Monday, September 24, 2012

Startling Discoveries At Wal-Mart

My wife and went to Wal-Mart yesterday to get nail repair on a tire.  The tires were down to 2/32" tread remaining (federal standard; Idaho standard is only 1/32") so they couldn't repair it.  Instead, we had four new tires put on.  While waiting, I wandered through electronics, and bought socks made in the USA, and priced pretty close to stuff made in the Third World.  At Wal-Mart?  What's the world coming to when China-Mart starts selling American-made clothes?

Then I walked past the gun counter, and I was shocked to see my picture on the front cover of Shotgun News.  I was shocked because this was the September 10 edition, and I am only published in the edition published first of each month (or so I thought).  Anyway, it isn't everyday that you walk through a store and see your image there.  I picked it up, and mentioned it to the guy behind the counter, and a customer who was standing there turns out to be a regular reader of my columns.  "I mean, I know that the Shotgun News columnists have to live somewhere, but it didn't occur to me that you lived in this state."

I also noticed that in the glass were a bunch of AR-15s from various makers--which would have been unimaginable in a Wal-Mart in 1990.  Hunting guns, sure, and in some Wal-Marts, handguns, but AR-15s?  Wow.  Even more wow was the pricing.  I handled (and tried not to drool on) a DPMS collapsible stock, 16" barrel, flattop with the Picatinny rail mount--priced at $549.  They apparently had at least one of these in .308 Win. in the warehouse for $895.  Those are spectacular deals, probably driven by Wal-Mart's ability to buy 10,000 at a time--and be sure of selling of them in a few months through their national network.  The temptation to reach into my wallet was very strong, but this has been an expensive month (emergency room visit bills showing up, paying the last semester of tuition for my son, my wife having to give up classes because of illness, four new tires), so I exercised great self-restraint.

UPDATE: I noticed that the DPMS rifles had no forward assist.  I'm curious to hear from my readers who have been serving our nation: how often is forward assist actually necessary anymore?  As I understand it, the combination of stuff (I'm being polite) that made the forward assist necessary on the M16 was:

1. Change of powder in the ammunition shortly before mass production, altering timing characteristics.

2. Use of existing cleaning supplies and tools that the Army had, some of which were inappropriate to the M16.

3. Failure of soldiers to clean them as regularly as the M16's gas system required.

4. My cousin, who was a first lieutenant in 1st Air Calvary in Vietnam, also tells me that soldiers would drop M16s in mud, fail to clean them, and then be surprised by jams.

I can recall one occasion in my entire life where I needed the forward assist--and that was on a Colt AR-15 SP1 that had not been cleaned after new sale--and of course the SP1 did not have a forward assist.


  1. In my Sunday paper was a hunting flyer from Walmart with not one, but three different AR models (DPMS, Sig Sauer, & Colt).

  2. Walmart has never been a retailer of only China or foreign made products so no surprise to me.

    Was that the State and Glenwood store?

  3. I am always surprised and pleased to find American-made clothes, at any retailer. But there was a time when an incredible amount of Wal-Mart's stock was Chinese.

  4. This was the SuperCenter on Fairview.

  5. I must go to the wrong Wal-Mart.

    Both of the ones near me have a fishing-and-camping-supplies area. One of them has an ammo cabinet in that area. Neither has firearms on sale.

    Of course, both are also in the suburban Metro area of Motor City.

    There are enough gun-purchasers in the area to support a few gun-shops (most of which have a pistol range on the premises, and all have AR's and AK-variants on display).

    There's enough interest in hunting to provide business for Gander Mtn. and Dicks to run stores in the region. (Most of those stores have a firearms counter, focused more heavily on hunting rifle/shotguns than AR's.)

    It's possible that Wal-Mart may have made a no-guns concession to various zoning boards and City Councils. And decided that some business was better than none.

    Or Wal-Mart has a metric for figuring out whether they can run a profit by selling firearms in the area, and that metric says "No" for this area.

  6. Wake me when Walmart is selling AK-47s.

  7. I'll have to get to the newsstand for a copy, then.

    As for guns in Walmart, not in Los Angeles (yet; that may change).

  8. Your "combination of stuff" is accurate. Nobody touches the forward assist anymore. If the bolt isn't going into full battery on it's own, the forward assist likely won't do it either (because of a jam, obstruction, etc.). There has been something of a small trend away from the forward assist in some circles, even competitive shooting. In addition to the DPMS, you can find S&W, VLTOR, Rainier Arms receivers without the forward assist, as well as many of the "billet" style receivers that are popular. Personally, all of mine have the forward assist, I'm not "progressive" enough to give them up yet ;)

  9. I suspect that Wal-Mart knows that there are parts of the country where AR-15s will sell fast, and others where it will cause shock and confusion to the customers. "Are we allowed to think about such things?"

  10. This might be hard to believe, but Walmart is the largest retailer of firearms in the U.S.

  11. Out of curiosity I'll have to check out the other Walmarts in SW Idaho to see if they also carry AR's. The one on Fairview is across the street from a Sportsman's Warehouse so perhaps that has an influence on them carrying those at that location.

    Walmart during the Walton era was a prominent carrier of American made merchandise. Not so much anymore of course, but then some American made items don't exist anymore (electronics for example) or are increasingly rare (clothing). Socks does seem to be one of the few American made clothing items one can still find at many places.

    Walmart does make decisions on what merchandise to carry based on the local laws and demographics---like any smart retailer usually does.

    Too bad Kmart and Sears no longer do...

    I bet if Walmart didn't have to deal with the background check "hassle" they just might carry handguns in some stores as well.

    The Fred Meyer stores in ID used to carry handguns (and rifles) in their sporting goods departments until the mid 90's. For readers not familiar these are also complete grocery and general merchandise stores. Talk about a one stop shop!

  12. 1SG(R), Army here. On the firing line, I have used the forward assist on M16s due to failure to go into battery on several occasions. Fortunately, it never happened to me on a 2-way range. Probably because I was a lot more anal about cleaning and maintenance at those times.

    Always happened with an old beat up rifle after quite a bit of shooting. Most likely a combination of accumulated crud and a worn, weak buffer spring. In those situations, you can usually get it to lock up with a good smack on the forward assist.

  13. Clayton: You could have fixed that tire yourself. Wal*Mart sells tire repair kits, and it's a dirt simple procedure. I think the cost is $5 for a kit, and it'll repair several tires. Of course, with winter coming, perhaps new tires aren't a bad idea, but still, you could have probably just bought gun instead of the tires.

  14. Speaking of SEARS...I remember when they sold guns. Was a wee lad...back in the 60's I believe. I remember my dad the gun counter.

  15. Went to two of the three Walmarts in my local area (Killeen-Harker Heights-Copperas Cove Texas)and they were sold out of the AR-15 center fire rifles. Can't keep them in stock. Third store does not stock the AR-15 rifles for some reason.

  16. I can remember when Sears carried a whole hunting collection, including guns and ammo. h was more like the 40s, not 60s.

    I also remember the upscale hunting stuff carried by VL&A, a Chicago subsidiary of Abercrombie and Fitch in the days when A&F outfitted safaris, not 13 year old girls.

  17. I recall the Sears catalog offering rifles by mail order circa 1963. A gun enthusiast friend (he might have been age 13 then) used the pictures there to show me the difference between a single-shot, a bolt action, and a semiautomatic, oddities like over/under rifle/shotguns, and the various shotgun gauges.

  18. I still have an early 60's JC Higgens (made by High Standard for Sears) 12 ga, 22 tube feed semi-auto rifle, and 22 bolt action rifle. 12ga works fine, but the 22 is missing the bolt and the semi-auto needs some action work. All of them were bought my Grandpa at a Sears store in southern CA 50+ years ago.