Last year, Walmart made a very big deal about not selling AR-15 rifles – or anything even vaguely tactical – in its gun department.
In statements made to our own Phil White, Walmart said it was getting out of the AR business on a permanent basis. Included in the self imposed ban were:
- all AR-15 firearms,
- rimfire .22 rifles that looked like AR-15 guns,
- all “MSR guns of any type,”
- shotguns with 18.5″ barrels, and
- accessories for the AR-15 and similar guns.
So, when TFB reader BG walked into his local Walmart in Oklahoma, he was somewhat surprised to find the Ruger Mini-14 being offered for sale in the gun department.
As many readers know, the Mini-14, like the AR-15, is chambered in 5.56 NATO – a military cartridge – and uses so-called high capacity, detachable magazines. In fact, both the Mini-14 and the AR-15 are semi-automatic versions of actual military rifles: the AC-556 for the Ruger, and the M4/M-16 for the AR rifles.
It would seem that Walmart backtracked on its position from just several months prior…unless, the original self-imposed ban was really just political pandering.
In August 2015, Walmart’s spokesperson insisted that the elimination of AR-15 guns and equipment, plus the additional elimination of all MSR-type guns and shotguns with 18.5″ barrels was not a political decision. Rather, the company stated the market for these items had grown soft and its customers wanted “traditional rifles and shotguns.”
Oddly, Walmart stated its decision was permanent even though it was basing the decision on a temporary sales trend. I’m not an expert, but I did not believe then (nor now) that a successful company would make permanent product decisions on temporary sales trends. Many other people expressed similar doubts about Walmart’s motives.
While the Mini-14 would seem to fit squarely in the MSR category, and therefore subject to the company’s own sales ban, it is a much more politically correct weapon for the ignorant observer. After all, it has a wood stock.
Of course, the truth of the matter is Walmart never really exited the AR/MSR market like it claimed. Sure, you cannot walk into your local store and pick up a Colt Law Enforcement Carbine like you could less than a year ago, but the company is still profiting on the AR market.
If you head over to the company’s website and type AR-15 into the search bar, you will get many pages of AR products. Oh, and not just cosmetic ones either.
You want an Adams Arms piston kit? Walmart has you covered with free shipping to your local store for easy pick up. How about a CMMG lower spring kit? Maybe a Wheeler delta ring wrench? Walmart’s got all of it, plus a whole lot more.
Yes, some of these items are being sold by third parties using the Walmart sales platform. However, a lot of them are sold directly by Walmart itself. The Adams Arms piston kit, for example, shows as “Sold by Walmart.”
So, Walmart permanently got out of the “anything that looks scary” market, claiming declining sales. Yet, the company’s actions suggest to me that the decision was very much a political one. Otherwise, why would they be happy to sell the Mini-14 in the stores, and quietly make internet cash on the AR parts and accessories?
What are your thoughts? Has there been a sudden spike in Mini-14 demand causing Walmart to carry the rifles? Did Walmart lie to shooters last year, and if so, why? Were they getting pressure from consumers or anti-gun elements in the government?
Hat tip to TFB reader BG for providing the Ruger photos and some of the information in this article.