Two Letters Re: Knob Creek Report on Ammunition, Magazines, and Parts

Jim, I also have been a regular attendee of the Knob Creek gun show in Fort Knox, Kentucky for the past 8 years and would like to add a little more insight. I always attend the October show and occasionally attend the April show. Times being as they are I made an extra effort to attend last week and bring some first timers with me. The shock started Friday morning when the booths opened at 9:00am. My first encounter was Hi-Tech Ammunition (St. Louis) table. They were already out of all rifle and pistol powder. Only remaining was some military surplus machine gun powder. The I went to a Wolf ammo supplier to only to find 7.62×39 was now $375/1,000. Their 9mm Federal was $325/1,000. I was not going to buy more since I already had an ample supply from the October show. ($185/1,000 for 7.62×39 and $175/1,000 for 9mm). In six months did the price really double? Yes it did and where will it be next month. I already new and expected .223 to be over $400/1,000 and was right. .223 is easy to reload for under $200/1,000 so its back to my basement married to my Dillon 550B.

Rifle and pistol prices are also hair raising issues. I have been tracking the costs of AK-47s extensively for the past two years. Since the October 2008 show AK-47s went up 50%. What used to be $375 for a Romanian WASR-10 is now $600. Any Hungarian or Bulgarian varieties that were $500 to $650 are now $700 to $950 and I did not see one Yugo AK in the three days at the show. SKSes were selling for $300 and up.

Your earlier Knob Creek reporter summed up the magazine market perfectly. Mags were available but the prices were all over the place, but mostly up. Once fired brass was very hard to find. I also heard that the dealers bought everything up on Thursday before the show started. Everything I wanted was gone, extremely limited or twice the price. What a depressing show. I had to the same conclusion to start shooting the AK-74 round (5.45 mm) but when everybody catches on its going to be the same problem we have right now. – John at the Trading Post

Dear James,
Yesterday you included a note from a reader who had attended the Knob Creek Shoot. In it he wrote: “On the whole, the current situation seems to favor those moving into the AK-74 realm. AK-74 [parts] kits were $495, receiver flats were $12, transferable receivers were $60 and the ammo was $300 per 1,300 rounds (in sealed tins). There never seems to be much competition for that ammo. I am thinking about getting a 5.45mm AK.”

If you have standardized with the AR-15 platform, you can still use the 5.45×39 ammo which is still relatively cheap these days. Smith & Wesson makes both a full carbine and an upper in 5.45×39. AIM Surplus has the upper only available for $569. They also have the Russian 53 grain FMJ available for $149 per 1080-round can. This is where I bought my S&W flat-top upper.
I know there are other companies which make uppers in 5.45×39. If you already have an AR lower and want to take advantage of the price differential, this may be the way to go. – John R. in North Carolina

JWR Replies: That is a good point. For someone that does a lot of .223 target shooting, this os presently a good option. Let’s do the math: Typical 5.56mm NATO ball (such as Winchester white box was $5 a box three years ago. It is now $15 per box. Suppose that you were to buy three 1,080-round cans of 5.45×39 ammo for $450. The equivalent quantity of 5.56 ball would cost a whopping $2,430. That is almost a $2,000 difference! Even after the expense of buying a dedicated 5.45×39 upper receiver assembly (around $800 for a nice one, presently), you’d still be nearly $1,200 ahead and would significantly reduce wear to your original 5.56.barrel.. It is also just the trick for that Red Dawn scenario.

It won’t be long until folks catch on, and the supply of 5.45mm ammo dries up, so don’t dawdle. If you currently own an AR-15 or M4, buy several cans of 5.45 ammo now. Just be willing to be on the back order list for a 5.45×39 upper receiver assembly for several months. Come next Fall, you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank shooting range