It’s extremely difficult to identify the variables that lead to a sales trend. For example, what are we to make of the post-Obama-surge gun sales slide? Armchair analysis is easy enough: all the gun owners who thought Barack Obama would be a gun grabber grabbed guns. They got the guns they wanted to grab and . . . that’s it. The surge rolls back and the industry goes back to where it left off. Reading this story about South Carolina’s Land of the Sky Gun and Knife Show at wmbfnews.com, I don’t think that’s what’s happening. . .

“We’re starting to see a slowing of that now and I think you’re seeing much larger inventories that the guys are having,” Mike Kent said, promoter for the Land of the Sky Gun and Knife Show in Florence.

Gun shop owners across the country reported record sales when President Obama was elected to the White House. Gun owners feared he would pass legislation that would limit gun rights.

Now that the controversy has cooled down, vendors say sales are dropping back to what they were before.

“The numbers are beginning to drop off so obviously our profits drop off as well.”

If the Obama surge was the determining factor for U.S. gun sales, they should be in the toilet. Give the parlous state of the economy, given that guns are not the most perishable of products, sales should be a lot lower than the two-year-ago level. They aren’t, and Mr. Kent knows why.

Kent says the weakened economy has significantly impacted the sale of firearms and ammunition as well. While people have more limited funds with which to purchase guns, he suggests an increasing interest in personal safety maintains a steady number of guns purchased.

“They feel like, you know, ‘if I don’t have a gun, maybe I need to buy one’ – again, a fear of crime, a fear of the unknown as far as the economy goes.

Roger that. Thanks to liberalized carry laws and growing social acceptance of CCW, new buyers are entering the market, preventing a dramatic drop. Just ask Ruger. Sales of their concealed carry-friendly LCP have propelled them to the top of the U.S. sales charts, ahead of Smith & Wesson.

This is plenty good news for the firearms industry. A flood of first-time buyers opens the door for repeat sales for years to come. If the industry can get its you-know-what together to stimulate those sales, they’ve got nothing to worry about. Except, you know, doing it.

Again, I don’t think the gun business has even begun to tap the potential for the U.S. market. There’s an entire generation of gamers raised on COD who don’t have weapon one. Young affluent urbanites who aren’t buying guns now because they have nothing to protect. When they do, they will. In numbers that will make your head spin.

And then there’s the untapped minority market, ignored in this and other gun biz stories because they’re not at the gun shows and events. It’s an entire gun culture without guns—save the gangs. And they don’t count because they don’t buy legit.

The National Rifle Association reports the number of privately owned firearms in the U.S. is approaching 300 million. The number of firearms rises over 4 million annually.

Despite slipping numbers, gun enthusiasts at the gun show in Florence say gun shows have a long future ahead of them.

“People just love guns. They love the power of a weapon,” Coty Armstrong said while admiring his newly purchased Russian rifle.

“I got a fairly good deal on it. Hopefully I’ll be able to bring down a deer with it.”

Mock all you like newsboy. Mr. Armstrong speaks the truth.

One Response to SC: Gun Show Sales Slipping. But Not That Much

  1. I think you've nailed it. Fueled by concern that the new President would tighten gun control laws, the public responded by shopping the shelves bare of guns and ammunition. They bought the guns they needed (lots and lots of concealable handguns) and also the guns they thought the new administration might try to restrict (ARs and AKs by the truckload.) And they stockpiled ammo like the doomsday clock was ticking past two minutes to midnight.

    This surge in demand caused some temporary pain, and triggered a lot of speculative buying in the hopes of reselling later at higher prices. Some people got burned, like the people who bought the last $40 brick of .22 long rifle. But most of us, in the long run, will benefit because the surge in demand has drawn new manufacturers into the market, both domestically and overseas.

    The domestic gun manufacturing industry has found new life in new market segments. Ruger shed its market image as a supplier of bulky but dependable revolvers and semi-autos, and is now selling gazillions of highly innovative, ultra-concealable handguns. Ruger, along with Remington and Smith & Wesson, have joined a booming 'black rifle' market segment.

    The painful but temporary surge in ammunition prices has drawn a whole new list of manufacturers into that market as well. In addition to (predictably) cranking out billions of rounds of 7.62×39 and other Soviet military cartridges, Russia now produces hundreds of millions of rounds per year of .30-06, .45 ACP, and .30 Carbine. These are calibers for which almost no firearms in Russia are chambered; all of that colossal production run is meant for American consumption.

    There's a virtuous feedback loop starting here: the more people who own and carry guns, the more people will be exposed to them through their friends and neighbors and family, and the more that interest will spread. More interest and gun ownership means more shooters and more shooting, which means more demand for (and, inevitably, more supply of) ammunition of every flavor. Just as Russian Tula 5.56×45 hits American shelves, Hornady is marketing its own lines of premium 5.45×39 and 7.62×39.

    What's the downside? That's a tough one. Lots of us had not choice but to pay too much for ammo, at some point in the last few years. Some retailers got burned, bulking up their inventory with overpriced ammo and black rifles at the market's height. They're trying to sell those guns off right now, at a loss, but that loss is our gain.

    I'm sure Sarah Brady would disagree, but there is no downside to this. It's just all good.

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