By Don Mallicoat- Shot Show is this week in Las Vegas. This past week I attended a wholesaler show in Columbia, SC to see what was on the market. I also got an opportunity to talk with manufacturer reps we’ve worked with over the years. Because it is the first of the year there are multiple stories on outdoor news wires about things that are happening in the firearms industry. So let me look into a crystal ball let you know what I’m seeing.
Overall, national news reports that we are returning to a “new normal” in the industry. That means we should not expect to see the boom or spikes in sales we saw during the Obama administration. We have a Republican Congress and a new President who has indicated his support for the Second Amendment. Nobody is really sure what the new normal is other than that gun and accessory sales will return to a more stable level about where they were eight years ago.
I’m guessing handgun sales will remain the strongest with more people looking for less expensive handguns either for concealed carry or home defense. Women are anticipated to continue to be a growing market segment. One thing that may influence handgun sales slightly is the passage of a National Reciprocity law where a concealed carry permit in one state will be valid in any state that also allows concealed carry. Currently this is coordinated between individual states. Passage of this law will not cause a surge in gun sales, but my crystal ball says there will be a slight uptick.
Tactical rifles and gear will still be a dominant force in the market. The show last week shows growth by tactical vendors including rifles, accessories, optics, and suppressors (more on this later). Even some of the major firearms makers are expanding their reach. Sig Sauer not only makes handguns and rifles, they also have a complete line of optics and are offering an ammunition line. We are seeing that with more big brands to include Browning which introduced ammunition last year and are re-introducing their popular field boot line this year.
I didn’t see much pink at the show. I think firearm and accessory makers finally figured out their preconceived notion that pink appeals to women was way off mark. When we had the gun store we would occasionally get a pink handgun in and they would sit for months. After several months on the counter we changed the frame on one to dark earth tone and it sold within two weeks. Hopefully this misguided trend is over.
If there is something hot this year it might be suppressors, more possibly next year. Congress has re-introduced the Hearing Protection Act to take suppressors off the National Firearms Act list and simply make them serial numbered items that can be bought over the counter with a background check like a firearm. If that happens, there will be a proliferation of new manufacturers and you will see prices drop dramatically. So if you have been thinking about a suppressor hold off if you can until later this year or next year.
Cruising the show, and reading news wires, I didn’t see a lot of new introductions by major firearms manufacturers. They seem to be tweeking existing models. Sure, there are some new introductions. I saw where the importer of Bersa handguns is now offering a new line of Llama handguns. That brand was very popular years ago and if made to the same standard should be again.
You know I’m a shotgun guy so anything new there grabs my attention. The big shock for me was Barrett Manufacturing, known for their high-caliber, long range rifles now offers a couple of models of shotguns. Not a market you would expect them to get into. They will offer sporting clays and field over/unders as well as a side lock side by side under the Barrett Sovereign name. These high quality guns are made by Fausti and are not cheap imports ($2,500 to $6,500 based on model).
Speaking of Fausti, they will introduce the new XF4 shotgun at Shot Show. It is for the American market only and will be offered in both sporting clays and field models. The only new offering in shotguns I saw from Beretta was the A400 Lite 20 gauge camo model which had previously been offered in 12 only. It appears the manufacturers anticipated the new normal in the market and are playing it safe this year.