Where are all the guns? If you walk into any gun store these days, you are likely to hear this question uttered across the counter. With more than five million law-abiding citizens making their first purchase, it is no wonder that we are seeing a shortage of just about every type of firearm on the market. The follow-up questions, of course, are “Why's it taking so long to recover?” and “What is being done to replenish the market?” Curious myself, I reached out to some of the biggest manufacturers to find out what their new production approach was and maybe even get a little peek behind the curtain.
Of all the manufacturers that I spoke with, Savage was the most optimistic. The only roadblock that they claim to be hitting is the lead times on certain products, namely the Asian-made optics for some of its complete firearm packages. While the focus during late 2020 was on the Axis and Axis II families, today production is up across the board without major shutdowns of any one product type.
By implementing a third shift and ramping production up to seven days a week, the lines are running nonstop. The only interruption to speak of occurred during the middle of 2020 to reorganize and reconfigure the factory to meet CDC guidelines and provide a safer workplace. Our source over there signed off by saying, “In our production facilities, we have generated well over 100-percent growth in the last eight months.
Partners and suppliers are also working to keep up with demand. With our Stevens pump shotgun partner, [Savage] reconfigured and expanded their production capacity to produce even more of their security-style shotguns, a best seller for 2020. Last spring, we sold about four months of regular inventory of these in just three days.”
Defensive handguns have grabbed a major share of the market. With vacations on hold, many buyers used those extra funds to buy a high-end pistol. When we think of high-end pistols, Kimber America comes to mind and we got a few minutes of their time for an update. Like most other companies, Kimber is increasing production.
However, instead of just adding shifts, the company is expanding its second location in Troy, Al. To get more products out, more than 200 new employees were hired to span not only the production lines, but the engineering side of the company as well. This will ensure that we continue to see new designs for 2021 and the years to come.
While Kimber offers quite a larger variety of handguns, our contact has informed us that the high-performance models such as the Rapide and Super Jägare have garnered the most interest and they are doing all they can to get more of those out to dealers. The next highest demand goes to the concealed carry handguns from the Micro 9 category, these are getting a bump in production as well.
The pandemic also reduced many folks' available funds, particularly for a first gun. Not having a ton of cash on hand doesn’t mean that you can’t get a quality firearm, and those looking to maximize their value often turn to Taurus USA. If you only have $300 and want to get every dollars’ worth, it’s hard to do better than one of its defensive pistols.
Taurus exclaimed that models like the G3 and G3c have been highly sought after since early 2020 and continue to generate sharp demand at the time of this writing. Production has been ramped up to full capacity with zero downtime in both the company's US and Brazilian factories. Research and development for new products has not been affected, as the engineers are still hard at work creating designs like the new TX-22 Competition pistol, which is sure to be a hit as most folks are doing all they can to save their center-fire ammunition.
I wrapped my investigation up by tapping one of the best-rounded companies in the industry, Ruger. From single-action revolvers to AR-15s, this company has arguably the most extensive lineup of any firearms manufacturer. I reached out to see if they planned on keeping all of these items available in the upcoming years and, to my surprise, our contact answered in the affirmative.
Ruger’s policy is NOT to stop the production of any one product to help meet the demand of another. Instead, the company has hired extra personnel and paid overtime to ensure that each line produces as many guns as possible. At the time of our interview, they relayed that every single product is selling out, so it doesn’t make sense to change things up.
The only factory changes were those done to increase social distancing and meet CDC guidelines. As for roadblocks, the only one they had to speak to was personnel. Ruger has hired and is continuing to hire workers for nearly every position, so if you are looking to break into the firearm industry, now just might be the time to touch-up your resume.
Overall, none of the companies were willing to gamble on when things might “return to normal,” largely because demand is unprecedented and therefore unpredictable. Any estimate would be based on demand going back to a reasonable level, and unfortunately, the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic is keeping the pressure on.
We all must remain patient and optimistic that our favorite firearms will be available soon enough at our local gun shops. In the meantime, with gun-control measures being discussed in Washington, we should remain as active as possible to ensure that we will still be able to own them when they return to the shelves.