CASPER, Wyo. -- Sam Fletcher started a custom firearm dealership in 2007, after graduating with a Ph.D. in biotechnology and coming up empty in Wyoming's job market. Six years later, he's thinking it may be time to reconsider the company as a hobby rather than a cash cow.
"You can't generate enough revenues with the current availability," Fletcher said of Monkey Armory LLC.
Demand is so high dealers can't get inventory, he said. And what they can get costs much more than it did just weeks ago.
Widespread unease over potential gun control measures has spawned such a shockwave of firearm demand in recent weeks that supply is powerless to keep up, he said.
Fletcher handled an AR 15 semi-automatic platform rifle from his booth at the Casper Up in Arms Gun Show Saturday afternoon. Attached was a price tag of $2,500. About a month ago it would have read $1,200.
The Sheridan-based company specializes in the niche, high-end products that are simply gone.
"You can order it," Fletcher said of no product in particular, "and you may see it in eight months."
Other vendors weren't quite as concerned. Nathan Neppl, a brass and bullets dealer out of Salida, Colo., said his sales have about doubled in the past four weeks, but he hasn't yet experienced any problems in supply.
A small deterrent like sticker shock, however, was no match for 2013's draw to the show. Hunters, enthusiasts, oglers, parents, children and a few dogs stuffed inside the Industrial Building at Wyoming Fairgrounds.
Up in Arms Gun Show Director Emery Webster said he wasn't yet sure how many more people came to this year's installment but said the uptick was "substantial."
He said a unique blend of fear and anger over potential federal actions dominated the chatter among show attendees. Webster said there were a good number of potential customers looking to purchase assault rifles who were out of luck. The guns were scooped up within days after rumors of a ban on that type of weapon began circulating.
"A ban on assault rifles is not going to solve anything," he said, in what could have been the collective voice of the convention.
Al Teel, owner of Teel Gun Works and another vendor at the show, said he doesn't even like the term "assault rifle," and believes it's dripping with political innuendo. "Fully automatic" or "semi-automatic" works just fine, he said.
Karen Davis perused the booths of guns, ammunition, knives, jewelry and dried fruit as her nearly 1-year-old daughter Ellen dozed in her stroller. The fact that Saturday, Jan. 19, was Gun Appreciation Day was just another reason to come to the show.
"It was way too windy to go shoot," she said.