Dear Mr. Rawles
I am quite sad to say that you warned me about stocking up on [full capacity] magazines, but I ignored you. I stupidly concentrated on building a couple of .22 target rifles. Now I'm hurting. Here's my situation: I have a Bravo Company (BCM) M4 with only three magazines (30 round), and a Mini-14, also with three mags. (One is a factory 5 rounder, and the 2 others are junky "PMI" [aftermarket] 30 rounders that I don't trust [to feed reliably].) I also have a Beretta Model 92 [9mm pistol], but for that I'm in pretty good shape with 6 original (factory and Army M9) 15 rounders.
I have the chance to buy a PTR-91-"GI" [HK91 clone] from a friend for $1,200, but [it] comes with just four magazines. He is willing to take my Mini-14 as a partial trade. What do you think I should do? Thanking You in Advance, - G.T.CF
JWR Replies: You aren't the only one to be caught flat-footed. As is explained in article back in 2007, (How Federal "Bans", "Freezes", and "Price Controls" Spread Economic Chaos), and in a letter from 2008, full capacity magazines can very quickly transition from mass-produced "commodity" status to almost precious metal status overnight, at the whim of a bureaucrat.
The gun shops are all sold out of 11+ round magazines and the gun shows are jam-packed with eager buyers. Original Ruger Mini-14 20 round and 30 round magazines are now fetching $90 each, and AR-15 magazines range from $30 each (for used 30 round alloy magazines) to $75 each (for 30 round windowed PMAGs). That is IF you can find them. The most sought-after AR magazines seem to be PMAGs, HK "Maritime" steel magazines, and the FN-made steel AR/FNC/SCAR steel magazines. The latter are selling for $100+ each!
One bit of good news is that at gun shows you can still find a decent supply of German surplus G3 alloy magazines that will work in a HK91 (or clone) for less than $10 each, even in the current shortage-driven market. (These came into the States in large quantity a few years ago, at nearly scrap metal prices.) KeepShooting.com and CheaperThanDirst.com both had thousands of these magazines, but they recently sold out. (Check with them once a week, as they will probably get more.) HKParts.net still has some steel German surplus G3 magazines, but they are priced at $29 each. And Robert at RTG still has some alloy G3 magazines for $5.95 each, but he is swamped with orders and is now taking a waiting list. (He says "I don't have the time to sort them.")
Given the current scarcity of magazines and the likelihood of an import ban or even a production ban, I'd recommend that you jump on what you can, as soon as possible. You might even consider buying some magazines for rifles that you don't yet own (such as AK-47, AK-74, M14, FAL, and AR-10), just to use as barter material. There may come a time when people aren't willing to sell 11+ round magazines for any price, but they might still be willing to trade. Just be sure to only buy factory original or military contract magazines. Do not buy aftermarket garbage!
I'd recommend that you go ahead and trade your Mini-14, unless you can immediately find some ORIGINAL factory magazines. Not only is the PTR-91-GI a better rifle, but the wide availability of magazines makes it the clear choice.