In 2020, as civil unrest was spurred by a combination of political, social and COVID-19 tensions, Coloradans bought guns in record numbers.
The trend continued into 2021 with slightly less steam, according to Colorado Bureau of Investigation transaction statistics.
The CBI recorded 487,097 firearm transactions through 2020, compared with 335,370 in 2019.
Although CBI statistics for December 2021 have not been released, 401,903 firearm transactions were recorded through November.
Some La Plata County gun stores found success in 2021, but others struggled to keep their stock up to par, in part because supply problems affected stores more than others.
JJ Rouanzoin, owner of Gunfighter Group LLC, manages four companies under the umbrells of the Gunfighter Group.
The full-service retail store, Colorado Gunfighter features firearms, ammunition and attire.
Then there is Gunfighter Development Group, a professional training company; Tac-Con, which manufactures assisted reset rifle triggers; and Gunfighter Cartridge Co., an ammunition and component manufacturing company.
Rouanzoin upgraded to a larger location about 18 months ago in Durango, giving him more retail floor space. The gun store is getting good business, and he’s trying to open shops in nine other states.
Rouanzoin, a former staff sergeant in the U.S. Army, attributed the spike in gun sales to political unrest and fear of violence.
“It sucks that violence drives the firearms industry, but that’s what pushes our training company,” he said. “So more and more people are getting trained.
“I just see all the riots and all the stuff that happened when they were burning all the cities in the past year and people are buying more and more guns,” he said.
Despite the lack of promotion on the Colorado Gunfighter website, Rouanzoin said his firearm training simulator is “getting booked out like crazy.”
“It’s well within people’s rights to protect themselves, and I appreciate that, and they are arming themselves well,” he said. “On the positive side, they are educating themselves as well.”
Rouanzoin is only one gun store owner who faces supply chain disruptions.
Bruce Dominey, owner of Rocky Mountain Pawn and Gun, said supply chain problems and the pandemic are driving him out of business.
“It’s killing us,” he said. “After 30 years, we’re going out of business.”
Dominey said his pawn shop sold plenty of guns in 2021 – at least until he ran out of guns to sell.
“The supply chains are all screwed up so we can’t get any,” he said. “We can’t get any merchandise. I can’t order guns and ammo to restock my shelves.”
Dominey’s loan business also suffered. Before COVID-19 lockdowns, he said, he’d make loans and collect interest payments at the end of the month. But as pandemic relief money replaced loans, his business slowed.
He said he plans to move back to Texas.
An employee at Durango Goods for the Woods said gun supplies were “terrible,” although firearms and ammo have been “rolling in” again during January.
According to Powder Valley Inc., a firearms powder, primer and accessories distributor, just four companies in the United States – Winchester, Remington, Federal and CCI – manufacture primers for use by civilians, law enforcement and the military.
“People getting sick, missing work to take care of their kids and self-quarantining – from factory workers to delivery drivers, and all throughout the supply chain – caused a lull in manufacturing this spring,” Powder Valley posted to its company blog in October.
Rouanzoin’s line of Mark 7 reloading machines typically produce firearm cartridges for sale. Now, they’re collecting dust because of supply chain hang-ups.
“These machines are Mark 7’s, they’ll do 3,500 rounds an hour,” Rouanzoin said. “When they’re running, it’s amazing because they’re making money, but right now they just sit here.”