Of all the comments that appear on GunsAmerica, the one we hear most often is the complaint, “That gun is too expensive.” Literally, in almost every gun review we post, a reader criticizes the MSRP of a firearm. At this point, it’s comical because it happens so frequently.
Here are some random examples:
- “Way over priced [sic], they won’t sell many…”
- “Are you kidding? I would like to see figures on how many people buy these crazy priced guns an [sic] year!”
- “What non-sense!! This is neither fish nor fowl, just a toy for people with more money than brains, or money at least.”
Taken seriously, these comments raise some interesting questions: Is the gun industry conspiring to price gouge its consumers? If that gun is too expensive, what should the real price actually be? What is a fair price for a polymer pistol, an old slabside, a pump gun, a black rifle?
Yet, I can’t take those comments seriously. For several reasons. The first of which is quite obvious to anyone familiar with firearm sales. That is, the MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price) cited in the gun review is often notably higher than the street price at your local gun shop.
To give you an example, The Ruger AR-556 has an MSRP of $799. However, you can purchase one new, in-box, for under $600 on GunsAmerica. Depending on whom you buy from, you’re talking a savings of $200-$300!!!
When readers bitch about the MSRP in the review, I wonder if they actually look to see what the real world price is before they fire off their comment.
Next, allow me to turn the complaint on its head, which is to say invert the paradigm of the comment. The problem isn’t the pricing of the gun. Rather, the problem is you, and your lack of disposable income! That’s correct. That gun is not too expensive. No. It’s just that the gun is too expensive for you!
Let’s face facts, gun manufacturers don’t just pull pricing out of their butts. It is more often than not a careful calculation of labor costs, material costs, a built-in profit margin and market forces. Firearms are priced to hit that goldilocks zone where they will be maximally profitable for dealers and manufacturers while also being competitive in the marketplace.
Put simply, price a gun too high and it won’t sell. Price a gun too low and it’ll sell too quickly, leaving money on the table or, worse yet, lose money altogether. Manufacturers work hard to get the price point just right. The comment that a firearm is “overpriced” is (a) well, usually just a knee-jerk reaction by someone who wants it but can’t afford it and (b), more to the point, misguided to the extent that it fails to consider the serious thought that went into coming up with the MSRP in the first place.
The last thing to add is that one should always remember that the marketplace is fluid. What is “priced right” one day can be “overpriced” the next and vice versa. There are cycles with booms and busts. Remember the Obama gun boom? Remember the panic buying because many feared a renewal of a ban on “assault weapons”? Remember during that time period when a black rifle was selling over double the MSRP?
Folks back then would’ve been chomping at the bit to purchase a Ruger AR-556 for $799. Pricing is, therefore, relative to market conditions. What’s the supply relative to the demand (Machine guns are scarce, hence their high price point)? What’s the political climate (Who’s in the oval office)? What’s the culture surrounding the product (Yesterday polymer handguns were en vogue, tomorrow it may be stainless wheel guns)?
I’ll conclude by stating that old cliche, something is worth what someone else is willing to pay for it. If enough people are willing to spend X on a gun, then it’s priced right. If that’s not the case, the market adjusts and the price moves accordingly. If you’re not willing to pay for it at the current market price, that doesn’t make it “overpriced” or “too expensive” — it just makes it too expensive for you.
So, ponder all this the next time you feel compelled to lash out about the MSRP of gun we review. Check the street price. Examine the market conditions. Think outside your own personal finances. If you do, I’d bet dollars to donuts you’d recognize that the gun is appropriately priced. And if it really isn’t, don’t fret, the market will fix it.