Defense trends.

Position:Lethal force

The AWB spurred panic buying in the early '90s. The Y2K phenomenon in 1999 did the same. Folks bought ordinary handguns and short-barrel, defense shotguns in droves, along with semiautomatic rifles. With the current buying splurge eclipsing both events in volume, some of this latter trend is apparent.

Unlike the previous purchase sprees, this one is also driven by a severe economic recession, encouraging many non-gun people who are "haves" to arm themselves against a potential onslaught of "have-nots." They don't necessarily desire AR-15s. Many simply desire defense guns. Eight-to-11 shot pistols will do them just fine, as will that old standby, the 12-gauge "riot gun."

A number of dealers I've talked to see an uptick in sales of short-barrel, 20-gauge pumps and autos. These lighter, softer-kicking shotguns are seen as more suitable for younger and female members of households to use for self-defense. Some dealers tell me they've sold out of medium-size .38 and .357 "service revolvers," which are long-standing traditional recommendations for...

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