U.S. today: industry enters golden era, firearms sales set records.

Author:Thurman, Russ
Position:Firearms Industry

The industry has entered a golden era, a renaissance of gun ownership that transcends a dedicated segment of Americans who consider firearms a natural part of their lives. The remarkable level of firearms sales that are exceeding previous lofty projections go beyond political- or fear-motivated factors.

Yes, those elements are still present, but the dominating factor is a culture revival. Americans have discovered firearms in a way not seen in decades. The American citizenship has got it--gun ownership is OK! Gun ownership has gone mainstream. It's OK to go out and shoot a gun just to have fun. It's the fun factor of firearms that has been restored to the culture.

To buy a gun for personal defense--yes, that factor is still very high. Consumers get that; they're very serious about the protection factor. Concerns about how the present administration, if reelected, will attack firearms--yes, that's still in play. However, it doesn't stir the hearts of gun owners like it did in 2008 and 2009, and the "Obama Factor" is not driving most firearm sales today.

Yet, all those firearms purchased after the presidential election of 2008 have played a key role in today's renaissance. Then, driven by the fear that the new president would ban certain firearms, many seasoned gun owners and even more first-time buyers, swarmed gun stores to purchase firearms, primarily "black rifles." However, most of those firearms were locked away, untouched, unfired.

No longer. Many of those tens of thousands of firearms are now being used in personal-defense classes, competitions, hunting and everyday plinking. The owners of those firearms have learned to shoot and have discovered a nearly dead cultural phenomenon--it's fun!

What has driven this "new" discovery?

TV has had a huge impact. Viewers are enjoying many more programs featuring firearms that go beyond hunting. Yet, hunting is enjoying a resurgence, also. Women, whose first firearms were for personal defense, are now hunting, shooting clays, competing--and buying their own firearms, ones they researched on the Internet. Social media has a remarkable impact on today's acceptance of firearms.

Another major influencing factor of gun ownership is America's modern military veteran. There are hundreds of thou sands of dads, brothers, uncles, wives, sisters, aunts, cousins and extended family and friends, who served or are serving in Iran and Afghanistan. They are respected and admired. They carried firearms to protect our country. That factor, that imagery, has had a huge positive impact on how firearms are viewed in our country.

Even if you took away the continuing Obama Factor--fear of what the president may do if reelected--the market would be healthy. That said, the Obama Factor has had another positive element, which has helped the cultural resurgence of firearms. The president has effectively muzzled the anti-gun movement since 2009, while promising, "We are working on it." The lack of near-daily diatribes from the anti-gun movement has provided an opportunity for the industry and gun owners to tell their story. Even the president's begrudging admission that the Second Amendment guarantees the right of citizens to own firearms helped provide an opportunity for the truth to emerge.

Playing a major role in getting that truth out is NSSF, which has firmly established itself as the voice of the industry. That has been key to getting the industry story told--including recent data on impressive hiring by industry companies. NSSF's near-instant reaction to anti-fire arm business legislation and initiatives, and their consumer information programs and better-business projects--all have a major impact.

Yes, the American people have got it. It's OK to own a firearm and it's OK to have fun shooting. And they are buying firearms at a rate not seen in 20 years.

Impressive Numbers

How well is the industry doing? The truth is in the number of background checks conducted for firearm purchases, and company financial statements that substantiate the impressive state of the industry.

In May, NICS conducted 840,412 background checks (NSSF adjusted), reflecting a 20.6-percent increase over May 2010. This marks the 24th straight month that the number of background checks have increased, compared to the same months of the previous two years.

NSSF reports that their adjusted NICS data shows increases for 2012, compared to 2011, in January: 17.3 percent, February: 31.4 percent, March: 20 percent and April: 10.5 percent.

Also notable is the number of background checks conducted in December 2011, the largest number in any one month in the history of NICS, which began in 2008. NICS conducted 1,410,937 (NSSF adjusted) background checks in December 2011, a 25-percent increase over December 2010.

For the first quarter of 2012, Ruger reported net sales of $112.3 million, an increase of 49 percent, compared to the same quarter in 2011, along with corresponding earnings that "nearly doubled."

On May 21, Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. reported preliminary net sales for the fourth quarter ending April 30 were approximately $129 million, an increase of approximately $28 million, or 28 percent, compared to the same quarter last year.

On May 18, Freedom Group announced its first-quarter sales, ending March 31, were $206 million, up 17 percent from the same period last year. Net sales of firearms for the quarter were $127.4 million, a 34-percent increase compared to the quarter ending...

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