Lewis Machine and Tool: orders are backed up for 2 years… or not

LMT

LMT

My main mission at SHOT has been interviewing AR-15 makers for a longer piece that I’m working on, and as part of that project I’ll be publishing edited transcripts and information from those interviews here on TFB. Specifically, I’ll be focused on updating all of you who are in the market for a new AR on what the pricing and availability picture looks like as of right now. So look for updates on Daniel Defense, Knight’s Armament, LWRC, and others.

All AR makers are backlogged right now, but some are worse off than others. And then there’s LMT, which is a special case in that the company doesn’t really seem to know how backlogged it actually is, or even basic availability facts about is newly launched, flagship .308 Sharpshooter rifle.

My initial conversations with some LMT reps revealed that the gunmaker has by far the longest order queue of anyone I spoke with: two years. You read that correctly — if you’re a civilian who puts an order in today with your local LMT dealer, you can expect to see your gun in about two years. (Military and LE orders get priority, so they can expect to see guns sooner.) At first I thought they must be joking — they can’t really expect users to order a gun now, and plan to get it two years from now. But this is in fact LMT’s “best estimate” based on their existing production and the production they expect to bring online over the next year.

Note that this goes for everything that LMT makes — if you want an upper, wait two years. If you want a complete gun, it’s two years. If you want just a barrel… well, you can’t buy just a barrel, because contrary to what’s advertised in the company’s 2013 catalog, I’ve been informed that LMT intends to make only uppers and complete guns this year, and won’t be selling parts and accessories at all. I’m sure if they were selling parts, though, they’d quote you a two-year wait time.

But there is a major complicating factor here, described in detail below, which means that LMT customers might actually see their guns a lot sooner. Or not. The end result is that LMT seems to have no idea what its real wait time is. But more on that in a moment.

LM308 Sharpshooter: known unknowns that would make Rumsfeld proud

LMT's new LM308SS Sharpshooter

LMT’s new LM308SS Sharpshooter

In addition to the confusion around the general product line, there’s also the mysterious case of the LMT’s new LM308SS Sharpshooter, the civilian version of the .308 that the UK’s military has been using since 2010. The company’s printed catalog warns would-be buyers that the rifle “manufactured by LMT in limited quantities,” and “will only be available for a limited time. Now is the time to add the Sharpshooter to your collection.”

You’re probably wondering what it means that a product with a wait time of two years is “available for a limited time”. Does that mean you have a “limited time” in which to place an order into the two-year queue? Or is the time limited merely because the quantity is limited, and if you don’t get in the queue now then you’ll miss availability. Or has the “limited time” and “limited quantity” language now joined the parts and accessories pages in the company’s catalog in becoming inoperative due to recent events. I asked some reps at the booth for clarification, and they initially didn’t believe that the “limited time” language was in the catalog until I showed it to them. They then referred me to the head of LMT’s sales operation for clarification, and the exchange went something like this:

Me: “So what does it mean that you’re selling this for a limited time, when the order backlog is two years?”

LMT: “It’s because of recent events that the time is limited.”

Me: “Does that mean that I have a limited time in which to order one of a limited quantity of these, but then I wait in an essentially unlimited backlog queue until I get it?”

LMT: “You have to order now, because it’s for a limited time.”

Me: “Ok, so what is the exact time limit here? Or is it a quantity limitation?”

LMT: “You have to order now, because it’s limited due to recent events.”

Me: “Yes, but what is the cutoff date after which I am no longer able to place an order for this gun.”

LMT: “I can’t tell you that. We haven’t yet decided what that is. You just have to order now.”

So there you have it: if you want LMT’s new Sharpshooter package, then you should run out and order it right now, and hope to get it in about two years, because if you wait then you may or may not miss the “limited time” cutoff, which may or may not really exist, depending on what the company decides.

Dealers, distributors, and the waiting list

Speaking of things that may or may not exist, LMT may be quoting customers a two-year waiting period, but even they admit that they don’t really know what’s going on with their order queue. But first, you’ll need some background to understand why there’s confusion:

Unlike many AR makers, LMT doesn’t sell through distributors — it’s all direct-to-dealer. So a dealer takes an order from a customer (presumably without a deposit), sends it to LMT, and LMT puts that order in their queue. Eventually, when LMT arrives at your spot in the queue, you get your gun. Now, with other manufacturers who use distributors, there may be guns out there still in the distribution channel that haven’t been sold yet for whatever reason, so there’s a tiny chance that you might be able to score one if you’re in the right place at the right time; but this is not the case with LMT. LMT just works its say through its order queue on a first-come, first-serve basis. But the problem is, not all of those orders have real buyers behind them.

An LMT rep informed me that many of their queued orders may actually be the result of guys hitting multiple LMT dealers and placing an order with each, with plans to take the first gun that arrives and then cancel the rest of their orders. It’s also the case that dealers are putting in extra orders in hopes of getting just a few of them filled. So some unknown percentage of LMT’s two-year order backlog comes from this kind of over-ordering; depending how much of this “false demand” there is out there, the real wait time for an LMT could be shorter than the stated two years. Nobody really knows, which is kind of astounding to me.

At any rate, if you don’t want to wait “two years”, then you can hit a site like Gunbroker or Armslist and expect to pay double MSRP to get a gun today. Even dealers are going to charge you a hefty markup for anything they may have on-hand, and LMT has no price caps so expect to pay insane prices for anything you see on a rack.

No relief in sight from increased production

Before the Newtown tragedy and the ensuing buying panic, LMT had already invested heavily in new production capacity. The company bought new space and new machines, and hired 25 new machinists. But it will take them a year to be able to increase their output, because that’s how long it will take these 25 new machinists to get through an apprenticeship program so that they can start working on production guns.

So while LMT is planning a major production increase, that new capacity won’t be online for another year.

Postscript: the uncertainty factor

Incidentally, in talking to different AR makers, I found a range of positions on the “production capacity vs. legislative uncertainty” question. The makers are in various stages of investment in new capacity, and depending on where they are, they’re either doing like LMT and going full steam ahead with a production ramp-up, or they’re holding back to see if an assault weapons ban passes.

In many cases, those that are holding back probably will probably still increase production if a ban passes, but they need to wait to see kinds of guns will be legal and what kinds won’t before they decide what to produce. In this respect, Feinstein and co. will essentially be in the firearm design business, because these makers will be tailoring their upcoming offerings to fit legislation.





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  • http://profiles.google.com/kahrhoff Chris Kahrhoff

    So dealers need to take 50% deposits to clean out the backlog.

  • Ethan (Aftermath Gun Club)

    Thanks for taking the time to look into this, interesting and frustrating.

  • John H

    Jon, great to see you writing for TFB. Loved your stuff on Ars and looking forward to hearing about the other AR manufacturers.

  • sadlerbw

    Wow, that has got to be one of the better articles I’ve ever read on the actual workings of the business side of the firearms industry. Now I’m quite curious to see/read about the larger project this was related to.

    I didn’t realize LMT was direct-to-dealer only. For some reason I thought they worked with distributors as well, or at least did direct-to-customer, sort of like Spikes Tactical does.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      Oh I can asure you you’ll enjoy the completed article!

    • http://www.facebook.com/jbeauchemin John Beauchemin

      Are they no longer selling direct? I bought several AR parts from them in the past, including two BCG’s. I haven’t bought anything from them in years, though.

  • David Hinerman

    “We haven’t yet decided what that is. You just have to order now.”

    In other words, “CALL BE FORE MIDNIGHT TONIGHT! OPERATORS ARE STANDING BY!”

  • 5

    This does not seem unusal from LMT. When the AWB expired I had an order with them back logged for over a year before I cancelled it. Walked into my favorite gunshop 2 years ago & there sat a MRP gas piston. Baby came home that day. Sort of reminds me the way Colt treated its civilian customers back in the 90’s and early 00’s.

    • DougE

      If I recall correctly, didn’t Colt completely suspend civilian sales to focus on .gov contracts?

      • Suburban

        They didn’t want to sell rifles with flash suppressors, and collapsible stocks to civilians. They marked these rifles “Law Enforcement Only,” but dealers sold them to the “little people” anyway. Colt finally wised up, realized that it was the civilians that pulled them out of financial trouble, and removed the silly LE Only marking. I think this is what “5” was referring to. It’s possible that Colt did give military orders priority when the U.S. went back into Iraq, and started moving troops into Afghanistan.

  • Jason

    Insane. I’m a huge fan of LMT and they’ve never been a high output manufacturer. The only gun I don’t have in my collection that I really want is a LMT MWS but I think that’s not going to happen. I noticed they shut down their online store. Wanted to place an order for an extra piston BCG.

  • Jmac

    This is all because stupid people see one person buying it so they buy it and soon all the lemmings are going off the cliff just like magazines and ammunition. I mean really, how about leaving some for the rest of us.
    Yea we can all scream “they’re coming for our guns!” But really do you see any black helicopters buzzing your house?(if you do you’re probably already in trouble for something else)
    Has the sherrif or your local PD come knocking?
    Chill out, take a day at the range and untie your panties.
    Half these people who put in orders are going to get trired of waiting anyways cancel thier order and go stand in line for the next “cool thing” the gov’t is going to ban TOMORROW!
    Or all those really nice rifles you paid 2500 bucks for that cost me $800 a year ago are just going to sit in a basement or attic, get forgotten about and rust.
    LMT sure makes a nice rifle, but I damn sure wouldn’t wait for TWO years.

    • Cymond

      I don’t expect the gov to go around confiscating. It would be an impossible goal. I do, however, recognize the potential for a ban similar to the 1986 machinegun ban and 1994 “assault” weapon ban that forbid people from buying any new “assault” weapons. I also recognize the potential for a California-style ban, where transfers of pre-ban weapons will be illegal, effectively locking firearms in the hands of their current owners.
      This could be our last chance to buy the firearms we want, the things we have always dreamed about. I want but cannot justify about 2 dozen more rifles. I cannot fault others who do have the finances to buy what they want.

    • TangledThorns

      A ban may not happen on the Federal level but it happening at the state, see New York with MA and MD following.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=507070665 Chuck Jennings

    In many cases, “limited time” is just a throwaway sales phrase to create urgency for the buyer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jbeauchemin John Beauchemin

    I ordered a BCG from LMT in 2008 or 09 and completely forgot about it. It showed up magically on my doorstep one day about 4 months later. This doesn’t surprise me. I think their direct civilian sales are on the very bottom of their wait list, and any new orders from higher priority customers further bump down the civilian direct orders.

  • DougE

    What a cluster. In this type of market, economy and political climate, it seems like LMT could potentially be stuck with a large stock and a bunch of new hires just sitting around. Great article though.

  • Ryan P

    I ordered an LMT CQB16 in June of 2012 and still haven’t received it. I also ordered an LMT 308MWSE in July and received it in October. Best 308 I’ve ever fired. Smooth as silk. I just hope I get the AR before California bans them. –ryan

  • Brian in Seattle

    I bought a complete LMT lower the week after Gabby Giffords was shot. Ghoulish but, you could see the writing on the wall. It was in stock at Rainier Arms. Glad I jumped when I did. And my deepest regrets to the Congressman. That shouldn’t happen to anyone, no matter their personal beliefs.

  • cbyrneiv

    Hannibal… how’d you end up over here?

    You knew me way back in the early years of Ars.

  • http://twitter.com/JayCryptic John McClelland

    If an assault weapon ban passes again you WON’T be able to buy an AR-15. Feinstein has specifically named over 100 different weapons that will be banned and has made clear there won’t be any “loopholes” this time around that allows you to buy an AR without a flash suppressor, etc. This ban won’t be like the last one- heck, even an M-1 carbine is considered an assault weapon under it- and it will not sunset. Democrats won’t let it- and by the looks of it John Boehner won’t fight them.

    If you value your rights, get in touch with your Reps and let them know you are opposed to any new gun legislation- and also let them know that if they vote for it, you’ll not only vote against them, but campaign against them.

  • ddearborn

    Hmmm
    Any way you slice it the bad guys in DC are winning and the public at large is losing in a big way. As of today there are no semi-autos available, no ammunition available for at least a year. What a great way to disarm the public. Cut of the supply of guns and ammunition and presto an unofficial semi-auto ban is now in effect. It is no coincidence that it is the semi-auto “black” guns
    5.55/.222 and 9mm ammo that are gone from the shelves. You don’t suppose they knew an outright ban would spark revolt so they did this instead?

    • Suburban

      Nobody cut supply of guns and ammunition. After the Sandy Hook shooting, the demand spiked so high, that suppliers couldn’t keep up. More than a years supply of guns, magazines, and ammo sold in the span of a few weeks.

  • rapewhistle

    Stag Arms is also 2 years backordered! It says it right on their website info.stagarms.com

  • http://twitter.com/mxpwr4 Steve Bennet

    so what’s the update on Daniel Defense??? please tell us soon!

  • Derek Smith

    Is the demand really that high? I mean I thought we were in a sluggish economy where capital and pay checks were small. So all of a sudden people have the money to invest high dollar firearms? Crap, I can’t even get a replacement BCG for my LMT Defender. Two year wait??? This is madness. Great article and write up though.

  • DNACowboy

    Best rifle ever.

  • Jester

    10 months later……….. only 14 months more to wait for my torque screw that broke for my upper and a new barrel. Thanks for the great detailed info.