Like most other irreplaceable collectibles markets (e.g. classic cars, antique guns, etc) the only way for a new collector to acquire is to find another collector willing to sell. Auction houses have also taken off as a powerful force in the transferable machine gun market.
Fewer Willing Sellers - The NFS (Not For Sale) Phenomenon
Finding willing sellers is getting increasingly difficult. Many of the collectors who own machine guns are unwilling to sell them at any price. I know a collector who was recently offered nearly $100k for a very rare German WW2 machine gun that he acquired in the 1980s. Even though there would have been a significant gain on a gun that he may only take out of his safe to look at once a year, he reasoned: “then I wouldn’t have it anymore.” As such, this machine gun is NFS and off the market.
There have been significant buying opportunities with machine guns over the years but may likely never happen again because the new owners are unlikely sellers. Here are some examples:
• Older Collectors: Before the internet era, many firearm collectors didn’t even know that buying machine guns, and silencers for that matter, was an option. Getting finger prints, photographs, and a CLEO sign off seemed like a daunting and scary task. There wasn’t even a huge demand to make machine guns prior to the 1986 cutoff. Since most gun stores didn’t stock machine guns and there were very few publications like Machine Gun News that promoted machine gun ownership, the available pre-1986 transferable machine guns typically traded hands between relatively few dedicated collectors at relatively low prices. This is a large reason you’ll see many older collectors who have resisted the temptation to sell with huge collections of machine guns that are worth a fortune now but were acquired at a relatively low cost. Many of these collectors will never offer their prized possessions for sale. These guns will likely stay in their families or command a premium price at an auction.
• Recession Sellers and Recession Proof Collectors: In the early-mid 2000’s the housing bubble brought a lot more buyers into the expensive ‘toy’ market. For example, a homeowner may have seen a $50k appreciation in equity in their home and used that easily gained money to go out and buy a motorcycle, an RV, or a machine gun. This era from 2002-2008 saw a large increase in the value of transferable machine guns. When the real estate bubble burst many of these buyers became recession sellers. They realized that they couldn’t afford to keep their ‘toys,’ and savvy collectors scooped them up at a discount. The new recession proof collectors are unlikely going to find themselves in a position where they'd need to sell their collections at a discount for fast cash. These new owners can now command the prices they want because they don’t have to sell. Unfortunately for future buyers, many of these guns once acquired by such collectors will never be available on the market again.
More and More and More Buyers
The NFA has gone mainstream. Buying and selling machine guns and silencers - Form 3s and Form 4s - are now commonplace in the firearms market. There are a lot of factors that have unclouded the confusion and fear many firearms collectors had about the NFA and owning machine guns in general. Typical gun stores stocking NFA items like silencers and short barreled rifles, easy access to information on machine guns and the process to acquire them, and just the overall promulgation of NFA items have all amounted to a massive increase in buyers. I could have never imagined 10 years ago that Ruger and Remington would be offering factory suppressed guns in 2017, or that silencer ads would be in American Rifleman. The NFA market which used to be the dark underworld of the firearms market is now mainstream.
Silencers have undoubtedly brought many more buyers into the machine gun market. In essence, silencers have been the ‘gateway drug’ that has led many firearm collectors into the machine gun market. Once someone goes through the Form 4 process and realizes that it’s not that bad, the flood gates are opened to the entire NFA market. For many of these new buyers, the biggest problem is finding the gun they want and completing the deal from purchase to FFL/SOT transfer to final delivery.
The Increasing Role of Auction Houses
Now that there’s been a huge increase in the values of machine guns due to the influx of more buyers and shrinking supply of quality guns, buyers are willing to pay a premium for the certainty of the transaction. As a machine gun buyer, especially an inexperienced buyer, protecting yourself from a bad deal that could easily be in the tens of thousands is critical and valuable. Specifically, the auction house stakes its reputation on providing accurate evaluation and description of the machine gun as well as ensuring the completion of the deal and proper transfer. This security is why machine guns sold by a reputable auction house typically sell above what most people consider market prices.
These higher prices at auctions have also resulted in estates consigning machine gun collections to auction houses rather than bulk selling them to dealers at a discount.
So what do these trends mean for the machine gun buyers and sellers?
Since the supply of transferable machine guns was capped by the 1986 ban and more machine gun owners are unwilling sellers, increasing numbers of buyers competing for a shrinking supply of available machine guns for sale will continue to push machine gun prices higher.
Here at BRP Corp, we still have an inventory of pre-1986 transferable machine guns for sale. These are unused pre-1986 transferable machine gun receivers equipped with newly made parts and are the most finely built and smooth running sub-machine guns on the transferable market. We build them for performance and durability, stock plenty of high-quality spare parts, and provide excellent service. There is only a limited number of these pre-1986 registered/transferable machine guns remaining, so get one while they last.
(Brian Poling is President of BRP CORP, a company that has been in the business of manufacturing and importing machine guns since 1999. We specialize in historic WW2 machine guns and the Stemple 76/45 submachine gun in conjunction with JR Stemple & Co Arms LLC. www.brpguns.com)