Before Russia, like most of the world, went into self-isolation, the country’s gun shops saw record-breaking sales in guns and ammo – it even made national news.
This surge can’t be explained by the seasonal jump in sales. Russian spring bird hunting seasons start in March in the south and continue to late May in the north of the country, and shops do usually see better business in the said months. However, the current spike is higher than in any previous year, and the type of products sold suggests there are different reasons than the usual pre-season rush.
Hunters mostly buy birdshot, while the stockers in March focused on slugs, buckshot, and rifle ammo. As for guns, shops report that the best sellers are two kinds. The first is affordable black plastic “apocalypse now” type of weapons. The second – and here it gets surprising – are expensive custom guns that cost tens of thousands of dollars. One gun shop owner claimed they sold “more hi-end guns than in all the time since 2014”.
It looks like there are a few factors that acted together (some catalyzing each other). One is the said seasonal spike. The other is economics. The drop of oil prices after Russia opted out of the OPEC deal crushed the standing of the ruble against the major currencies. With COVID-19 beginning to hurt global economic processes, the rise in guns and ammo sales fell on the period when the prospects seemed gloomy beyond measure. Now, the price of ammo in Russia depends on ruble rates, because all better brands use imported components. So, it made perfect sense at the moment to stock some ammo at old prices.
Sales of expensive guns have been slow in the last few years – with economic and political uncertainty, people who could afford them preferred to sit on their money. It would seem counter-intuitive to suggest this trend would change after the COVID-19 epidemic hiked uncertainty to new levels, but, apparently, it triggered a feast-during-the-plague. It looks that a lot of people who dreamt about this or that gun suddenly realized it could be the last chance to actually buy it.
Finally, there are apocalyptical expectations, caused by both political (the amendments to the Constitution that anneal term limits for Putin), economic, and pandemic events. It is only reasonable to suggest that the police may be a bit too focused on quarantine measures (with some officers catching the coronavirus, too), on the one hand, and rising unemployment on the other, crime rates will soar. Other people are afraid that, if the government can’t handle the double challenge of economic problems and COVID-19, they would start “tightening the screws” in the gun laws, too.
Some of my colleagues who discussed this situation between themselves came to similar conclusions.
At the time of writing, the stockpiling of guns and ammo in Russia has come to a halt. As the non-essential businesses are requested to close down, and so are most government offices (including the police departments that issue gun permits), citizens told to keep on their homes, and most regions closing the hunting seasons, going out and buying a gun or come ammunition is pretty much impossible. Hopefully, the gun shops had enough sales to hold them afloat until the quarantines are lifted.