On the road with a day or two off between classes, I found one of those libraries where they sell the old books cheap. I left with a copy of the 1989 Stoeger Gun Bible that I bought for a dollar. It was a blast from thirty years past, years I remembered well.

What struck me was how many examples of where modern economies of manufacture had stayed ahead of three decades of inflation, providing value today at the same – or less! – cost in 2019 dollars compared to those of 1989.

The only AR15 in the old catalog was Colt’s basic model, starting at $815.95. Today, thanks to demand and advances like CNC machining, we have countless manufacturers producing serviceable AR15 rifles for literally hundreds of dollars less.

Remington’s Model 700, the most popular conventional bolt-action hunting rifle out there, started at $380 manufacturer’s suggested retail price in 1989.  Today, the Model 700 is the deluxe model of its kind in the Remington line, and the lowest price I can find for one on their website today is $731.  However, like Savage and Ruger, Remington has come up with a similar economy bolt-action hunting rifle that will do pretty much anything the 700 can, and those Model 783s start at only $399, COMPLETE WITH TELESCOPIC SIGHT, and therefore cheaper than their 1989 counterparts even if inflation could be disregarded.

Another hugely popular Remington is their Model 870 slide-action shotgun.  Its bare-bones Express version was MSRP $223 in 1989.  With a baseline of $417 today, it’s still an excellent value if you allow for inflation.

Pistols?  The Colt Government Model .45 semiautomatic started at $565.95 in 1989.  According to the Cabela’s website, they sell that model today for $899.95. However, we have a plethora of good 1911 manufacturers today. Springfield Armory is currently offering their very well-made Defenders Series 1911-A1 Mil-Spec for $549, less than the 1989 price tag for the roughly equivalent Colt.

And ammo? It has been, by and large, an inflation-beating commodity.  The most notable example is 9mm full metal jacket practice ammo.  The 1989 Gun Bible quoted that stuff for $19.34 per box of 50 cartridges.  Today, it’s not hard to buy 50 rounds of the same 9mm ball for ten bucks, and really careful shopping will get it for you at nine dollars.

We can bitch all we want about inflation, but a lot of guns and ammo seem to be more affordable today than three decades ago, sometimes by far.


  1. Mas is correct that, if you bargain shop, you can buy new firearms for prices that are inexpensive when compared to the prices of 20 or 30 years ago. Especially in terms of inflation adjusted dollars.

    I love to get a bargain and so I often look for firearms and ammo with rock-bottom prices. However, after having bought a number of these “bargain-priced” items, I am starting to believe in the old saying that “you get what you pay for”. The fact is that a number of the bargain priced guns, that I have purchased, ended up not be reliable out-of-the-box and I had to send them back to the manufacturer for repair work. I bet that I have sent at least a half-dozen firearms back for work in the last five years.

    On the bright side, in almost every case, I did manage to get the firearm working correctly in the end. One exception is a Diamondback DB-380. It was not reliable. I sent it back to the Diamondback folks. They tweeked it and sent it back to me. However, while it is marginally better, it is still not a gun that is reliable enough to bet your life on. It will still jam on you given half a chance. I would not recommend this model to anyone else for purchase.

    My latest case is a Remington RP-45. It was prone to FTF malfunctions especially with a magazine that is more than half full. I sent it back to Remington. They checked it over and said that they could not find any problems with the gun. When I received it back, it still gave FTF problems with a full magazine. I tracked the problem down to the magazine springs. They seems under-powered especially with a nearly full magazine of .45 acp. I replaced them with Wolff springs which has help a good deal.

    So, unless you are like me and don’t mind spending time fiddling with a gun to iron out its problems, I recommend spending a few buck more and getting a higher quality firearm. You don’t have to go to a custom firearm but the quality manufacturers will usually do good. For example, I also recently bought a S&W M&P M2.0 in 9mm. This is a middle-of-the-road 9mm (not Performance Center but not bargain-basement either). So far, this pistol is super reliable. I have put a dozen different brands of 9mm (from FMJ to premium JHP’s) through the gun with nary a problem.

    Ammo is much the same. Most of the brass-cased stuff runs good and is worth the money. However, you are rolling the dice with the cheapo steel-cased stuff. I have at least four (4) firearms that balk when fed steel-cased ammo. So, I have largely determined to only buy brass-cased stuff in the future. However, with a little shopping, good brass-cased ammo can be found reasonably priced. Not as cheap as the steel-cased stuff, perhaps, but again “you get what you pay for”.

    In summary, I am trying to restrain the “tight-wad” side of my nature and spring for the bucks to at least get decent firearms and ammo rather than fall back into the “What a Bargain” trap.

    • your are 100% correct,,,,I rather start fresh,,,,this also applies to Trap guns,,,,there is always a reason that someone sells a cherry gun

  2. I spend much of my life one bargain away from bankruptcy. Always remember, you can own anything you want, just not all at the same time.

  3. And Mas, yuo did not even approach the supply side aspect of the dollars on which we DO manage to place our grubby little paws when we can.

    Back in 1989 I was ecstatic to command the outrageous fee of $15 per hour for top class mechanical repair work for my many willing customers. These days at $50 the hour, I have more work than I really want, and have raised that rate to $60 for new customers.

    This that $500 handgun in 1989 now costs me, in number of hours I spend getting greasey to buy it, closer to $250.

    Yet we complain, don’t we?

  4. As a kid, I POURED over the Shooter’s Bible and I knew cartridge ballistics the way other kids knew stats of their favorite baseball players.

  5. As the always wise (well, most of the time anyway) Mas has stated, there are many good values in guns available nowadays. A few years ago, I ordered two Walther PPX pistols in .40 S&W from CDNN in Texas for $250 each and had them sent to my local FFL holder. The PPX models are ugly as sin and quite bulky, but a great value and I got them for car guns because while driving, I cannot reach my concealed pistol quickly, especially with a seat belt fastened. Both PPX pistols jammed when I first fired them, all failures to feed malfunctions with flat point and hollow point ammunition. These pistols have a three piece barrel consisting of rifled tube pressed or screwed into a chamber section and the feed ramp is a separate part. There is a sizable gap at the top of the feed ramp between it and the chamber area and the bullet noses hang up on that gap. Ten minutes each with a motorized rotary tool with different grinding and polishing bits removed that gap and now both my Walther PPX pistols work flawlessly with any ammo I put into their magazines. Yes, good deals are out there, but sometimes those guns needs extra attention to function properly.

    I have heard and read of shooters who experienced problems with steel cased ammunition, but in my case, I have never had any problems with Wolf, WPA, and Golden Bear steel cased ammo in my guns. I’ve fired many thousands of rounds of Wolf .223 and 7.62X39 ammo in my rifles for practice, several cases each of WPA and Golden Bear ammo in .223, 7.62X39 and .308 Winchester, and over a case each of Wolf in .380 and 9X19mm. Since the cost of steel cased ammo is so low, I don’t even reload .223 and 7.62X39 ammo for practice anymore and I seldom shoot my two .380 pistols except fun. All my rifle defense ammo is brass cased and loaded with polymer tipped or soft point bullets for maximum performance and reliability, but I use the steel cased stuff for practice without any problems and keep several cases for each caliber on hand. I do clean my rifles regularly after firing steel cased ammo, especially when I shot the older lacquered steel cased stuff. The newer ammo have polymer coated cases which should require less cleaning but I do it often anyway.

    • Tom606,

      I find it interesting that you were able to fix the gap between the feed ramp and the chamber, and yet the manufacturer doesn’t seem to know about the problem.

  6. I must be doing something wrong. I have bought guns at bargain prices ever since I started to buy guns in earnest. And I have never been disappointed in any purchase. I bought an ATI 1911 Commander in .45 acp. I paid about 330$, and it never missed a beat. I bought an ATI pump shotgun in 12 GA. for a home defense gun, with an 18 inch barrel for 139$, and again, it has not given me a lick of trouble.

    I bought a Taurus Millenium 9mm G2 as my carry gun, and have well over 1000 rounds through it, and it has had one ftf, which was ammo related, I believe, as the primer had a very deep firing pin strike, and I tried again, and it still would not fire.

    I paid a C note for a Mossberg Plinkster .22 rifle, and I don’t know how many rounds I have through it, but I have had perhaps 3 or 4 misfires, which I don’t find too bad, with bulk ammo.

    I even had a Hi-point C-9 at one time, and I did not have a single misfire or misfeed of any kind, and I had slightly over 600 rounds through it, when I sold it to a truck driver friend, for what I paid for it.

    All of these guns are bargain basement guns, and all of them have performed decently. I only pay more than 10$ a box for 9 mm ammo for carry ammo, and have not seen any problems with my fmj ammo.

    I do not shoot as much as probably most of the people on this site, and that certainly has much to do with why you have more issues with guns and ammo problems than I do. And I have a nice Ruger Mark IV 22/45, which I paid 278$. A very nice little pistol, not top of the line, but I got it at a very reasonable price. I also have my eye on a new carry gun, some time in the future, which is of much higher quality. My son has a CZ usa 2075 RAMI that I really love. I shoot it very well, and it is of obviously much higher quality than my Taurus, even though the Taurus is serviceable. I just have to save up the money for the CZ usa gun. And watch for a good sale. I would go used, but I seldom see used guns of the style that I am wanting, when I am looking to buy.

  7. Hey, Mas…thanks always for what you do…and have done.

    I love great books from the past. A PERFECT example is the fact is that my current “gun read” is your Combat Handgunnery, 6th Ed. I’m enjoying it greatly…as with all your writings, etc.

    Best to you and Gail…keep on keepin’ on, sir!

  8. I don’t want to give the impression, from my comment above, that all inexpensive firearms are worthless. Some of my bargains worked out fine. I bought an inexpensive Mossberg .22 LR semi-auto that is totally reliable and shoots with great accuracy. I bought an inexpensive Mossberg Maverick 88 pump shotgun with which I have put hundreds of birdshot, buckshot and slug loads downrange with no problems. I bought a used Hi-point carbine, in 40 S&W caliber, for $140 to use as a truck gun. It has the old-style, “Planet of the Apes” stock. It feeds any ammo that I put in it with good accuracy. So, some of my bargain-hunting paid off.

    I would point out that reliability is related to (A) simple, proven designs and (B) core manufacturing. Both the Hi-point carbine and the Mossberg .22 LR rifle are blowback semi-automatics. In other words, inherently simple designs. Making pump shotguns is Mossberg’s core business and they have worked out the bugs long ago. So, it is no surprise that the Maverick 88 runs just fine.

    Also, I have to say that, while it is rare, I have had problems with more expensive guns. I bought a S&W Model 629 revolver, brand-new, in .44 Mag caliber. This is definitely NOT a “bargain-basement” firearm. On the first trip to the range, the cylinder stopped rotating. It turns out that S&W goofed and did not install the “hand” correctly. So, back it goes to S&W for repairs. I will say that S&W was great and they jumped right on it. They wasted no time in fixing the revolver and shipping it back (all at their cost) to me. Needless to say, the revolver gave me no further problems.

    I will admit that I seem to have had more than my share of problems with firearms. Maybe it is just “Bad Luck” or maybe it is just related to the number of firearms that I buy, shoot and trade. Shooting and reloading are my hobbies and so I have more firearms then the average person. Indeed, I am sure the gun-grabbers would denounce me as a “Extremist Gun Nut” with an “Arsenal” of firearms and ammo. Not that I give a “Hoot in Hades” about what they think! 🙂

    Still (in the end) after owning many firearms, my experience tends to lead me to think that the old saying of “You get what you pay for” really does apply to firearms and ammo. At least, up to a point. I do think that, for some of the most expensive firearms, you are paying for the “Brand Name” and, beyond a certain point, you are no longer receiving the full value of your money. As the Grail Knight said “Choose, but choose wisely”.

    • TN_MAN,

      I inspect all my ammo before I shoot it. Actually, I inspect it as soon as I bring it home from the store. Once bought a 50-round box of pistol ammo, (probably .357 Mag or .38 Spl from Wolf’s). Two cartridges were defective. I think the primers were in crooked. I’m now more inclined to not buy budget ammo.

  9. One of the problems we economists have is that our primary measuring device, the $, changes in value. But, here is a nifty tool you can use to adjust for the rubber ruler:


    So, let’s start with the Remington 700, which sold for $389 in 1989. What is that in current US dollars? $803.75.

    The Remington 870 shotgun, which sold for $223 in 1989? $471.68.

    The 1911, which started at $565.95? $1,197.06.

    Finally, 9 mm ammo, $19.34 for a box of 50 FMJ? $40.91.

    All calculations were based on the 1989 prices as of January of that year.

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