Friday, April 14, 2006

One Last Post on Gun Companies

NOTE: I will make a BAG (Buy a Gun) post tomorrow with pictures.

My last post received a few comments I want to answer. After a few seconds of typing, I realized my answer would be long and I decided to turn it into a post. It solves a problem I’ve had for a couple of days—things to blog about. Work has kept me too busy to read many blogs and I’ve been running out of blog fodder. To get three posts out of the same topic is manna from heaven right now.

In case you don’t want to read the last two posts, here’s a brief synopsis. A New York Times business reporter covered Smith & Wesson’s comeback from the brink of near extinction. However, there’s a mention that gun sales are flat. Bitter B. commented to that post and mentioned Pittman-Robertson tax collections were down and that could confirm gun sales are trending down. In my first post (also linked above), I ruminated on the chance that we might lose our classic gun companies. Now to comments on that post.

First, Michael Bane talks about something that bothers him a lot. He points out that the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) has been supporting hunting over other gun sports. He has blogged this topic several times (here’s an example). Michael has worked with NSSF, so he brings an insider’s knowledge to this issue.

I have to agree with the thrust of Michael’s comments. The future of shooting lies with shooting sports not with hunting. I think it’s one reason why so many anti-gunnies conflate the right to own guns with the right to hunt. If hunting dies out then the need for civilian gun ownership dies with it. I don’t think hunting will die out in my lifetime, but as Michael points out it’s getting more difficult to hunt.

Hunting won’t save gun manufacturers if they truly are in trouble. Hunting guns are durable goods and they don’t really change much over time. Oh yes, companies introduce new chamberings, short actions, and other features in order to coax buyers to hang up “ole Betsy” and buy their latest wonder boomer. They find few takers unless people are buying their first gun. I have only anecdotal evidence for this—gun store owners who have mentioned slow sales for new wonder guns—but I believe there’s truth in it.

Ammunition is the same way for hunters who aren’t avid shooters as well. Contrast that with action shooters, bullseye shooters, even plinkers. While I wouldn’t agree that hunting is dead yet, I do agree with Michael that gunnies and their organizations must concentrate on recruiting new shooters to the sport of their choice not just hunting.

BobG and Seth both mention they tend to buy used guns over new ones just like Bill and me. Buying used instead of new guns doesn’t help gun makers. Hell, for all I know it could be why ATF agents are trying to get custom gunsmiths to pay a “manufacturing” tax when all they do is modify an existing gun (and read Michael Bane's post as well).

Seth mentions Cowboy Action Shooting. This sport has awakened a new market for single-action revolvers, coach guns, and lever rifles in “cowboy” chamberings. It proves that there are many buyers for guns for shooting sports.

Finally (and I know this is getting to be a long post), anonymous takes me to the woodshed. He or she (I’ll go with he) points out that he doesn’t buy anything unless he likes it and American companies, particularly Smith & Wesson, don’t seem to make guns he likes. He bought a Glock for BAG Day and more power to him. Bill owns a Glock and I’ve shot it many times, but plastic grips and blackened metal do nothing for me. Each to their own.

I gotta say this though: America needs her gun companies. I don’t want our nation to rely on foreign gun makers who could interrupt shipments to the United State because of political or diplomatic events. Imagine what would happen if Rebecca Peters and her United Nations supported anti-gun organization got their way. That could mean no new Glocks, Berettas, H & Ks, etc. or perhaps with harsh sales restrictions.

I’m not saying Peters and her ilk will succeed, but the United States needs a strong gun industry—and not just for civilian reasons, but for strategic ones as well. On the other hand, US gun makers need to satisfy American gun buyers like anonymous who says “Compete or die.” I hope it’s the former.

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