, talk to a knowledgeable attorney and consider whether a gun trust makes sense as a way to pass your guns on to your children.
Why Military Guns
Guns like the AK-47 and the AR-15 are designed and built to hold up under heavy use. Now I like lever action carbines, but if you told me I needed to shoot 90 rounds rapid fire and then another 100 rounds over the next 30 minutes, I’d be concerned about how a lever action would hold up. Weapons designed and used by the military can handle that kind of intensity and heat; many guns designed for hunting cannot.
I have seen hot barrels melt the silver solder on a front sight and cause it to rotate out of position. I’ve seen expensive weapons fail when exposed to mud and sand, and I’ve seen wooden furniture smoke when the barrel gets too hot. If you think you and yours might need to fire hundreds of rounds to protect yourself and your stuff, then buy a gun that can stand up to that kind of use. Unfortunately, these are the guns the Biden Administration wants to ban, so you need to act soon.
How many rounds does that lever action or bolt gun hold? Will that help you pick off the hordes of zombies? You don’t want to be feeding rounds through a loading gate one at a time when the enemy is charging up the hill. I’m not saying these guns don’t have a place in your prepper armory; I’m saying they should not be your primary battle weapon.
Learn from My Experience
They say smart folks learn from experience, but the wise learn from other people’s experience. So be wise and learn from the experiences of my younger self. Don’t get stuck buying magazines at five times their original price.
To summarize: If you feel the need to buy a military-quality semi-auto rifle before Congress bans them (and you should), I recommend you buy one such weapon of your choice, multiple stripped receivers and parts kits (or complete lowers if you prefer), and as many magazines as you can afford. I think the AR-15 lends itself to this approach, but there are several other weapons platforms that will do just as well or even better. Use your judgment, but don’t wait. If the bill passes, it will be too late; supplies will dry up.