In Part 3 we took at look at HK and SIG SAUER (part one here and part two here). In this issue we’re going to look at two American names known for their quality revolvers and direct competition against one another for the top spot in wheel gun dominance; Smith & Wesson and Ruger.
Smith & Wesson
As long as they’ve been around, Smith has a long, extensive history of print ads, battling it out with a number of rivals over the decades. Their ads range from colorful to downright questionable. So let’s take a look and see.
Here we have a S&W Model 29 being advertised in a simplistic but well laid out ad. By this point, the N-Frame was a known quantity, so flashiness wasn’t needed.
This ad is almost painful to look at. None of them except the plainclothes officer looks like an experienced cop and even then that’s questionable. If you recall SIG’s ads, their cops look like cops. Still, it’s a good layout and informative enough.
Here we have what could have been a well done Bangor Punta era ad if it was done in color. The ad itself is too dark to see much detail. If it were in color you’d see a classic S&W N Frame being worked on by skilled hands. The message is there, but the quality isn’t.
A 90s-era ad showing off the new 3rd Generation Value Line series of guns. It looks great except for the white text on that background, which gets a little hard to read in spots.
Here we have an early Sigma ad. The design is simple, but bold. The text is easy to read and the presentation of the pistol is well done. I’d go so far as to say the ad is better than the gun itself.
Here’s a nicely presented SW99 Compact. The full page photo of the pistol with the small text box is again simple, but nicely balanced. The lighting accents the pistol well.
A Sigma .380, horrible pistol in a decent ad. The “actual size” photo of the .380 was a common thing back then, especially for compacts. The manufacturers really wanted to get the reader to understand the size of their guns. Compact CCW class guns were a whole new market in the 1990s due to the explosion of shall-Issue CCW laws.
A 2nd Generation Sigma ad. That photo is a little dark, but at least they’ve added some texturing to the sides of the grip.
Another full size Sigma ad. Simple white background and comforting S&W blue text with some nice photos and explanation of the pistol works well together.
A full size SW99 being shown off as fitting in both a man’s and a woman’s hand. I like the subtle swirls in the background along with the inclusion of a black model’s hand. Indeed, times had changed and S&W was on board.
The classic S&W attack ad against Ruger. Since the Ruger revolvers are made form the lost wax method of casting. They tend to be thicker guns. But Ruger also made them somewhat stronger, too for heavier loads. That didn’t stop Smith from attacking them and claiming that their wheel guns are just as strong and since they’re forged, they’re thinner too. Cast versus forged is an age-old debate. Both are just as strong when done right. This is, in my opinion, the best S&W ad of the era.
The main rival to S&W in the 80s and 90s, Ruger was making some damn good guns (and ads) back then, including their own attack ad, firing back at Smith.
The P90, Ruger’s first .45 ACP semi-auto laid out nicely.
Clearly an 80s-era ad. Here we have a Ruger P85 with a black background and a nice electric blue outlining. It is simple, clean, and eye-grabbing.
The Mini-14 Ranch rifle showing off the best feature of the gun — the ability to mount a scope without a goofy aftermarket mount. Red Ruger name and logo catch the eye.
Here we have the GP-100. It’s a simple ad with almost no text. The gun itself is the selling point here.
Here we go…Ruger’s attack ad. Here they defend their design, comparing a GP-100 and a S&W Model 686 side-by-side (the Smith’s frame is “thin” while the Ruger has a “full frame”). Ruger claims that makes their design inherently stronger. They did a good job here and the use of graph paper was a nice touch. Less comical than S&W’s ad, but just as strong.
A Steel I-Beam and grid lines going off into an infinity of blackness make the stainless revolver pop. Simple but well done.
So there you have folks, the battle between Ruger and S&W. In Part 5 we’ll look at Beretta, AMT, Marlin, and others.
Commercial Art: A Look at Classic Firearms Print Ads – Part 4