The tight nationwide supply has frustrated local gun dealers and their ability to satisfy increased demand in the wake of President Obama's push for tighter gun control measures.
Robert Ron, manager at Gun Gallery in Glendale, said sales at the store picked up for two weeks after Obama's statement on gun control, but hit a wall when the store was unable to restock much of its merchandise.
“If we have no products to sell, business is bad,” he said. “Everything is back-ordered.”
Jeff Bregman, owner of American Gun Works in Glendale, said sales increased from around $40,000 in November to $80,000 in December, but with stores in other states reporting record demand, many of the items he's trying to get have been put on back order.
Take semi-automatic rifles based on the Colt AR-15 chassis — the model of weapon that became an item of national focus after one such variation, a Bushmaster X-15, was used by Adam Lanza, the perpetrator of the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn.
“Right after the big event it was, ‘I've got to get it before they take it away from me.' That was the prevailing attitude,” said Bregman. “If I had more of them I'd be selling more of them every day of the week.”
American Gun Works is one of 15 businesses licensed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, to sell firearms and ammunition in Glendale. There are 10 more in Burbank, but only a handful of those licenses belong to retail shops.
The other licenses belong to independent dealers who sell antiques, pawn shops, Big 5 sporting goods stores, and companies that lease weapons to the film industry.
Most vendors are now reporting a six-month to one-year wait list for AR-15 style rifles, but Bregman said they aren't the “bread and butter” of his retail business.
Hunting rifles, general handguns and sporting shotguns are keeping his sales up now, he said, but now even ammunition supplies are running low.
“People are buying what they can get in .223 and .556 and .308,” he said. “Military calibers, I am begging my distributors for every piece I can get.”
In addition, the supply of .22 Long Rifles, the small caliber used in many first-time firearms training programs, is totally cleaned out across the country, said Bregman.
For some, the hoopla has been somewhat tempered in California when compared to trends seen elsewhere in the nation.
Joe Ferrero, buyer for Gun World in Burbank, said that although sales are up around 20% since mid-January, there haven't been any lines out the door.
“We already have so many gun regulations [in California], people are kind of numb to it,” he said. “It's not as dramatic as it is around the country… I have friends whose stores' sales are going up 100-fold.”
California already has an assault weapons ban, passed in 1989, that makes it illegal to own a variety of semi-automatic rifles and pistols, unless purchased before the law was passed.
Ferrero and Bregman both said they were having trouble restocking handguns from Beretta, Glock and Sig Sauer. Ferrero said his display stock is down to 300 guns from the typical 500.
At 6 p.m. Monday night, about 10 customers were browsing inside his store.
One of them, Burbank resident Mark Walkowiak, was perusing a display case of pistols. He said he wasn't worried about the prospect of tougher gun laws or restrictions. Besides, he wasn't in the market for an AR-15.
“I just like target shooting — it's fun,” he said.