When I attended the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s Shooting, Hunting Outdoor Trade Show in Orlando, Fla., last January, there was a completely different atmosphere among the 1,700 firearms-related manufacturers and the thousands of dealers that attended.
Business, for most of the firearms manufacturers especially, was booming. Despite the weak economy throughout the country, the one industry with sales that were soaring were the gun manufacturers.
Strum Ruger and Co., the manufacturer of handguns and rifles, reported a 21 percent increase in firearm sales in 2008 — most of which occurred in the last quarter of the year — over those in 2007. They credited the increase to their development of a better product and the tremendous increase in demand for firearms.
Similarly, Glock Inc. recently reported a record increase of 71 percent in new pistol sales as the company moved into the second quarter of the fiscal year. These new products included the models G22 RTF2 and G17 RTF2 Glocks. Likewise, Smith & Wesson, which lost some of the American police handgun sales to Glock in the 1980s, is now regaining a share of the law enforcement purchases and has claimed that revenues have grown about 50 percent.
I recently spoke with a representative of Taurus USA about two revolvers I wanted to order, the Protector model 651 in .357-caliber and the Tracker model 4510 with a 61⁄2-inch barrel that will handle both a .410 shotshell and a .45-caliber bullet. I was told that the order would be placed for these two models, but they were out of stock and would have to be back-ordered. She also told me that just about all of their firearms, rifles and pistols, were out of stock, due to the tremendous demand. It was a demand which began after the 2008 presidential election. Prior to the election, gun manufacturers were reporting decreasing dealers, which in turn were due to decreased sales at gun dealers nationwide.
Another indication of record increases in firearm sales, despite the weak economy, was shown in data from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System on the sale of firearms. In January, those background checks jumped 28.8 percent compared to January 2008. This increase followed a 24 percent rise in December and a 42 percent increase in November. It was during this period that there were a record 1,529,635 background checks made for gun purchases.
More recently, the FBI’s NICS background check system reported 1,023,102 checks in May, 15.4 percent higher than the checks in May 2008.
The NICS was established in 1993, and requires that a Federal Firearms licensee who sells/transfers a firearm to any person must first contact an NICS office, usually via telephone, and a computerized check of that person’s records is initiated to see if they are qualified to receive that firearm. Generally, these checks are completed the same day of the purchase/transfer when approved. The total number of NICS checks since it became law has been 102,054,149.
Why the sudden rush to buy a gun? Some gun owners fear that the current administration may reinstate the assault rifle ban that expired during the Bush administration. These weapons are often referred to as the “black guns” which are designed for combat, with selective fire capable of shooting both fully- and semi-automatic. These are the standard infantry weapons in most modern armies, such as the M14, FN, FAL, etc.
I spoke with the propietors of several local gun shops about this increased demand for guns and its effect of them, and here is what they had to say.
This rush to buy a gun attitude has spread to not just “black guns,” says Brian Olesen, proprietor of
B and J Guns in Albany and Rensselaer. He has had substantial sales increases of handguns and home defense guns. An example of a home defense gun, besides the handgun, is a 12- or 20-gauge pump shotgun with an 18- or 20-inch barrel and having a magazine capacity of six shells or more. Many of the more popular of these shotguns have a pistol grip, rather than the traditional shoulder stock. As for the increased sales, he said that his sales for this year are already 21⁄2 half times higher than last year.
Taylor and Vadney Sporting Goods in Schenectady also has seen a substantial increase in the demand for home defense weapons. In fact, they estimate that this demand is five to six times greater than the demand for hunting and target firearms. And this increase in sales and revenues is definitely welcome after a period of “slow” gun sales throughout the industry.
Kevin Zacharewicz, proprietor of Zack’s Sports in Round Lake, is also pleased with the increase in sales and agrees with the other gun shop owners that the major emphasis has been in the home defense firearms area. He, too, has been selling more AR15-type rifles, pump shotguns and handguns. He also told me that these sales have increased other areas of the firearms industry, as well.
RUN ON AMMO
If you do your own reloading, you may have noticed that reloading supplies are very limited. Powder, bullets and especially ignition caps are hard to come by. But all of these gun shop owners are equally concerned about the “run on ammunition” that is a result of the proposed Ammunition Accountability Act that is being introduced throughout the country.
This act would require the manufacturer to code all ammunition in a database on every ammunition sale. Doing so would track how much ammunition was purchased, by whom and what calibers. All ammunition that is not coded must be destroyed. The provisions of this bill would also charge gun owners an additional five-cent tax on every round. It could be a bookkeeping nightmare for all involved.
If you have purchased any ammo recently, you had to have noticed the increase in prices. And with the shortage, these prices surely will not go down. Zack told me that his sales representative from Federal Ammunition said that he did not expect ammunition availability to return to normal until late 2010. So if you are a hunter, you should replenish your supply of hunting ammo to the best of your ability right now.
I know that for awhile, I will be curtailing my guns and ammo testing until availability increases.
Good shooting — but do it sparingly.