An Insider’s Peek at The Rock Island Auction Company

By Frank Iannamico

During the pre-internet days, the selling and purchasing of machine guns was a completely different process than today. Both buyers and sellers looked to the printed classified and display ads in periodicals like Gun List, Shotgun News (now Firearm News) and the back pages of the defunct Machine Gun News magazine.

Printed ads required a couple weeks lead time to appear and could be expensive. Usually, there were no means of adding photographs. Communication between the seller and potential buyers was done by speaking on a telephone, the kind that was attached to a building with wires and could not take photographs.

When the internet became mainstream, buying and selling Class III items changed dramatically. Often transactions occur without the parties ever speaking to one another; communication is primarily by email or texting. One other phenomenon took place—as more and more people discovered the Class III world they became aware they could have a full-auto M16 instead of a semi-auto AR-15. Soon values skyrocketed, bringing prices that would be unimaginable in the early 1980s. This was due to a growing interest in machine guns and an ever-shrinking supply, due to the May 19, 1986 ban, which stopped any new registration of transferable guns. Many of the transferable guns disappeared into collections and would not surface again until their owners passed away.

However, it wasn’t long until the scammers of the world discovered the websites advertising Class III, and soon buying online became a somewhat risky proposition. The scammers are often operating from outside the U.S. and have become proficient at copying existing and older internet ads and reposting them. Often, they will lower the asking price to a level that would entice a potential “buyer” to jump on the purchase without any investigation into the seller. Due to the relatively long processing time for the “transfer” to take place, the buyer would be unaware he had been duped out of a large sum of money for months. All communication ceases once scammers receive the funds, and they vanish.

Before long, the only secure way...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V23N2 (February 2019)
and was posted online on December 14, 2018


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