Adjusting To Sales Under A Pro-Gun President

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By Massad Ayoob

Nearly six months into President Trump’s term, the industry is still finding its way adjusting to the “new normal.” Prior to Election Day 2016, almost all the talking heads predicted a sweeping Hillary Clinton victory — but as we all now know, voters had something else in mind. With Trump’s victory and a continued Republican-controlled Congress, Washington, D.C. (and many states) experienced a pro-gun sweep for the most part.

As relief swept the gun culture and the gun owners’ civil rights community, pro-gun activists like Miguel Gonzalez at www.gunfreezone.net encouraged us all to sip a well-deserved cup of schadenfreude. That tasty satisfaction at the defeat of one’s enemies still delights, but NRA-ILA and others (including Gonzalez) have wisely encouraged us all to press our advantage for more pro-gun victories — and to welcome new customers to the industry.

But something else has happened. The desperate “last chance” need to buy desirable semi-auto firearms for personal- and home-defense has seen its driving force soften in recent months. Across the country, sales of such guns, notably centerfire MSRs, have decreased.

I chatted with one gun shop owner who sighed, “I had stocked up on dozens and dozens of black rifles. It looks as if they’re going to stay in the vault for a lot longer than I thought. I don’t care, though. This is a whole lot better than what we would have faced in the long run if Hillary Clinton had been elected and allowed to pack the Supreme Court with people who shared her agenda.”

His opinion seemed to be shared by most of the gun retailers I spoke with at the SHOT Show in January 2017.

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Beretta APX

Impact On Suppressors

The “gun owner schadenfreude-to-complacency” factor has struck in the suppressor market. Sales of NFA firearms and gear had been accelerating greatly prior to the November 2016 election — like short-barrel rifles (SBRs) and especially, sound suppressors. Since then, many dealers who work in this area have told me sales are down. A large part of it seems to be the belief the Hearing Protection Act (H.R.367) currently awaiting action in Washington, D.C., making silencers legal for sale over the counter without BATFE paperwork, would save the $200 licensing fee and through economy of scale, make the suppressors themselves cheaper.

The “legalization” of suppressors is by no means a done deal. Nonetheless, in a classic case of “perception is the reality,” a pro-gun president turns out to hurt gun dealers in yet another way. Irony abounds.

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SilencerCo Maxim 9

A Silver Lining

There is, however, a silver lining to this ominous cloud. Almost immediately after the election, I spoke with Roy Huntington, editor of Shooting Industry’s sister magazine, American Handgunner. Roy predicted sales of MSRs would decrease once the threat of Hillary evaporated, but sales of recreational firearms (“fun guns,” if you will) would increase — like sporting handguns, .22s, etc. Let’s call it the “Huntington Hypothesis.”

My travels around the country talking with gun dealers have largely confirmed Huntington’s observation. Folks who like guns — especially those in their “peak earning years” and “comfortable retirement years” — seem to be reallocating their gun buying budgets instead of closing them out.

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S&W Performance Center Model G42

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Tactical Solutions X-Ring Takedown .22 LR

Case In Point: Revolvers

Ernie Traugh runs Cedar Valley Outfitters, a busy gun shop in Marion, Iowa. He has noted a profound drop-off in sales of the usual bread-and-butter guns — MSRs and high-capacity, polymer-frame pistols. However, when I asked him about the “Huntington Hypothesis,” Ernie answered, “It’s absolutely true. Revolvers are a good example. Since the election, I’ve been selling more revolvers in a month than we used to sell in six months.”

In a recent Women & Guns article titled “Revolvers Making ‘Comeback’ … Again,” long-time gun scene observer Dave Workman wrote, “Handgun popularity is cyclic, and according to some people attending this year’s SHOT Show, the cycle has started turning back toward revolvers. One probably cannot explain why handgun popularity runs in cycles, but it does. That’s why revolvers may go out of vogue, but they never go out of service. So long as there is a need for defensive sidearms, there will be a place for the revolver.”

I stop in regularly at the Pro Arms Gun Shop in Live Oak, Fla. Lately I’ve seen more hunting/sporting rifles on the racks than ever before in this establishment, since it has focused primarily on defensive firearms. There are noticeably more .22s, from junior-size Crickett rifles to the increasingly popular S&W M&P clone of the MSR chambered in .22 LR — instead of the usual .223, .300 Blackout or .308.

The fine old Smith & Wesson revolvers and similar classics that once gathered dust in the used handgun showcase have all but disappeared. Pro Arms is not the only shop seeing this phenomenon. At the online gun forum, www.pistol-forum.com, one serious shooter from Dayton, Ohio recently wrote: “Today I decided to go gun shop hopping. I’m looking for a couple different K-Frames, so I decided to see if I could get lucky. I went to nine different shops of various sizes. Most I hadn’t been to before. Nine different shops full of almost nothing but soulless plastic bullet pushers.” Why? Maybe … revolvers are selling again.

Bottom line? The market has normalized after periods of panic buying. What’s going down in some sectors is going up in others. And, with what would have been the most anti-gun president in American history not at the helm, the retail firearms industry has won in the long run.

Ernie Traugh runs Cedar Valley Outfitters, a busy gun shop in Marion, Iowa. He has noted a profound drop-off in sales of the usual bread-and-butter guns — MSRs and high-capacity, polymer-frame pistols. However, when I asked him about the “Huntington Hypothesis,” Ernie answered, “It’s absolutely true. Revolvers are a good example. Since the election, I’ve been selling more revolvers in a month than we used to sell in six months.”

In a recent Women & Guns article titled “Revolvers Making ‘Comeback’ … Again,” long-time gun scene observer Dave Workman wrote, “Handgun popularity is cyclic, and according to some people attending this year’s SHOT Show, the cycle has started turning back toward revolvers. One probably cannot explain why handgun popularity runs in cycles, but it does. That’s why revolvers may go out of vogue, but they never go out of service. So long as there is a need for defensive sidearms, there will be a place for the revolver.”

I stop in regularly at the Pro Arms Gun Shop in Live Oak, Fla. Lately I’ve seen more hunting/sporting rifles on the racks than ever before in this establishment, since it has focused primarily on defensive firearms. There are noticeably more .22s, from junior-size Crickett rifles to the increasingly popular S&W M&P clone of the MSR chambered in .22 LR — instead of the usual .223, .300 Blackout or .308.

The fine old Smith & Wesson revolvers and similar classics that once gathered dust in the used handgun showcase have all but disappeared. Pro Arms is not the only shop seeing this phenomenon. At the online gun forum, www.pistol-forum.com, one serious shooter from Dayton, Ohio recently wrote: “Today I decided to go gun shop hopping. I’m looking for a couple different K-Frames, so I decided to see if I could get lucky. I went to nine different shops of various sizes. Most I hadn’t been to before. Nine different shops full of almost nothing but soulless plastic bullet pushers.” Why? Maybe … revolvers are selling again.

Bottom line? The market has normalized after periods of panic buying. What’s going down in some sectors is going up in others. And, with what would have been the most anti-gun president in American history not at the helm, the retail firearms industry has won in the long run.

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