Smith & Wesson Re-Thinks Its Approach to Brownells M&P ‘Dream Gun’


We reported yesterday on the letter that Smith & Wesson sent to Browells and its collaborators on the M&P version of their latest ‘Dream Gun’ project. Smith just released the following statement:

James Debney, President and CEO of Smith & Wesson, said, “I would like to clarify that we fully support the Brownells Dream Guns® Project and we appreciate that it showcases the many ways in which our customers – loyal fans of our M&P brand – can choose to customize their M&P firearms.  Our decision to contact the companies that worked on the project was intended to protect the trademarks that support the M&P brand.  When a product bears the Smith & Wesson and M&P trademarks and is purchased new with our lifetime service policy . . .

we want to be sure that the consumer knows it has passed our demanding quality standards.  In our efforts to protect that promise and to preserve the brand that we and our customers cherish, we did not fully understand the intent of the Dream Guns® Project and we overlooked the opportunity to convey our enthusiasm for the creativity and innovation that Brownells and all of the companies involved have demonstrated.  We look forward to seeing the firearm on display at the upcoming SHOT Show in January and at the NRA in May.”

And this from Brownells:

“I have spoken with James Debney, President of Smith & Wesson, who called me regarding the M&P® Brownells/Apex Dream Gun™,” said Matt Buckingham, Brownells President. “It was a simple misunderstanding about the intention of the project.  He made it clear that Smith & Wesson is excited to have their product featured in this fun and unique way.  For our part, we are honored to include it in our Dream Gun lineup. Smith & Wesson is a legendary brand in this industry and we continue to be proud partners with them.”


  1. avatar Mk10108 says:

    That’s how you Backstroke

    1. avatar BigBoy says:

      Nicely done.

  2. avatar Greg says:

    So….. Smith and Wesson doesn’t understand the ramifications of pissing off their customers?

    1. avatar Andrewinfrfx says:

      I know that I might be going against popular opinion, but I blame Brownells more than S&W. When you receive a letter like they did (and when you’re a big business you will receive correspondences from lawyers) the best course of action is to resolve any issue prior to going public and airing dirty laundry.

      Frankly, this strikes me as Brownells taking advantage of a mistake by S&W to gain some free publicity and perhaps play the victim card to gain sympathy among consumers.

      1. avatar Mike Sigouin says:

        Brownells didn’t do anything. We made it publicly known because we don’t exactly have the resources to fight something like this. So blaming Brownells is pretty much stupid.

        1. avatar Andrewinfrfx says:

          Didn’t have the resources? Like a telephone?

          In my personal business matters I’ve been on the receiving end of a few misunderstandings. I understand that one can feel personally victimized when you’re on the receiving end of an error or misunderstanding. However, you have to realize that 99.9% of the time these things are simply errors or misunderstandings. Sure you can go and scream from the mountaintop that you were wronged by someone else, and, in a sense, you’d be “right.” You can even go out publicly state bad things about said entity and let everyone now your feelings on the matter. They are your feelings after all, and nobody can say that your feelings are either right or wrong.

          However, you have to understand that antics like trying to publicly shame other companies (especially before getting the facts straight) don’t go over well in the business community. As I stated before, you can scream and moan when being on the receiving end of a business misunderstanding and be “right”, but it’s foolish to think that others won’t notice and perhaps choose to not do business with you due to a now substantiated concern that you might try to publicly smear another business if they ever make the smallest mistake, especially before giving them the chance to make things right.

          There are countless, now bankrupt, businesses where the owners let their feelings rule over their brains. That, along with publicly calling people that disagree with you “stupid” is, well, a stupid thing to do in business.

          To see a more proper and productive response, you can simply read Apex’s statement: “After our initial shock, we came to realize that there was a gross misunderstanding on the part of the lawyers as to the purpose of the pistol we collaborated on.”

        2. avatar George says:

          @Andrewinfrfx (actually)…interesting…so S&W gets the pass in your mind when it was their own overreaction courtesy of their imbecile lawyers that started this mess? You speak of a telephone call; well, that goes BOTH ways. S&W could’ve contacted Brownell’s and/or Apex and simply ASKED what was the nature of the project. But instead they chose to get all indignant, highfalutin and legal like and decided upon issuing that egg-on-face C&D letter. Now really, who should be the one at fault for being the FIRST at making bad assumptions when it comes to not using a friendly and courteous communication channel? S&W deserved all the venom that they received. Besides, if they seen fit to design and make their M&P triggers halfway decent from its inception, there probably never would’ve been an Apex alternative to begin with.

      2. avatar Deon says:

        Seems to me you and S&W is right and everyone else is wrong…

      3. No… Blown Deadline blew the whistle when sw demanded they turn over every modified or ceracoater or stippled that blown deadline posesses..
        Go read the dead letter.

        1. I didn’t exactly “blow the whistle”. I informed Damkn of SSVI regarding the matter because he had yet to see the letter. I saw it and was immediately in the phone with the parties involved. SSVI decided to take it to social media which I followed suit. S&W has much deeper pockets than all the parties involved and I figured this would either destroy my company or social media would come to all of our defense. I’m glad it’s al sorted out and pretty much yesterday’s news. To me at least. There’s still much damage control S&W has to tend to but for now I’m over it!

  3. avatar Cowabunga Dude says:

    I saw the lawyer-y letter sent to SSVI yesterday, and it certainly didn’t have any of that flowery language in it. Methinks I’ll be sticking to brands other than S&W from now on. With so many solid offerings out there, I don’t need to be sending any of my money to Massachusetts, for any reason.

  4. avatar NDS says:

    Blah blah blah we didn’t mean exactly what we meant when we wanted to be all tough with our IP.

    Big talk coming from the creators of the slightly-more-comfortable-to-hold-for-some Glock.

  5. avatar dph says:

    So S&W stepped in the middle of a pile of shit and now they’re trying to scrape it off without ruining their shoes or getting any on their hands. Good luck with that.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      “…and now they’re trying to scrape it off without ruining their shoes or getting any on their hands.”


      That’s what their corporate lawyers are for…

      1. avatar dph says:

        Their corporate lawyers are the ones who didn’t recognize the pile of shit to begin with.

        1. avatar sagebrushracer says:

          I could train them! My neighbors own horses and my dad has a small flock of lawnmowers (sheep), I could charge them a small training fee, then they can muck out the stalls. After that, if they don’t recognize a pile of shit, I don’t thing there is much else you can do for them.

    2. avatar David B says:

      Good grief. People make mistakes and misread the intentions of others all the time. Open and public communication between men heals all wounds. All have kissed and made up. Rejoice. It’s Christmas. Show some loving and peace. Bunch o’ drama queens here.

      1. avatar Cuda says:

        Making a mistake is one thing, sending a letter of seize and assist without any contact or looking into what the project was about to begin with is a total fubar and S&W will have to live with it regardless of the back peddling.

        1. avatar Jacob H says:

          Seize and assist?

      2. avatar larrylarry says:

        exactly this. S&W and their lawyers went all “OH NO! MY IP!” without bothering to check the facts first. S&W does the right thing, eats some crow, and people demand boycotts anyway. S&W is now reassured that this isn’t some custom job being passed off as a factory offering, and the DreamGun project people have their blessing to keep doing cool stuff. Personally, I’d looove to get a new M&P with that finish on it. Maybe this will inspire their custom shop people? Win/Win/Win!

        If we’re going to try and bankrupt every gun company that makes a mistake or puts their foot in their mouth, we might as well just stop buying guns. It’s not the screw up that matters, it’s the response by the company that you should be concerned with. Gun people can be their own worst enemies sometimes…

        Anyway, merry Christmas guys. Have fun, be safe, and keep your stick on the ice.

    3. avatar GusMac says:

      If they really want to repair this negative publicity it might not hurt to at least indicate they are planning to come up with a different policy for these kind of issues in the future. Like some simple phone calls as many have pointed out is a good place to start.

      Yes everyone makes mistakes and stupid decisions. It is how one addresses those mistakes and plans to do better in the future that becomes the issue to focus on.

  6. avatar Bdk NH says:

    Product manager got out of their swim lane. Happens all the time. Very cool gun but the faux wear thing isn’t for me.

    1. avatar Mk10108 says:

      Got out of their swim lane….my chuckle for the day.

  7. avatar shrimpmoney says:

    Someone in their legal team had an itchy trigger finger, and it resulted in a negligent discharge.

    1. avatar notalima says:

      Lawyers gonna’ lawyer. 😉

    2. avatar Cuda says:

      Bingo!! Bet the legal group never took the letter up the channels and someone is now looking for new jobs at Christmas

      1. That would be unheard of. Unthinkable malpractice to threaten a lawsuit on behalf of a client who didn’t authorize the threat. It never happens.

  8. avatar Mike Sigouin says:

    All just a misunderstanding. I’m glad things worked out how they did. Social Media is a beast, specially when it gets rolling it morphs into absolute insanity.
    Mike. Blowndeadline Custom

    1. avatar Dirk Bauerle says:

      You even keep saying that it was for display only and everyone and including S&W didn’t listen to you!!!! It should’ve been a honor to S&W that used there gun!!! I guess they realize it now!!!!

    2. Mike, if you had said you were going into production would they still be after you?

      1. I would assume so! But if that were the intentions we would have removed all logos and trademarked symbols from the entire pistol. This was meant to display both the aftermarket companies and S&W’s products!

    3. Mike..
      The thing that really pissed me off.. and prompted me to call sw customer care..
      Was they demanded you turn over all your modified guns like it was their right.
      Like they own your property, even after you buy it.
      Fuck them

  9. avatar Wesley says:

    Ehhh…Apology accepted S&W…You were only seconds away from having to deal with yet ANOTHER angry phone call and this time from an Army veteran, I am a S&W fan and I love the products, It’s sad I had to rethink my rabid loyalty to my favorite brand of firearms…

    But Smith and Wesson, Keep those lawyers on a leash next time? They will really do your company in like it did in 2001…

  10. avatar Mad Max says:

    That’s what they get for listening to their Philadelphia lawyers without thinking first.

    If you are a CEO that lets the lawyers and bean counters run your company, it will die a slow and painful death.

    Listen to your lawyers and bean counters, investigate further, and then make the decisions yourself.

    1. avatar Tom in PA says:

      A Philly law firm. That explains alot…..

  11. avatar Patrick Wilson says:

    S&W got 1 upped by Apex Tactical Specialties again & now they are backtracking

  12. avatar Jeff says:

    I’m inclined to cut S&W some slack. It looks like their corporate IP attorneys jumped the “gun”, so to speak. Having worked with the IP lawyers for the company I worked for, they are always alert for violations of their IP rights, especially trademark. IP rights need to be vigorously and promptly defended in order to retain those rights, otherwise your rights to the IP become diluted. I suspect the attorneys did this automatically without consultation from senior managment.

    1. No way was this done without the express approval of top brass at S&W. This is not some routine letter, it is a extreme/aggressive/creative legal position that will have been debated by the lawyers and management, and undertaken after what should have been careful thought.

      In 25 years of practice as a patent and trademark attorney in teh firearms industry, I have NEVER seen an incident where the lawyers sent a letter threatening a lawsuit without express approval of the client. Never.

      What I think is notable is that the S&W retraction is: “We’re retracting because we didn’t realize this was a one-off not for sale.” There is nothing to suggest that S&W wouldn’t still go after any customizing shop for selling product like this.

  13. avatar lionsfan54 says:

    Maybe make the phone call BEFORE you lawyer up?

    1. avatar Tom in PA says:

      Spot on bro. Mr. S&W Exec – just ask yourself this question: “If I was a reasonable person instead of an narcissistic S&W exec dripping with hubris, what would I do in this situation?”

  14. avatar Tom in PA says:

    They were getting crushed on their Facebook page. I was actually planning on buying a M&P Shield but I’m going to reconsider. This kind of behavior just showcases their arrogance. They could have made a dang phone call to Brownells and others to ask them to make a statement protecting the S&W trademark. Do it the right way – as in: “How would I like it handled if I was on the other side, and how will the customer base see this?” The reason S&W appears arrogant and unreasonable is because they are.

  15. avatar IL-annoyed says:

    Meanwhile, Glock enjoys the success of 3rd-party companies making great parts & accesories.

    1. avatar Andrew says:

      To be fair, though, I don’t know of anyone buying Glocks, putting in a bunch of aftermarket parts and then selling the whole gun as “New and Improved Glock 2.0.” There are rightfully some concerns S&W should have when someone is taking their product and selling it modified, but still “new,” and still having S&W branding all over it. Case in point, what if the “improved” guns turn out to be crap because while each of the upgrades on their own improve the gun, they turn out to not like each other very much and cause issues? Consumer might very reasonably look at them and think “This is the improved M&P? How much of a turd was it before the polished it?” instead of realizing it was incompatible upgrades. That’s basically a textbook example of trademark dilution if there ever was one. They overstepped and were a little too proactive with the C&D language, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on this one.

      1. avatar Nota Hipster says:

        “To be fair, though, I don’t know of anyone buying Glocks, putting in a bunch of aftermarket parts and then selling the whole gun as “New and Improved Glock 2.0.” ”

        Zev comes to mind.

        1. avatar Tom in PA says:


        2. avatar Ken says:

          Suarez, atei, et. al.

      2. The real world solution is simply for S&W to ask their CUSTOMERS who resell customized versions to be clear with a disclaimer: “This pistol is a modified version of the original S&W pistol, and S&W does not warrant or endorse the product or its design.”

        1. avatar Andrew says:

          Well there you go using common sense and discretion. You know we can’t have that!

  16. avatar STW says:

    Until I replaced the trigger with an Apex I thought my M&P45 was the biggest gun mistake I’d ever made. I sure would have liked to be listening at S&W when this letter blew up on them. Somebody is not having a very merry Christmas.

    1. avatar larrylarry says:

      what did you replace with specifically? i have a M&P9 and the only thing i don’t like is the trigger.

  17. avatar TEXAS_Hogger says:

    This is going to leave some nasty tearing and bruising.

    Ruger GP100 anyone?

  18. avatar Pichie says:

    I don’t care what some lawyer released. Smith and Wesson has the best customer service out of any other firearms company I have dealt with (10 years in the business). I called them yesterday to order a new magazine spring and they sent me a spring and a whole new mag for free saying merry Christmas. Most companies will claim modifications void warranties to cover their own butts. Doesn’t change the fact they make great, quality guns and stand by them.

  19. avatar John D. says:

    Here’s how the call really went:

    James Debney, President and CEO of Smith & Wesson: “Matt, this is Jim Debney. Some douchebag junior lawyer went rogue and had our IP attorneys write a letter without checking first. We fired his ass. All ok?”.

    Matt Buckingham, Brownells President: “Yeah, sure Jim. Let me know his name so I don’t accidently hire the a-hole.”

    1. As I have said elsewhere on this thread, lawyers NEVER send letters like this without their clients’ authorization. If that happened here, it would be the first time in my 25 year career I had ever heard of it.

  20. avatar Accur81 says:

    Gun companies employ people, and people make mistakes. Ruger and Smith execs cozied up to gun control. Glock has / had some pretty exciting ‘incentives’ to LE reps who can make purchasing decisions. Colt is in a tailspin because they didn’t cultivate civilian customers. LaRue Tactical has a massive backlog on gun orders. Remington jacked up triggers on thousands of 700 series rifles and made the R51.

    You’ll find yourself in rarified air if you want to purchase from the perfect gun company. I’ve built my own guns and I make mistakes too.

    1. avatar Cadeyrn says:

      Don’t forget H&K US which completely scorns US consumers and thinks it can make a go of it just by selling guns to the military – even if the point of aim may shift a teensy little bit after firing a lot. Maybe they should have been protecting their brand or developing goodwill too?

  21. avatar Shwiggie says:

    Tempest in a tea pot. Vigorous protection of trademark is a necessary thing to protect their brand. But when it got turned around on them publicly and bit them in the duff, they made the executive decision to play nice, again, to protect their brand.

    Yeah, a phone call would have been nice for the parties contacted by letter. I’m sure S&W would have appreciated a call back instead of being run through the social media wringer, too. It’s over, now.

    1. This was not the normal, healthy, vigorous enforcement. This was an aggressive legal theory stretched to the point of ridiculousness. And they have not retracted their theory, and only dropped this because no guns will be sold.

    2. Sorry..
      You demand a private company turn over private property because it WAS modified,
      As if that is your right as a manufacturer shows how arrogant and short sighted S&W is.

      And… how clueless they are about the gun community…
      They don’t get a pass by saying.. “sorry our lawyers went nuts”

  22. avatar MikeyCNY says:

    I personally think both sides went overboard, but I knew S&W would come “clean” as it were.
    Maybe as an apology they can have another “Buy an M&P and get a bunch of mags free” deal. Hint hint. 😉

    1. Overboard? You really think so? I’m not a million dollar business that can afford to spend 6 figures fighting a mistake on their part. Social media was my only recourse and it seemed to have done the job and not cost me a penny

  23. avatar Mike Sigouin says:

    Just got off the phone with the CEO of Smith & Wesson. He apologized for the misunderstanding and wishes it never came to this. Someone at a low level position jumped the gun and unleaded their attorneys without looking into anything. S&W is a huge company. Communication was definitely lost but it happens. I have a new respect for them thanks to a simple phone call. Funny, a simple phone call could have avoided all this in the first place. Now let’s get back to making cool stuff!

    1. avatar Cuda says:

      Mike you’re a better man than I, I would have demanded a 1000 piece run !!! Glad you are forgiving and taking it in stride, keep up the awesome work!

    2. That a mid-level S&W exec is responsible for this miscalculation makes much more sense than the notion that a lawyer would threaten a lawsuit without authorization.

  24. avatar Carlos says:

    How I read it: “We’re sorry that the high-priced individuals (re: IP lawyers), whose job it is to protect our money-making trademarks and copyrights, decided to tell Brownell’s, Apex and the Shooting Consumer what they can or can’t do with our product. We are backtracking now because of the all the negative publicity this has garnered.”

    Well Shit & Weasel, I supported you when you backed out of the Klinton-HUD anti-gun contract by purchasing an expensive revolver. But I’ll be damned if I buy another of your products because as far as I’m concerned, you have way too many *SPIT* lawyers that are just itching to take me to court should I dare to modify any of YOUR PRODUCTS. I have the distinct feeling that your company would leave holding the burning pile of shit should YOUR PRODUCT fail just because I dared to change something as benign as the sights.

    I think I’ll stick to my Glocks, thank you!!

  25. avatar PeterW says:

    Thank God for the 1st Amendment, which allows us to ‘shoot our mouth off’ even if wrong, then backtrack before resorting to using the 2nd Amendment.

  26. avatar Randy Sanders says:

    Maybe they will make some of their best metal pistols again, instead of more fantastic plastic.

  27. avatar Vitsaus says:

    I didn’t get to sore at them. The M&P is about as far from my “Dream Gun” as it gets.

  28. avatar Stinkeye says:

    That gun needs more slide serrations. I think I see a half-inch at the front that’s still smooth.

  29. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:


    This is yet another case of some low-level flunky in an otherwise good organization pooching the PR and brand loyalty with a dose of the stupids.

    Rather than write up the letter we saw yesterday, the S&W IP lawyers could have made a phone call (which leaves much less of a record that could be splattered all over the ‘net) to Brownells and said “Hey guys, please give S&W appropriate attribution and trademark notation in your article.” That’s it. That’s all that needed to be done. I’m sure the crew at Brownells would have been happy to make any adjustments.

    But noooo. Some junior lawyer in Brooks Brothers suit decided to shoot off a letter with all manner of stupids in it.

    1. avatar Jimbo says:

      For sure, rarely do people exhibit the anger and hate in personal conversation that they seem so quick to manifest on social media.

      The issue appears to be resolved with merely a phone call between Brownells and S&W. I honestly don’t understand why the custom shop posted what they did before putting in some due diligence to resolve the issue.

      S&W admits they made a mistake and the custom shop looks like they have no self control and good sense by posting on social media something for gun dudes to get mad over. I think the fact that TTAG had to remove and revise the original story yesterday is proof of this.

    2. avatar Cuda says:

      It’s ok that low level lawyer is taking his new BMW back to the dealer today since he can no longer afford it!

      1. avatar Accur81 says:

        Those early lease returns are great deals. I got a 2001 Mustang GT and 2011 Infiniti G37S off of vaguely similar circumstances.

      2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        Well, we can hope that’s the case.

  30. avatar Rog Uinta says:

    If S&W was actually concerned about their trademark they wouldn’t be putting it on containers full of crap knives, watches, lights, and other “tactical accessories” made in China by the lowest bidder.

  31. avatar James says:

    I bought a m&p 9 sheild put the apex trigger in it and sold it a month later I thought it was junk i”ll stick with my Ruger 1911 cmd lightweitht .45

  32. avatar jcsabolt2 says:

    Still waiting for S&W to remove their locks…I will keep waiting. Ruger will get my revolver business.

  33. avatar James in AZ says:

    And there I thought I had an excuse not to buy my second M&P. Gotta think about that

  34. avatar Regor says:

    As noted earlier we have to avoid eating our own on stuff like this. Look at the TTAG posts from today–NBA and Bloomberg teaming up, Judges upholding ridiculous taxes on guns and ammo. Save your ire for writing to your elected representatives! We need to stay focused on the fights that matter not overreacting to petty mistakes between industry insiders.

  35. avatar Fred Frendly says:

    In other news, Glock demands you take those stupid “Punisher” skull back plates off immediately.

    1. avatar Stinkeye says:

      I was against the S&W business, but I would support Glock 100% in such an effort.

  36. avatar Cadeyrn says:

    Also, sorry, but “Dream gun” needs to have this one in play:

    Sure, it’s an AR at a five-grand price point. But… that’s a dream!

  37. avatar Sixpack70 says:

    Looks like Smith’s legal department had a ND to the face. That would explain the brainless letter they sent out.

  38. avatar Rhett says:

    I don’t think they had a leg to stand on anyway. I’m recalling the case of Nintendo vs galoob. Where Nintendo sued them for making the Game Genie. Despite it being copyrighted software. They were allowed to make the product because once the consumer bought it and took it home he could modify it however he wished. Funny how a video game case applied to firearms.

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email