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Shooting Industry News has compiled and analyzed The U.S. Firearms Industry Today. Apparently, Solid Business Growth Continues, Yet Caution Demanded. I just got over wanting my MTV all those years ago, now I’ve got to caution the U.S. firearms industry? Anyway, download the pdf here. For those of you’d rather shoot first and crunch numbers later, here are some of the best bits . . .

Here’s the big news: Ruger has replaced Smith & Wesson as America’s top gunmaker. The LCP is kicking some major ass.

In 2008, U.S. manufacturers produced 4,152,082 firearms, an 8-percent increase over 2007. Ruger was the number one U.S. firearms manufacturer (page 32), edging out Smith & Wesson. This is the first time Ruger has reached the top ranking since 2000.

In 2008, Ruger manufactured 599,202 firearms [ED: vs. Smith & Wesson’s 558,235] and was ranked number one in rifle production (page 36). However, Ruger’s largest production gain was made in its smallest firearm, the LCP. Introduced in 2008, the palm-sized pistol was an instant hit.

It’s rare to learn the actual number of units produced for a particular model; however, with the LCP, the number is revealed in the ATF’s “To .380” column (page 35), since Ruger had not made a .380 prior to 2008. The 83,161 LCPs manufactured helped give Ruger an overall 68.6-percent increase in pistol production for 2008.

And now a glimpse at the bigger picture. It seems that gun sales are declining slightly overall.

The FBI’s NICS conducted 5,913,177 background checks during the first five months of 2010, compared to 6,067,141 for the same record-setting months of 2009.

Even when the 2010 figure is adjusted downward, because of an abnormal number of background checks in Utah for April, there was only a 4-percent decrease in background checks in the first five months of 2010, when compared to 2009. That’s impressive, given the extraordinary number of firearm sales in 2009.

In comparing 2010 with 2008, a more “normal” business year, NICS data indicates there was a 21-percent increase in background checks for the first five months of 2010, compared to the same months in 2008. An average 10.5-percent growth, in a troubled economy, is substantial.

And compared to 1654, gun sales are WAY up. Still, you gotta drill down a bit to get a bigger oil spill. I mean, a better picture of what’s going on down at the gun stores.

In overall firearm retail sales for the first four months of 2010, rifles were dominant at 44.5 percent, followed by handguns (35.3%) and shotguns (14.6%).

I reckon the AR boom is still going strong. Not as strong as before, but plenty strong. I’d love to know how .22-firing AR-style rifles are doing. The proliferation of the genre across the range of manufacturers indicates that they’re taking up the slack as more expensive AR sales tail off.

So what’s this caution thing about? The report warns of legislative efforts to curb gun sales, but really, the exact opposite is true. Across the U.S., gun rights groups are rolling back restrictive laws. The U.S. Supreme Court’s McDonald ruling may not have struck down much of anything, but it certainly reflects the tenor of the times. Hard times. Which is the real sales killer. Remember: guns don’t wear out much.

Mostly, caution is demanded by the economy. Companies with market-demanding products — those that engender consumer loyalty — and refined business models will succeed in 2010 and beyond.

Same as it ever was.

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