As this is written, I am already on the ground for the 2018 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show. I’ve lost count of how many I’ve been to, certainly around 25, but this one, it’s different.
That is because the firearm industry is in a different place than it has ever been. It’s not necessarily a bad place, but one that requires some thought. I would actually describe what is occurring right now, and will occur this week in Las Vegas at the Sands Convention Center, as the “Great Gun Blizzard of 2018.” I’ve been snowed in after the SHOT show a few times by snowpocalypses back home. But this time, the blizzard is occurring through press releases bombarding my inbox before I even left. There are so many you can’t see through. It is not time to pull over, though.
This is a new environment. One not fueled by the flames of Barack Obama using the oval office as a bully pulpit for every failed gun control policy from bans on semi-automatic guns in use for more than a century to gun registration schemes masquerading as “background checks.”
So what does that mean for firearm manufacturers? It means they need to elevate their games in identifying the products that the greatly expanded shooting sports community actually wants to buy. In short, give a consumer a reason to buy your company’s product.
When you look at the FBI NICS checks, it’s not that interest in firearms has gone away. As a matter fact, a lot of guns are being sold. Of course, NICS checks are not an exact indicator of the number of new firearms sold, but they are a good barometer. Frankly, I think a lot of those checks these days are used firearms, trading at non-inflated values.
That is the only way in which that is occurring. With rare exception, guns aren’t selling for more than they’re really worth. They are not being marked up beyond value of what they really are—just because it’s an AR, doesn’t mean that it’s worth a couple hundred extra bucks. In fact, the entry level in that category has dropped, with some manufacturers offering guns at less than $400 to dealers. And I think that entry level cannot go much lower.
But there are areas that are of significant interest to the firearm community. One of those, of course, is in personal protection firearms that can be carried on the person. Concealed-carry guns seem to be the area leading not only in sales but also in innovation. Back at the office, the SIG Sauer P365 arrived for the next cover of American Rifleman.
There’s also a Springfield Armory 911 on the way. That’s not the only new Springfield on the way, though. Companies are competing hard for consumer dollars. The real winners in this, in my view, are NRA members. Because they are going to get the best blend of features that are very competitive in price.
I’ve seen more new guns come across my inbox, and my desk, than in any year in recent memory. That’s because gun companies need to make themselves stand out. Whether it’s on price, (seen the new Ruger Security-9?) they will need to compete on features—and price.
The number of people involved in the shooting sports is larger then perhaps ever before. And they have choices. Because competition makes us stronger. Competition requires innovation, planning and a clear benefit to the consumer. This year, is a year in which makers will need to sell guns, not just take orders. We will see how this “white out” of press releases, of new product, shakes out. But the real winners will be NRA members and those seeking to purchase a new firearm.