Sunday, October 11, 2009

Woulda, coulda, shoulda...

Everyone who's been around NFA stuff has their "Gee, I wish I'd..." stories.

Myself, I'm pretty much over the "Wish I owned a machine gun" bug; they're expensive to feed, and all the really fun ones sit on tripods and are a pain in the butt to find someplace to shoot. Much like .50 BMG rifles, I find them interesting and think it's every American's right to own one, but as a city gal who drives a two-seat roadster, there's just not really room for one in my life.

But anyhow, my machine gun story...

Back in late '01 I was pretty flush, and at the time I had the hots for the Steyr AUG in a bad way, because it was cool and foreign and therefore must be Modern and Ultimate. This was during the height of the Scary-Looking Gun Ban, and the cheapest semiauto AUGs I could find were running three grand and change (importation of new semiauto AUGs had been halted with an executive order by George Bush in '89).

At the time, a coworker was helping broker sales for a local guy with a big NFA collection, which included a couple of full-auto AUGs. There was one on the list in good shape, complete with a stack of extra mags, for an asking price of just over eight thousand. Now, when you're looking at buying what is essentially a toy, $3,500 for a semi- and $8,000 for full-auto are practically the same price: Crazy. I came thiiis close to jumping on that buzzgun, but balked at the last minute and never gave it much thought after that.

The full-auto AUGs I saw at Knob Creek were all running at about $15,000.

How's your stock portfolio done in that time?


Buffboy said...

Having shot one back in the early 80s that a dealer friend owned, meh, ($3K was what he wanted for it with the transfer fee, too much for what you got, IMO) if I'm gonna do the battle rifle thing, I'll just get an M16 or M14($1200 for either).

Never bought any of them, but I did buy a Daewoo AR-100 for $330 that I sold a couple years ago for $1200 and an M17 bullpup(POS) for $500 that again gained quite well.

I didn't buy ebay or paypal stock even though I knew they were going through the roof. I guess I'm doomed to a life of poverty.

Tam said...


NFA stuff is entirely different from semiauto. It's a closed market, full of people with serious money, that drives prices at a hothouse rate.

I knew of a guy who bought a pair of registered lower full-auto AR's for six grand each in the late '90s and sold one for twelve grand a couple years back, giving him basically a free machine gun.

Tam said...

And I agree about the "meh" on the AUG; I've really cooled on them.

Alan said...

I bought an M11/9 in the mid 90s for $650. Lately I've seen them for anywhere between $3500 to $6000 which is an insane price for a POS SMG that wouldn't cost more than $100 in a free market.

karrde said...

Stock portfolio...that there's funny.

Anonymous said...

I sometimes play that game with myself too, but I've eventually realized that my logic is faulty.

It doesn't matter what the price has grown to be, I still probably wouldn't sell mine if I had one!

I'd be thinking about five years from now, when the same piece would go for $25,000 instead of $15,000. And I would always think that way, to the point that I would probably never sell it! :-)

Buffboy said...

Tam, At that time it wasn't a closed shop, in fact the dealer mentioned was starving to the point he turned in his license(kept his FFL). Considering back then for $400 including the tax and an AR, you too, could legally have the happy switch, it's not hard to see why. It all changed when it closed up. Prices went from impractical to insane in short order and continue to climb.

I love full auto and still get to shoot them yearly(part of the job, free ammo on that day) but when I am reloading/buying the ammo, which is all other days, not so much. I'm still very envious of your trip, love to do that some day.

Frank W. James said...

I've always made money on machine-guns, but I too tired of them and truthfully I'm glad I'm 'out' of them.

1. Amen, they ARE expensive to feed even the little 9x19mm ones.

2. You always have be to aware of the local statues and what you're doing with them; vis-a-vis the LAW.

3. They ARE a luxury item because they are essentially good for nuthin'. You seriously can't use one for home defense or the morning cat box liner reads "Home Owner Machine Guns Intruder".

4. And finally in the last couple of years their values have softened significantly. I know of West Hurley Thompsons that used to be worth $15,000 are now available at $10,000 or under.

Econ 101, lessened demand equals lower prices.

Yeah, they were fun, but I'm having more fun now with night vision and feral hogs and without all the legal hassles and paperwork.

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Tam said...


"Tam, At that time it wasn't a closed shop..."


Heh. :o

And how well does it illustrate the craziness of the pricing that when I saw your comment, my first thought was "No, no, no, I mean NFA, not semi!" and not "Ah, Pre-5/86"?

Unfortunately, I turned 18 only a matter of months before the cutoff and I was making $3.25/hr at the time... Sigh.

Tam said...


I don't know that I'd phrase it "the market has softened" as I would "the wheat has been separated from the chaff".

Entry-level guns have seemingly plateaued, "me-too" guns have dropped, and the only stuff that's still appreciating at all is real collectible stuff; I definitely think that the days of "double your money in a couple of years" are long over in any part of the market, that's for sure.

og said...

The market- indeed- is driven by the select few. But the truth of the matter is, fine firearms (Not just good ones, but FINE ones) appreciate in value at a remarkable rate. Look at what a custom shop Smith or Colt commanded during their (new) heyday, and what they go for now. A Holland and Holland 20 bore was a $3500 shotgun when I was a teenager, too rich for my blood. Try to find one now, in original consition, for less than $20k. And this is an excellent time to buy fine guns; traditionally, when the occupant of the Oval Office has a D after his name, black guns sell well. When it's an R, the stuff that sells as often as not has wood on it. So now, Cabelas can't keep AK-M47-16's on it's shelves, but there are hundreds of Parker&Hale shotguns- Absolutely GORGEOUS shotguns- collecting dust on the racks, at decent prices. I've considered putting a few in the cabinet just on general principles. Of course I'd have to hit a few liquor stores to get the cash.

If you have to sell firearms because you need the money (and God forbid that happen to anyone) you usually take a bath. But in any kind of long run, the value of decent firearms does well, and the value of fine firearms does REALLY well.

Anonymous said...

The "perceived value" game is fun. In 1939, my grandfather bought land near Austin, TX, for $24/acre. In 1980 the school taxes were $35/acre per year. We sold out in 1982 for $6,000/acre.

In 1974, I was dickering with a lady in California over a Berlinetta coupe. She wanted $13,000. By 1984,it was a half-million-dollar collectible Ferrari.

In 1982 an original BAR, bipod and all, was $1,250. A NIB Tommy gun wss $740 plus tax.

Original full-auto collectibles? The population is less than 100,000. Even without the law, the price would have risen appreciably. (Congress' silliness quickly added some 200,000 new full-auto guns to the population, including drop-in auto-sears.)

Stocks? A year ago you could have bought into the Potash Corp. (POT, NYSE) for around $40. Go look.

Hey, if you'd spent $100 a month on gold from 1982 to 2002, you could buy that pristine 1928 Thompson and never look back.

"If a frog had wings..." Nope. A time machine.


Mad Saint Jack said...

Tangentially related, I just stumbled upon this audio of Ted Nugent on the Dennis Miller Show.

"I've never felt like less of a man."

-D Miller.

Anonymous said...

I'm still going to hold on to my dream of one day owning some form of a Thompson in .45ACP, the only full auto I've ever shot.

As for prices, my old milsurps have been (AT LEAST!) doubling and tripling in value, if ya can believe the prices at the gun show.

cma said...

"The full-auto AUGs I saw at Knob Creek were all running at about $15,000.

How's your stock portfolio done in that time?"

Stocks, not as good.

On the other hand, gold went for $255-$295 per ounce(depending on the the time of year) in 2001, and silver went for $4.08-$4.80 per ounce.

Gold closed Friday at $1,048.90 and silver closed at $17.70.

Anonymous said...

"How's your stock portfolio done in that time?"

If only I could buy guns to shrink my AGI like I can when putting money into my SEP?

Perhaps President Palin will address this matter?

Shootin' Buddy

Kristophr said...

I turned down an opportunity to buy a Tippmann .22lr belt-fed ma-deuce copy.

As well as a transferable Russian DP 28.

Tam said...

"Perhaps President Palin will address this matter?"

President Obama will fix your loophole in his second term.

Anonymous said...

When Michigan law changed a couple years ago to allow us to own *any* NFA registered MG instead of just C&R eligible guns, I liquidated my small stock portfolio and bought a Vector/Group Industries UZI.

The gun has held it's value and might have even gone up a bit. That stock portfolio? My best estimation is I would have lost between 30% to 40% of the value on those stocks.

For once, I did the right thing at the right time.