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Somebody should hire me as a brand consultant. I wouldn’t charge much; I don’t have much to say. Keep the brand as narrow as possible. Focus the entire company’s efforts on realizing and promoting the brand premise, from designing the product to pushing sales to providing customer service. If a new product doesn’t fit you must acquit. If you’re Smith & Wesson, you make revolvers. And . . . that’s it. Smith just about got it right with their semi-automatic pistols. The M&P brand is far enough removed from the S&W brand to establish its own identity. But can it stretch to AR’s? Nope. As good as the rifles are – and they are very good – the branding isn’t strong enough to sustain AR sales, or margins. Don’t take my word for it . . .

Smith & Wesson misfire: Rifle sales drop 50% the headline at reveals. That, friends, is a significant drop. Which had a significant impact on S&W’s overall sales, which also dropped. The company’s second-quarter earnings report tells the tale.

Net sales for the second quarter were $108.4 million, a decrease of 22.1% from net sales of $139.3 million for the second quarter last year. The expected decrease was a result of lower consumer demand and competitors’ excess inventory at distributor and retailer locations, which followed an earlier surge period when consumers purchased firearms in anticipation of possible additional restrictive regulations.

Sales of long guns, primarily modern sporting rifles, were most heavily impacted, declining 50.3% compared with the comparable quarter last year, while handgun sales declined 15.0% — a smaller decline because of continued strong sales of small concealed carry polymer pistols and revolvers.

So “continued strong sales of pistols and revolvers” are the only bright spot in this dismal picture, eh? Tight branding wins. Also note: Smith’s report blames the precipitous sales drop on falling demand and competitors‘ excess inventory. That completely glosses over the fact that Smith & Wesson ramped up production — at considerable long-term expense — to capitalize on the post-Newtown sales surge. Which has left Smith with plenty o’ inventory of its own.

The company’s prez boasts that his minions have reduced inventory in Smith’s distribution channel by 18 percent. “We have the lowest inventory in the channel of any major firearm manufacturer.” Yes, well, Fortune reports that “The company’s inventory has continued to rise. At the end of October, it held $99 million in inventory, up from $76 million at the same time a year earlier.” Warehouse much?

“The company also said it plans to offer ‘aggressive promotions’ in coming months to protect market share. It acknowledged that gross margins could take a hit as a result.

Unfortunately, margins are already looking depressed. Gross margin for the quarter was 32.1 percent, the lowest level since the quarter ended in January 2012.

Sadly, I’m hearing echoes of GM’s fall into bankruptcy here. Profits suck so . . . discount the product! Which cheapens the brand (and reduces profit). Which reduces sales. Which causes further inventory build-up. Which leads to discounting and warehousing. Which leads to more discounts. Can you say death spiral? Again, don’t take my word for it. Here’s doing the Cassandra thing.

Smith & Wesson’s worries don’t end [with falling sales]. The company announced in late November it was buying hunting and shooting accessories company Battenfeld Technologies for $130.5 million. As part of the deal, the company will take on an additional $100 million of debt and fund the rest with cash. Adding that to Smith & Wesson’s $175 million in existing debt, the company will have $275 million in debt.

That’s a potential concern because Smith & Wesson has a covenant on its existing bonds requiring that its debt be no more than 3.25 times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA). For now, Smith & Wesson might appear comfortably below its leverage limit. Before Thursday’s statement, analysts expected the company to generate $114 million in EBITDA in the year through April. That would suggest a leverage ratio of about 2.4 times, or even lower, assuming some additional earnings from the acquisition.

But if sales and profits continue to fall, leverage could creep higher fast. Indeed, the company had EBITDA of just $68 million in fiscal 2012 before the big surge in gun demand. That would be low enough to violate the debt covenant. A spokesperson for Smith & Wesson told CNBC that the company took its “expected future financial situation and the covenants into account” when it borrowed more money.

All of us in business are all slaves to the brand. If we fail the brand, the brand dies. Sometimes it’s a slow, agonizing death. Sometimes it’s quick and painful. But no amount of fancy financial footwork can save an ailing brand. That requires re-dedication to — and refocusing on — the values that made the brand great in the first place. It’s a long, expensive process. There are no short-cuts.

Note to Smith: if you want more seemingly profound piercing glimpses into the obvious, call my agent.

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      • See that’s the thing there.

        I have an M&P15 and I love it, almost as much as my Colts. But when I got it a few years ago I didn’t pay Colt prices because they weren’t going at Colt prices then. When I walked into my local shop recently the comparably equipped Smith pricing was on par or a nudge higher than the Colt 6920s and other models.

        My thought is you shouldn’t price yourself up with the name brand gorilla if you don’t have the same name recognition in that market (ARs), or you’re not a known and well liked boutique maker like BCM or Daniel Defense, you might be pricing yourself out.

        Case in point, I took my brother, an occasional recreational plinker to the shop. I was buying him a present, his first gun, a rifle. He was dead set on getting a Colt AR. I told him to check out the Smiths too. Nope. He always had his mind set on a Colt. Why I asked? They’re the real deal he says, besides they cost the same.

        Eventually I talked him into “settling” for a Daniel Defense DDM4, but I had to convince him it wasn’t some no-name POS. Lol. Newbs. Next one he pays for himself. 🙂

        If Smith starts offering rebates and what not, then it should push the price down to where it should have been already. But they better watch the low end too. Ruger’s AR 556 DI offering is better equipped and less expensive than the stripped down M&P Sport.

        Still a fan of many things Smith, but they priced themselves wrong in this market.

        • ‘Settling’ for a DD 😀 Heh, I like that.

          I have one S&W, a M&P 15T (older one with the 5R rifling). Got it on a good sale at the time (pre SH madness). Next to one target BBL’d upper, it is the most mechanically accurate AR upper I own. Not sure if that can be attributed to the 5R or not, or if it is just a far-sigma sample.

          That said, I certainly wouldn’t pay today’s prices for M&P rifles. Besides, I enjoy building from the ground up nowadays. If I am going to pay that much, I might as well pick the premium parts myself to justify the price (and know exactly how it is put together).

          Yes, I realize that most cannot, or will not, go this route, but it works for me. And when the dog pile of ARs finally revolt, animate themselves and march against humanity, they will see my as their father and allow me to serve out my life in service of their glorious empire.

          /sarcasm 😉

        • I am still seeing the M&P sport priced the same or lower as the new Ruger AR-556. As for features, the M&P has the melonited barrel going for it over the Ruger, but that is about it so you are correct in that regard. If Ruger did a melonited or chrome lined barrel, it would eliminate any reason to get the M&P.

        • It’s part of a business model called “The Life Cycle of a Product.” Even as profits decline it takes some time for the company to react. I own a M&P 15 and I love it. Smith & Wesson really messed up with their proprietary parts on their new AR lines. When customer called about changing those parts out its almost like they were offended and treated their customers in a less than appreciative way. Its what drove me away.

  1. Probably in January or there abouts I’ll get serious about a new .357 reolver. It’s between a smith and a ruger right now. I like a smith. But we’ve done this dance before where their quality slips and they get near ending themselves.

    May push me to ruger.

  2. Your brand focus argument seems to make sense, but there’s one glaring counterargument to it, Sturm Ruger & Co. Perhaps you can do everything as long as you do everything well.

    Anyway, S&W has never had much in the way of innovation even going back a century. They had to spin the cylinder backwards to avoid being sued by Colt, they settled out of court with Glock over their Sigmas, Ruger forced them to make the L frame because you could shoot all the full .357 loads you wanted in a Security Six, they had to recall 7 years of Walther PPKs do to a faulty safety that they ignored the whole time. They have a somewhat undeserved reputation for quality revolvers and that’s the brand’s strongest selling point.

    • The Ruger brand isn’t indelibly linked to revolvers. Or the iconic 10/22. Or any one genre of firearm. I reckon it’s about value for money. Kinda like Honda. So it can stretch.

      • Honda’s a good comparison, but they’ve also had some pretty unique ideas like a mini M14 that shoots .223 or bringing back the SAA or single shot rifle. But bang for buck is Ruger’s legacy.

      • Yeah that’s a good way to put it. When I think Ruger I think value for the dollar, Ameri-Flauge and like the outdoors and stuff.

        When I think Smith, I think revolvers with Hillary Holes that I hate and how I would love to buy some Smith revolvers, but I won’t for political reasons. Don’t get me wrong, I like Smith products and I own a bunch, but my revolver money goes to Ruger unless I find a sweet used – pre-lock Smith.

        Glock reminds me of someone who is a little Aspie. “I hear vat you ist saying, ja und single schtack 9, ja, zat would be nice, ja, ja.” As they assemble 5 million more G22s with a glassy look in their eye.

        • Agreed. I’m drooling over a Smith 586 at my local shop, but the important thing is that it’s a 586-1 with adjustable sights and no Hillary Hole made in ’86. I wouldn’t even look at the same gun in modern production because of the lock.

      • Robert, how do you think a SBR based on the M&P would fair? Beretta has their PX4 and Glock has . . . um Kel-Tec. I think pistol-caliber SBRs are an in-demand niche that could be filled for a relatively small investment.

  3. Don’t forget. They are bidding on a new US army contract. They have the production capability and are US owned. I suspect they will have a great leg up w cost structure.

    • True, but I think General Dynamics will get the most out of that relationship since they are partnering with S&W to provide the military experience, and will likely serve as the primary contractor on the paper work to avoid S&W having to open their books for the government. Government contracts pretty much gave birth to the old guard of the firearms industry, but this day and age where one election cycle can pretty much destroy defense spending, I’d be afraid that all but biggest defense contractors wouldn’t be able to weather the cycles. If they are counting on defense spending to save them, they might back themselves into a corner where they are left holding the bag.

      • “If they are counting on defense spending to save them, they might back themselves into a corner where they are left holding the bag.”

        Isn’t that what exactly what got Colt in trouble?

    • They have a bid with our agency for pistols after losing out to Sig on ARs. I wouldn’t mind an M&P 9mm or .40 full sized service gun. I’ll buy more Smith stuff, just got to make some more money.

      • If your department lets you put in the Apex trigger kit, they would be very nice for duty use. If they don’t, I would pass. That M&P stock trigger is a down-right embarrassment for a company that has an outstanding reputation for their stock revolver triggers.

        • There is a newer version (M&P 151215) of the M&P that has been spotted out in the wild and is being floated in LE agencies. It uses PVD instead of melonite and supposedly has a trigger with an improved reset. My compact has an improved factory trigger that was pretty much identical to the trigger on my sister’s shield. I think they are being slowly but surely working the improvements into the main production lines. Time will tell.

  4. I always saw these companies trying to brand AR’s as their own (S&W, Sig, Ruger, etc…) as foolish.

    AR’s are essentially generic like cola. A company taking a rifle I can build for $500, rolling their logo onto it and selling it for $1,200 never made sense outside of post-Newtown psycho-hysteria buying frenzies. They didn’t offer up anything innovative or new. Just a logo. Brand identification may sell clothing and shoes to the habitually insecure but does it sell firearms?

    • Saying all AR’s are the same is the same as saying all cars are because they all have wheels. The devil is in the details. Or metallurgy and quality in an AR’s case

      • Details that can be manipulated by anyone. Part for part you, I or anyone can mimic any off-the-shelf AR for less $$$. There are a million and one companies manufacturing components at all quality levels. Smith pushing in the pins and tightening the nuts for you doesn’t make their rifles special or better.

      • Most all AR’s are made with 7075 aluminum in the receivers, a chro-moly barrel (or 416 stainless for the higher-end products). The barrel extensions are 4140. The bolts and carriers are one place where I see people trying to market about using more exotic alloys, but the truth is, the mil-spec BCG’s work fine. There’s no rocket science here. Nitriding the bolt? OK, yea, that helps.

        There’s the extent of the metallurgy issue.

        The issues of accuracy on an AR after the major consideration of the barrel have to do with fiddly things like how the barrel fits into the upper and the alignment of your gas tube. Both of those require skilled manual intervention, which no company is going to do (aside from the custom AR shops with much higher prices).

      • I agree that the devil is in the details. Essentially every AR on the market is a custom AR, but the customization specifications are generally chosen by the manufacturer, often with a certain opacity of specs at the consumer end. Metallurgy? Are the key FCG parts through hardened or post-cut surface hardened? At what point was the barrel heat treated and stress-relieved? How thoroughly was the steel quality and post-machining part integrity checked, and how? All bolts? Sample bolts? Mil-spec BCG: How good or sloppy was the key staking on this “mil-spec” BCG?

        There is no manufacturer whom I trust to offer quality parts if the details are unspecified. I want to know who made each significant part, and which grade of part from that manufacturer is included. CMT, for example, furnishes gun-assemblers with three different forged and machined lowers varying in certain details. Barrel makers, too, provide various qualities in terms of production expense incurred to assure quality. If I can’t get those details I suppose I’d default to a Brand Name, but this simply isn’t necessary. Colt? They do not offer the best trigger, barrel, etc. They make the M4? So? Since when (post 1945) did the DoD insist on and purchase the best quality parts for mass-quantity small arms? They do put a floor under quality, but certainly not a top over it.

      • In a $500 AR you sure aren’t getting many Mil-Spec parts.

        If you use mil-spec parts, the cheapest I’ve see for a plain Jane -A3 model is around $1080. At least build it with a mil-spec barrel, bolt-carrier group, buffer & spring (including the tube). It’ll last longer and shoot better.

  5. Here’s a thought, throttle back M&P rifle production, and turn Thompson Center loose to start rebuilding their brand. You can’t tell me there isn’t a place for bolt-action (and hunting pistols to a lesser extent) after all the problems with Remington. I thought it was weird that S&W was buying another company with itself not doing so well. I assumed they must have been doing better than I first thought. Guess not. I’m by no means anti-capitalist or free market here, but what’s with the trend of corporate entities that are in huge debt that then go out and spend money to buy another company and assume all of it’s debt? I’ve seen it time and time again, and I have yet to see an example where it did anything other than drag both companies down.

  6. Too many models in the catalog. You think Rolex, you think Submariner or Oyster. Period.

    Handgun market has changed in last decade to schlock plastic with street prices of 2-3 hundred bucks. You can’t continue to build high quality metal thingy’s when everyone else is pushing plastic without changing the culture of the company. Ruger is doing it successfully. They did it with investment casting. Now plastic. S&W is a big fail on this change.

    Plus they insist and maintain the death grip on that damn internal lock. Like Remington and its trigger recall, at some point they must have signed a blood contract with Satan himself to keep it in their guns. In the tech world it is called “overloading”. Too many damn functions in the gun. How about you guys make a real good gun, and sell or give me a separate trigger lock?

    • The explosion of models might have something to do with defending shelf space.

      In the supermarket biz, the retailer wants the shelves to look like they’re offering variety – even when people don’t buy variety. For example, standard recipe Prego spaghetti sauce accounts for the vast majority of Prego sales. All those Prego variations surrounding it simply defend shelf space for the standard sauce.

      By the same token, if Smith & Wesson only sold a few models, they wouldn’t have an entire case of Smiths/M&Ps at the LGS. But I bet that five models account for 60 percent of sales. Or more.

      McDonald’s started by selling one product: a hamburger. The McDonald brothers created their system because they found that hamburgers accounted for 80 percent of the sales at their drive-in. As they’ve added dozens and dozens of new products – transforming them from fast food to park over there – their brand has suffered. Growth is stagnating. Meanwhile, hamburger joints (e.g., Five Guys) are booming.

      Tight branding wins. It takes a while to play out, but play out it does. If Smith & Wesson concentrated on selling 642s to newbies, people who’ve never owned a gun before, they’d be booming. Even more. If they created a new AR rifle brand with a Unique Selling Point, or, as JoelT1 suggest, ramp-up Thompson Center, they could move rifles. Too bad they moved Thompson in-house, losing the company’s culture.

      • Enough with the GM analogies. GM went bankrupt because of high fixed costs, and a complete meltdown of the financial system. When 30% of your sales are leases, and leasing goes away overnight, through no fault of your own – you didn’t “fail”, you got run over. GM would have limped along for at least another decade in the absence of, you know, a complete farking meltdown of our economy.

        And this whole “branding” thing .. gak!

        If GM had an admitted fault, it was hiring a guy who loved,loved,loved “branding” over products. When a chevy with three different stickers on it is an “oldsmobile”, then you’ve gone off the rails.

        Build a really-really-good product, offer an excellent warranty .. eliminate the farking internal locks , right-size your production capacity to the actual market size & prosper.

        Every company doesn’t “need” to be boeing or ge.

        Smith’s biggest failure to date has been dodgy quality. They’re coasting on the reputation of 1970’s guns, and shipping really *really* expensive guns with canted barrels and other inexcusable nonsense.

        I’ll gladly pay $1k for a super-awesome 9mm revolver, but I won’t “play the quality lottery” (hoping I’ll get a good one) for $1k.

        • GM went BK because from about 2002 onwards, GM was really a HMO that made cars as a hobby. When I looked at their reports in about 2005, I realized that the only place they were making money was on the financing arm of the company (GMAC) and without GMAC, they were producing cars at a negative return to costs.

        • GM went bankrupt because they gave in to too many unsustainable UAW concessions. When GM began introducing robot welders the UAW protected its workers by demanding n layoffs and retraining. But part of that and due to the layoffs that GM did over the years, they demanded GM use furloughed workers to fill-in for absentee workers. To do that, GM has to provide a room for these guys to wait around in. The union rotates the workers into the room. That also means building the room in the factory, furniture, magazines or books to read, and a supply of (free, GM supplied) coffee. Later demands for vending machines and 24/7 TV were met too. And the kicker is that GM actually PAYS these guys to sit around and wait for someone to call in sick, not show up or go home sick. Add the very generous health benefits full time workers get, plus deep discounts on new cars and hefty pensions, it’s a wonder a baseline Chevy doesn’t cost $50k.

      • But then there are the weirdos like me who do look at that large variety and buy the bacon asiago Prego. Because sauce!

      • Ok, I work at a grocery store. I can confirm what RF says is true about keeping things in stock just to offer perceived variety to the customer. In fact one of the company’s “keys of retailing” is to offer what the customer wants plus a little. There is SO MUCH that we keep in stock that just doesn’t sell, but if we didn’t keep them, then the customers don’t feel like they have many options, that’s the thinking anyway.

        Our flagship store started branching out to offer home furnishings and designer furniture, in addition to a jewelry store and a Starbucks. The furniture thing flopped, and now they are trying to sell clothing in the empty space. It’s turning some people off who treated the location as a high-end grocery store because it reminds them too much of Walmart. Now there is only one location doing this, all of our other locations are regular grocery stores, but it’s to test out the market.

        We can afford to offer the variety because, the things that don’t sell, don’t cost much, and we sell so much of everything else that it more than makes up for it. (And depending on the grocery crew, the stuff that doesn’t sell will just go out of date, but because it doesn’t sell, no one notices, and we don’t replace it). I don’t think that works when your variety has a pretty substantial MSRP, and you don’t sell enough of the others to cover the cost of the variety.

        • Then of course, there’s a completely opposite counter-example in the grocery game: Trader Joe’s. They offer one (at most two) version of each item in the store, and 99% of it is store-brand stuff. And people flock to their stores, in spite of the complete lack of variety.

          It’s almost like marketing and management types are just making this shit up as they go along, and nobody really knows what the “magic formula” is… 😉

    • “S&W is a big fail on this change.”

      The SD/VE series gets generally favorable reviews and is a decent seller.

      If S&W can make small, incremental improvements while keeping the cost in the competitive neighborhood, they can make steady revenue off that line.

      • This is what I was thinking, I have an almost 2 year old SD9VE that has been flawless but for a single FTFeed about 6 months ago with some mystery HP reload cartridge my friend had in a coffee can in his garage for years…in that time I’ve put ~1100-1200 rounds through it. Minimalist in the extreme if you ask me, total opposite of a firearm with a bunch of moving, needless parts jammed into it and no external safety to boot. People bitch about the trigger but its surely not defective, just a bit heavy (and fine with me as I consider THAT it’s real “safety”). Anyway, Apex makes a great trigger for it that’s 20 bones as anyone who owns one knows. Seems to me they would take the hint of the SDVE’s good buzz and not get too crazy with the internal bling.

    • WAAAY back in the day, S&W threw in with gun control freaks while owned by a foreign (European) company, and I (and many others) ceased doing business with them until they once again became an American owned company, at a loss of billions to the sellouts. Now, once again, S&W seems to be in the camp of those seeking to sink the 2A. If the company goes away as a result, oh gee. They need to stop selling out to our enemies and expecting us to love them as a result.

  7. For those of you who have forgotten, S&W is one of the companies that sold out their distributors, dealers and customers to the Clinton administration 15 years ago on a gun control agenda. I hope they go down and I won’t miss them for a minute. There are plenty of other gun makers out there who value their customers and won’t shill for the government. If you’ve purchased S&W products, you’ve helped the anti’s advance their agenda. I call on TTAG to lay out the facts of S&W’s transgressions in an article so everyone here who doesn’t remember can see for themselves what S&W represents.

      • H&K was turned into a City of London financial toy for awhile. Is it still? My most amusing gun company moment was when S&W was found to have a convicted armed bank robber as CEO. That was some time ago. The one thing I’ve learned over the years is to buy the item, not the brand name. Logically it is only this rule that, followed by purchasers, can lead to Brand reputations which are earned, deserved. Fanbois in operating systems? Fine. In firearms? It simply leads eventually to buying the crap put out by a management gone bad.

      • Exactly. And I went back to buying their products. Now they are once again pushing the grabbers’ agendas for them with internal locks? This time while they are NOT owned by the Brits? Bye-bye, I think I am done with S&W for life. You tell the grabbers NO! Is that so tough?

        • “internal locks”

          Just like Taurus, I might add.

          No one has to use the lock except the owner; they don’t lock themselves and the government can’t lock them for you.

          With all due respect, you’re veering into the histrionic is akin to crying conspiracy at floor mats.

        • Oh, c’mon folks, let’s put on our big boy pants and recap.

          Who owns Smith & Wesson? Right, it’s Saf-T-Hammer (previously I said Saf-T-Lock, a regrettable brain fart). They’re the company that owns the rights to the device we all call the “Hillary Hole”. They bought S&W, the primary company for which their lock product was designed, but they had low sales.

          So the company that makes the dreaded lock OWNS Smith & Wesson. They hold the patent on the lock and get a royalty for each one used in S&W guns. Is anyone so naive that they think those lock owners will commit financial suicide? Would you? Would you quit a lucrative job because your employer donated to a Democrat’s campaign?

          So quit whining about it. Quit whining how S&W ‘sold out’ to the big bad gubbermint and supports anti-gunners because they still have “the hole”. If you don’t like it you have three choices. Write to the companies and complain while getting others to do the same; boycott the product; or raise the financing to buy them out.

    • It’s my understanding that smith has changed hands and has new management since thiose days. I did avoid smith during that period.

      But I don’t blame germans born in 1945 for what their parents did.

    • You remind me of someone I overheard at the gun range. He was explaining his take on different brands to someone he brought with him that was new to guns. I respectfully kept my nose out of his conversation, but I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the things he was saying. It went something like this, “Oh, I cain’t stand Smith & Wessin! The-air like the democrats of the gun world. They sold out to the Clinton Administration years ago. I will never touch another Smith & Wessin as long as I live!” Keep in mind this was a twenty-something who probably barely remembers anything about what happened.

      The company was owned by different people. As others pointed out, Brits, who of course by their nature sell out firearm freedom. What they did was an act of businessmen doing what they though was a business strategy. Make nice with the people who have the power to end your company, and maybe they won’t end your company. They didn’t count on the reaction of the American people, and how vigorously we’d defend our 2nd amendment freedoms. Even now the gun culture is back on a resurgence after the Obama Administration.

      Here’s a news flash: What S&W did wasn’t unique. I seem to recall something about Ruger supporting magazine capacity limits. Something about no honest person needing more than 10 rounds in a gun, and never meaning people civilians to have 20 to 30 rounds magazines. If S&W hadn’t been made an example of, I guarantee you more companies would done the very same thing, if not during Clinton’s time, then during Obama’s time. But I challenge you, go back and look at the pictures from when TTAG took a tour of Smith and Wesson. Look at the lunch pails with stickers that say “Defend Freedom Defeat the Democrats!” The employees of that company believe in your 2nd Amendment freedom, and they chose to continue to live and work in a state where they can’t even take home and own some of the things they make.

      Smith and Wesson was publicly punished by the American people. The people who did it are no longer in control of the company. Move on!

      • They they should get rid of the Hillary holes defacing the otherwise fine revolvers. Call it a token of contrition. 🙂 I just hate the way they look and I don’t want it on there mechanically, even if it’s not a problem. I know, it’s weird, but I don’t like it so I don’t buy their revolvers. I like their other stuff.

        Ruger finally wised up and now sells .30 caliber magazine half second clips. So they got off the shit list too.

        Cheaper-Than-Dirt is still banned for life in my book. Not just for the massive pussing out they did immediately post Newton, but then for turning right around and trying to engage in atrocious profiteering off of the buying frenzy that ensued. They wanted their cake and to eat it too. They can pound sand.

      • I agree with JoeT1 Every one of the big three gun makers have made a political gaff.
        Every one of three major producers have made poor weapons ( my 2000 era ruger mini 14 will win no prizes.

    • S&W’s move was a death penalty offense and unforgivable. Supporting the brand after their cave-in, regardless of who owns them, lends support for the actions of the brand. It provides value to a brand that should be utterly valueless and forever a symbol to anyone looking to compromise our constitutional rights that anything they touch will turn to shit. The brand is dead to me, as it should be to you, to teach everyone the lesson that collaborating with the enemy will lead to your total, permanent destruction. Buying their products today helps whitewash what they did in the past. Incidentally, the new owners of S&W continued some of the ‘sell out’ policies after they bought the company – which you now tacitly support, apparently.

      GM and Chrysler are no longer owned by the U.S. Treasury but I won’t be buying anything made by either company. Those brands will always represent government confiscation and redistribution – the theft of private property (bondholder collateral) by the government so it could benefit the collective (union members). If you buy one of their vehicles, you’re supporting the previous actions that allow them to continue to exist.

      S&W, GM, Chrysler and any other brand collaborating against our basic rights should no longer exist. Colt and Ruger also sold out, though not to the extent of S&W. There are plenty of other companies making quality firearms that didn’t sell out in any way that you should be giving your business to.

      • I may have been a little aggressive with my post telling you to let it go, but now I’m genuinely curious on just what justifies a “death penalty offense”, and why Ruger and Colt doesn’t deserve the same? You see I’m also a twenty-something who grew up in a home without firearms and had no association with firearms. My interest and firearm education only started just shy of two years ago. I’ve heard in brief what happened, but few more details than that. A google search only reveals brief recountings of what happened or pages that, I kid you not, repeat “Smith & Wesson must die!” over a dozen times in an article without stating why. So please, explain, just what was so unforgivable that new, unrelated owners, (and the freedom loving employees of the company), should suffer a death penalty earned by a different group of people?

        And just what American firearm companies HAVEN’T sold out at one time or another that deserve the money? And I’m talking about larger production based companies that put out original, quality, affordable products. Not smaller mom-pop gun makers that produce their own take on an AR15 and 1911’s.

      • Texmin – with due respect, I think you’re an idiot.

        Did you also support the boycott of the Tompkins plc owned S&W when they agreed to “cave in” to the Clinton administration? How about you other readers? Let’s see a show of hands of those who boycotted S&W. Yep, lots of hands. All of you, including Texmin, have a huge chunk of the blame for the current S&W “Hillary Hole” and the reason S&W is where it is today. YOU are to blame as much (if not more) than Tompkins plc.

        Remember the Clinton administration wanted to require suppliers to the federal government to integrate “locking systems” into their products in order to be considered for purchase contracts. And those purchase contracts included federal grant money given to states/cities to arm their cops. The existing (Tompkins owned) S&W could not afford to lose police contracts for S&W pistols. They were already losing police markets to Beretta, Glock and Sig. Tompkins saw their only chance to save their investment was to play ball with the Clintonistas. The LE market buys tens of thousands of guns every year across many models and several companies because they get used and abused. And of course agencies decide to switch calibers or move to a gun easier to use or maintain. That’s major money to gun manufacturers.

        But the boycott hurt S&W, especially when several agencies selected Sig as their primary handgun. Tompkins at first thought they could weather the storm. But too many people told them they were now “damaged goods” to die-hard 2A people. And our 2A community holds major influence over first-time buyers and novice shooters. So Tompkins unloaded S&W to nearly the ONLY company willing to buy it – Saf-T-Lock. Yup the company owned by the inventor of the dreaded Hillary Hole now owns S&W. You knew that right? I thought so. But did you know that S&W pays a royalty fee to Saf-T-Lock for each revolver produced with the lock? And the guy(s) at S-T-L structured the buyout and loans such that the burden was on S&W, not them. That’s why for many years you could only get a fraction of S&W’s former product line. S&W focused on rebuilding the brand and digging it out of a hole.

        And before you bad mouth Tompkins too much, at least they bought and brought in new tooling and CNC machines to improve both quality and reduce production costs. If you open up S&W frames from the 1930’s, 1950’s, 1970’s and today, the new ones are cleaner, more consistent and better machined. Less hand fitting is required too. Thank you Tompkins for that, at least. And consider that despite all the expensive anti-gun lawsuits, changes in metal prices and regulatory burdens, prices today are not out of line accounting for inflation. I bought a Model 19 in 1974 for $185 because I couldn’t afford the $215 for the stainless Model 66. Today those prices, adjusted for inflation are about $890 and $1035.

        S&W’s L-Frame 686 series addressed a problem with using Magnum loads in K-Frames. Some hold that against them for weird reasons (the 686 is a best seller). But they also create a 2-piece barrel system to address bringing back magnums in real K-Frames. Again, people bitched that it was “inferior”. Yet Dan Wesson used it in their Model 15 series for two decades and earned praise for its accuracy and durability. S&W’s major change was to prevent the end-user from removing the barrels. The sleeved barrel shroud also remedied the issue of barrels being crooked.

        So, if you read this far and still want to boycott them, feel free to make an idiot out of yourself. And oh, by the way, enjoy going to the range in your overpriced, poor quality, union made GM vehicle. You can blame GM for helping nearly destroy the auto industry here too.

        • Errata:

          My error. I said “Saf-T-Lock” bought out S&W when it’s really Saf-T-Hammer who now owns Smith & Wesson. I apologize for the brain fart.

      • +1. On a high ticket item that you need to reliably go boom, not click, everytime your life is on the line you HAVE to trust thd maker, fof the 90% of us who arent alreadh gunsmiths or experienced builders.

        Smithand Wesson had two hurdles;
        The controversh around selling out customers on the gun linitations issue,which is a betrayal of trust, that like texmin points out, is one of those attributes that takes decades ro build, but be lost in a week…Remember how long it took Ruger to get it back, after going fudd?

        They have a long reputation in hanguns. ARs are another matter, at least in minds of buyers. The handgun brand means nothing, as piggybacked to rifle brand, especially with booboo on trust earlier, as any wise long term buyer is gonna wait out the beta model year, for bugs. Selling equivalent tech, for more than same price, vs the competition in long guns, shows just how wrong the S&W management over estimated the goodwill of their brand.

      • Y’all can correct me, I’m working from memory. IIRC, S&W was bought by the Brits for about $8 billion, caved to Clinton, and a year or 2 later was sold back to the US for around $2 billion. I thought a $6 billion smack would leave a lasting mark, and the new S&W did a good job of reearning our trust, until selling out again. Ruger does not have Hillary holes, why does S&W? And caving, by politicians, journalists or companies, should be demonstrated, over and over, to be very expensive, witness congressional elections in 1994, when Dems were absolutely sure there would be absolutely no republicans left in congress, so wonderfully had Dems given them the gun control they all so desired. The nation lit off a nuclear bomb under democrats, some of whom tried to claim it had nothing to do with gun control, but all of whom knew the truth. For more than a decade, gun control was the third rail of politics, it will cost me my job. That is what we need.

      • And my Rem 870 shotgun came with a key lock built into the safety. Should that induce a death sentence on Remington? And should Ruger’s negotiations doom Ruger.

        Let me ask you: If FNH worked a deal that would allow new-production machine guns to come to market, but only if they have a bogus little key lock built in, would you call for FNH’s doom?

        I find the whole “key lock as symbolic of Quisling behavior” silly. However, I find the cutting of corners on the quality of guns produced …under the name of a former trusted quality model…. to be obscene. And common,

  8. They just have to hold on until Hillary runs for president, then people will be buying every AR in sight again.

  9. Remove the frame mounted lock on the revolvers and sell a gazillion new revolvers in following 12 months. I would buy at least one more!

  10. There is really no way to differentiate your AR from your competitors. It is the McDonalds of rifles. It is the kind of product that can come in various quality levels but it looks and functions the same.

    • Not so! Remember: it’s all about the marketing. You’ve just got to choose one aspect of the gun and hit it like Tyson. (Making sure the gun actually embodies that aspect.) The most rugged AR! Easiest shooting! Most accurate! Something!

    • That’s always been my position as well. From my perspective, AR’s are commodity rifles. Once a manufacture says “mil-spec,” well, it’s all over and done, isn’t it? If it truly is mil-spec, I know what I’m getting. There’s no surprise, no embellishment, nothing that’s left to question; you know you’ll pull the (crappy) trigger and it will go “bang.”

      I’m constantly amused by the arguments on teh interwebz about “forged vs. cast vs. ‘billet’ ” receivers for AR’s. It makes not a whit of difference what you choose, they’re all aluminum. The AR design has shown us that plastic (real plastic, not a much stronger composite that I’m derisively calling “plastic”) lowers exist. Uppers need to be aluminum simply for the bending moment of the barrel hung on the front – you’d like a much less elastic material than plastic for that issue. There’s only about four companies that actually make the forgings for AR receivers. Everyone is just machining those blanks, or they’re making their own on a CNC from “billet.”

      There’s so much over-capacity in the AR market it isn’t funny, and I could see this coming several years ago. The days of reckoning are approaching. Unless the Lightbringer, the man who was supposed to heal the planet, keep the oceans from rising and reduce the cynicism in Washington DC opens his yap again, the market is pretty much headed downhill from here for awhile.

      Well, I did my part to prop up the market. I’ve got enough of the damned things that I’m actually considering selling a couple off. Even if I were a ruggedly handsome, chiseled and oiled-up movie actor in the latest action flick, and I had the adoring assistance of a buxom supporting actress in appropriately form-hugging and revealing attire, I still couldn’t shoot more than two of them at the same time, so by my reckoning I’ve got a handful too many.

      • DG:

        Totally off topic. The firing pin on my Zastava M24-47 broke and the gunsmith I left it with could not find another one. I used to know this gunsmith in Alexandria who had a machine shop but is long gone. My fall back to find a complete bolt assembly. What’s your solution? Is there one?

        • There’s three possible solutions:

          1. Scour the web for a M24 firing pin. I see them come up from time to time, often with a matching spring. Search for “M24/47 firing pin.”

          2. Weld up (with TIG, preferably) and re-quench/temper the pin you broke. Where did it break? If it was the tip, that’s likely to require a bunch of build-up and then turning it back down on a lathe. It it was broken in the middle/thicker part, then that’s easier to weld up. The tip needs to be quenched and tempered, the middle not as much.

          3. If you can’t find a pin (which would be the preferred solution), the hard-core gunsmithing approach is to make a new pin from 4140 or O-1 steel (I’d prefer the latter, myself). This would be the most expensive solution, and I’d reckon it would cost probably two hours of time to make one.

        • The M24/47’s actions are a wee bit shorter (.23″ or .25″, I can’t remember which just now) than the Kar 98 or Gew. 43 German Mauser actions. I don’t think the bolts are interchangeable with the Kar 98’s, and if the bolts are not interchangeable, then the pins aren’t.

        • TD, check with Hoosier Gun Works. They have a variety of firing pins, including vz24 and other intermediate action Mausers listed. Maybe they can help.

        • The VZ-24 is a different rifle from the M24/47. The VZ-24 is has more parts compatible with the Kar98, whereas the M24/47 isn’t as compatible due to the different action length, the shorter distance between the action screws, etc. The bottom metal, bolt, firing pin, etc of the M24/47 won’t work in the Kar98 and VZ-24.

          The VZ-24 was made in Czechoslovakia, the M24/47 was made in Yugoslavia.

  11. I am a huge Smith and Wesson fan, but aside from my 649 made in 2005 (I removed the internal lock), the newest gun I own from them was made in 1982 (mdl 29-2). My 19-3, or the 29 make any new S&W look like a damn Rossi or a Taurus.

    • I own a LOT of S & W revolvers, and I think the new classic line is just fine at the price point (caveat: I’m in Ca., where used pre-locks command significant premiums now). The frame lock doesn’t bother me either, although I’d obviously prefer it wasn’t there. I’ll keep buying them because I love blue/walnut revolvers and I want them to keep making them. I just grabbed another beautiful 4″ 57 that was languishing at the LGS because it wasn’t stainless..

    • At least Taurus/Rossi know where to put a key lock that doesn’t ruin the side of the revolver.

  12. I can remember when S&W caved to the gun grabbers and nearly went under. I think some Brits owned it then.
    I don’t own any S&W guns. Glocks, Rugers, Colts, some others, but no S&W.

    • Don’t forget Bill Ruger sold out too, to keep his mini-14 off the banned list. In the long run it backfired though. Before the AWB minis were more popular than ARs, but everyone wants what they can’t have. Still, Bill’s dead and there are a lot of good folks making Rugers today.

  13. Can’t beleive that a company this big can flub the brand like this. It happens, yes, but many people had to agree to the product strategy. My son in his advanced high school business class may have done better if put to the task of product and branding here…

  14. I love it RF. THIS THIS THIS!

    The firearms business is not one to whore yourself out in. 1.50 knives made in china out of garbage steel with the SW logo on them kill me. It’s a major bummer that SW AR’s *aren’t* doing better, because they are fantastic entry level/no frills AR’s. But they won’t do better, no matter what. People think SW and think handguns, particularly revolvers. I also completely agree that the M&P line has enough recognition to stand on its own. It helps that M&P pistols are excellent stand alone products as well. Companies should focus on what their good at: the product that made them. If Glock started producing revolvers or 1911’s, I think the interest would be low enough that people would stay away from them.

    I also agree strongly with the Ruger sentiment: They built their brand on value for the dollar, and that allows them to produce in more categories. I own a ruger pistol, revolver, two rifles, am considering their AR knock off as well. If they produced a modern defensive shotgun, I’d probably buy them as well.

    • I agree completely with the S&W knives and flashlights. Very low quality and a sell-out of the brand. The dilution of the brand certainly outweighs any profits from crappy, cheesy garbage like that.

    • How very true.

      Most people here are young enough that they won’t remember that Winchester made exactly the same brand-dilution mistake by making cheap pocketknives, flashlights, camping lanterns, etc, etc back in the late 50’s and into the 60’s. They diluted their brand considerably with this crap.

      Then Winchester revamped a whole bunch of their products and made them cheaply. Aluminum bottom metal on Model 70’s. The claw extractor – gone. Aluminum in their pump shotguns. Stamped sheet metal carriers in the storied 94. And on and on. What they should have never done is waste time and money on the consumer crap.

      And they should never have followed Remington into the basement of quality. Roy Weatherby started a whole new gun company based wholly on quality finishing and new calibers at the same time Winchester was going backwards on quality and finish. Weatherbys never sold for anything less than a premium. Winchester could have bought out Weatherby or simply put him out of business by catering to the higher-end consumer instead of trying to ape Remington, but noooooo…. the business school infestation of American business/industry was well underway at that time.

  15. The main difference between GM and S&W is that GM’s product has sucked for 50 years. Everyone knows it. You can get people to buy your crappy product if you discount it enough, but you can’t get people to LIKE your crappy product at any price. If demand is out of whack with S&W’s supply, they can discount and get new people to like their quality product and become brand-loyal.

    I’m not saying this is a great business strategy, but it is a very key difference between GM and S&W.

    • I owned only one GM product and had the opportunity to drive two others on several occasions. My wife’s former Buick Lacrosse. My father-in-law’s brand new 2015 Silverado. And my college roommate’s Impala. They all suck. The Buick (a 2006) gave us endless mechanical issues. I spent close to $10,000 in repairs over 4 years of ownership. Absolute piece of steaming Sh!t. My roommate’s impala handled like a brick on rollerblades. And the Silverado rides like crap, has terrible blind spots and visibility around the front pillars. Add in the bailouts, and I will never, NEVER buy a GM product as long as I live.

      • My own GM horror story (98 Buick Regal) is too long to type out here. But it was horrible. It’ll be a long time before I conside buying another car from the General.

  16. They aren’t out of sync with the larger industry as a whole. Rifle sales overall are down similar amounts, and S&W is far better equipped to deal with this than, say, Colt or Remington, who are looking at very expensive recalls and failed ventures.
    You think Daniel Defense or Knights can absorb a massive drawdown in gun sales as easily? no.

    • Daniel Defense will be just fine even if there was draw down. They don’t make budget AR’s and are effectively catering to the niche higher-end AR market, the customers of which will buy what they want, when they want, regardless of the market.

  17. I have no real evidence to back me up but it seems like guns in Smith’s Classic line are a bit hard to find at times depending on the model. This would hint of a decent demand for that line. It also seems to me that their is a bit of renewed interest in revolvers overall. I find nothing near as aesthetically pleasing in the firearms world as a 4″ barrel, medium frame revolver with quality bluing.

    • I’m not sure how many they produce, but they are consistently out of stock at the distributors. I pretty much snap up everyone I come across just so they continue production.

      • Agreed, I have been searching for a S&W Model 27 4 inch barrel for over a year, I haven’t seen one yet. After emailing S&W I found that the gun is still in current production. I assume that means one a month. I wish S&W would start producing more revolvers.

  18. It wasn’t all that many years ago S&W realized they had far too many SKUs in the catalog. They had several versions of every 59XX, 40XX, revolvers you could think of and delivery time was horrid. At that time S&W took steps to reduce the number of items in the catalog. Now they have grown the offerings again, and with the demand of the last few years they cranked out as much production as they could. Suddenly demand has slacked off and all the companies have a lot of inventory. S&W however has one issue…again they have a catalog with vast numbers of SKUs. The more offerings you have, while you may satisfy a niche; it costs you to carry inventory and parts.

    They have how many offerings of the MOE M&Ps? It costs to stock all of the colors of Magpul parts. What sells the best, keep it drop the rest. Folks will still be able to have their color of the month, Magpul will gladly sell it and you won’t bloat your inventory cost.

    The issue that folks hate to talk about with the icons of S&W and Colt is their cost of labor and business because they stay in the northeast. Colt gets killed by union labor costs and regulatory costs. S&W gets hammered by regulation and inventory costs. Do like Ruger if you want to be loyal to the area you were founded; keep the office, move production to more business friendly climates. Hell Remington is even leaving NY just like Beretta getting out of MD…political climate and regulations ran them out.

    • You make an excellent point on labor costs. The difficulty is that they have already established a skilled workforce and precision machinery in the current location. Shifting manufacturing operations to a new region would entail a significant loss of human capital. That said, it may be worthwhile to pull a slow-mo relocation, shifting operations to a more friendly geography over a period of several years.

  19. It’s not just their branding. Their newer 1911’s out of their Maine plant just aren’t as good as the ones they used to build in Springfield. The TA E Series I own had to be replaced and now the replacement is showing signs of premature rust. Not to mention when it arrived it had some reddish corrosion all over the front site as well as an uneven finish. As a result I probably won’t buy a S&W pistol again unless I decide to get a revolver.

    • Absolutely agree with this. In the early years of their 1911 production they worked hard to deliver a quality product, build a reputation and earn market acceptance. I have a pair. I went back looking for a third last year, and found nothing but gimmicks, bizarre fashion statements, and hype. I’d have bought another PC 1911 if they still looked like a 1911. (I’m an external extractor fan)

  20. It’s kind of telling in a way that so many of us read an article about S&W and Ruger pops into our minds. Smith’s brand recognition is based on their revolvers and the only companies making revolvers these days are Smith, Ruger, Taurus, Rossi (owned by Taurus), Charter and a handful of high end low production outfits. The only company that can give Smith a run for their money on revolvers is Ruger. That is about as close as you can come to cornering a market. Kind of like a Chevy vs. Ford thing. Perhaps S&W should concentrate on selling people on the concept of owning a revolver over an auto, or at least if you’re going to own 2 handguns one of them should be a revolver.

  21. I work for a public company that (typically) demands growth, every year. When we and all of our competitors showed a ~25% decrease in sales, management still projected 11% growth to satisfy the shareholders.

    Either you sell more of what you have (revolvers), or when growth of that product goes flat, you introduce a new product line. Problem is, it doesn’t always work.

    So RF, while I agree with you in principle, neither of us has to deal with fulfilling our (unrealistic) promises to a bunch of shareholders who only care about making money on their investment.

  22. S&W is falling prey to the typical MBA mindset in the US: “grow the earnings at any cost” and “we have to make next quarter’s numbers!” leads to some very stupid, short-term thinking.

    S&W has made some very high quality guns that have a niche and reputation that stands well apart from the crowd, and they don’t make those guns any more unless you special order them (or wait an eternity for S&W to decide to do a run).

    Pistols like the Model 41, Model 52. Some of the best competition/match pistols in the US market, pistols that are exceeded only by going to either very expensive European .22’s or going to full-custom 1911’s, and you can’t get them. I’ve had a 7″ barrel for a Model 41 on order for two bleepin’ years with S&W. I finally cancelled it and bought a Clark custom barrel. Check out the price on used 41’s and 52’s on teh interwebz. They bring tidy sums of money.

    If S&W wanted to stand out from the crowd in rifles, they’d investigate making a real match .22 rifle, then get cracking on a marketing campaign with younger competition shooters. There is no one making a production match .22 bolt rifle in the US now. No one. They’re all custom or near-custom jobs. Anschuetz is so expensive (> $2000 to start into the latest 54-family action rifles) that there has to be some profit room in making a $1500 match .22 rifle. But will anyone go after that market? Nah. It’s cheez-whiz and anodized aluminum for everyone and every situation!

    Then they could stand out from the crowd again in CCW revolvers if they made light, five-shot revolvers in .44 Special or .45 Colt – two under-appreciate rounds that would do quite well in CCW use. They’ve made them, but they quit making them because they did nothing to sell them. They just made them and then went back to .357’s and .44 Magnums. Quit with the magnum-itis nonsense.

    But who am I fooling? There’s so much stupidity in American business management that I could have a whole career of hitting stupid people with sticks and I’d deforest an area the size of Texas to make the sticks, I’d use so many.

    • My Model 41 is by far my favorite handgun. It came with 7 inch barrel. I added a 5 1/2 inch Clark, and use each barrel regularly, depending on whether I’ll be using optics or iron sights. Good bluing (but not on the Clark), high accuracy. Just sweet.

    • This. The “MBA Mentality” will always hold the economy as a whole back. Not an ounce of long-term thinking. And it’s not just companies. It’s most of the American people. Only concern for the short term.

      • Friendly argument: I know a lot of people who have MBAs. I have an MBA. I teach in a b-school some on the side. I know it is easy to connect short-term thinking to MBAs, but in reality long-term value creation and the pursuit of sustainable competitive advantage are taught in every MBA program in the U.S. The problem is the prevalence of compensation systems which reward short-term profits rather than sustainable success. If you are looking for someone to blame, corporate boards and institutional investors are worth a look.

      • ‘This. The “MBA Mentality” will always hold the economy as a whole back. Not an ounce of long-term thinking.’

        The “MBA Mentality” was a product of the University of Chicago, Harvard and the London School of Economics, places with little cultural appreciation for long-term investments, systematic knowledge, western manufacturing or personal self-defense.

  23. It really surprised my to find last month that S&W teamed up with General Dynamics to work on some modular handgun system for the Army. If S&W is that far in the toilet why would GD (who is doing quite well) want to do business with them as a partner?

    It strikes me that something is not quite kosher here with S&W’s reports, we all know GD is in deep with the gov’t (eyeballs deep), but to team up with a company whose numbers are supposedly floundering? Guess we’ll see what is coming at some point.

    • I would imagine it has to do more with S&W’s massive manufacturing capacity in addition to a symbiotic relationship.

    • General Dynamics will subcontract to S&W through the prototype phase and if they win the contract, through production. S&W financial issues are not severe enough to give GD much concern. Besides, I guarantee that part of the agreement will be the stipulation that S&W give priority in asset allocation to General Dynamic orders.

  24. Everyone makes AR’s. There are tons of companies, both big and small, that make AR’s in the same price range as SW with features similar enough that most people who buy or build AR’s simply buy whatever is available. Most companies should keep it simple and keep the brand narrow and strong. For SW…revolvers, their fantastic economical metal framed pistols, and their Glock beating M&P pistols. I own a SW AR with an Odin Works rail, but honestly I would just have likely purchased a Sig, Ruger, DPMS, PWS, YHM, BCM, Bushmaster, or other AR had it been available and in my price range of under $1500. For the most part, under $1500 AR’s are way too similar in quality and build to differentiate themselves. Now SW likely has a bunch of AR’s it can’t move quickly enough.

    The good news. Soon high quality AR’s will be available at a steep discount.

    • Agreed, S&W is a handgun company, not a rifle company, and they should never have jumped on the AR bandwagon. I assume their management believed that with the huge market and the ability to charge a premium for its name on a rifle was profit heaven. Big mistake. Why is it that all of these MBAs are so willing to jump into bubbles sure to burst–and almost always too late?

    • Just to make the AR competition even stiffer,
      Armalite has recently added three affordable AR’s to their catalog
      Available in both 5.56 and .308.
      All with dust covers, forward assist and chrome lined barrels.

      Armalite Defensive Sporting Rifle Series:

      Defensive Sporting RifleTM 10
      Defensive Sporting RifleTM 10
      $999.00 EA

      Defensive Sporting RifleTM 15
      Defensive Sporting RifleTM 15
      $699.00 EA

      Defensive Sporting RifleTM 15F
      Defensive Sporting RifleTM 15F
      $699.00 EA

  25. I suspect AR sales are no good anywhere.

    I like Bravo Company uppers, they have had a sale on their uppers that include a free BCM BCG and their muzzle brake for months now. So not only are they cheaper than ever, but you get some serious free parts thrown in. There has to be a reason for this.

  26. Ruger is outperforming my beloved S&W — by a lot — because Ruger’s management is far superior to Smith’s. Period. If the two companies magically switched management, S&W would rule the firearms universe and Ruger would be in Chapter 11.

    • Ruger has all but abandoned California, selling revolvers, yes, but only one pistol–and that will be gone next May.

      • A fact that supports Ralph’s point: Ruger’s management is smart. California is a terrible market in which to sell handguns. Yes, there’s high demand, but manufacturers are forced to chase constantly-changing standards and arbitrary rules designed to make it all but impossible to sell their products.

        I just wish manufacturers would also refuse to sell anything to California’s police and state agencies that the unwashed masses can’t buy there.

  27. Free advertising for S&W: Remember that guy who went postal in downtown Austin recently? He was killed by an officer who was stabling a couple of horses. Turns out, the officer fired his M&P with one hand while holding reins in the other, and took out the gunman with a shot to the chest—at 312 feet.

    • Holy crap. what model was that trooper carrying?

      Was he relared to Jerry Miculek?

      Thats a one handed 100 yard shot. Luck, or serious skilz = RESPECT!

      Ask the resident 3gun guy…Nick, does IDPA ever shoot handgun that far?

  28. S&W is somehow iconic with revolvers, but times change. If you’d have written this article 100 years ago, both Smith and Colt were iconic revolver makers…that’s all there was. Times change, technology changes, and you have to evolve your product.

    Colt caught some lucky breaks along the way: lucrative contracts for two iconic military issued weapons that cemented their position: the 1911 and the M-16. S&W for the most part played to civilian markets. I also don’t think it helped that they were English owned for a time, that’s what really killed the brand.

    However, as I said before, S&W has been here since 1852…I don’t think they are going anywhere. Mergers, buyouts, reorganizations…but the brand is here to stay.

  29. Funny you should post this today, RF. I just picked up a brand new 638 at my LGS this morning. The price was shockingly low. And it qualified for a $30 mail-in rebate. Of note, the lock came out about 5 minutes after I got home.

  30. The bubble in gun sales was destined to peter out after about six months and it appears that it has. Don’t forget that in 2008 consumers nearly sucked the entire supply chain dry of both arms and ammunition. Ammo is a consumable so it needs constant replenishment and manufacturers are producing a lot to meet demand. Guns are more “durable goods” that can last several lifetimes so you need either new buyers or repeat buyers. It remains to be seen who will run for the WH in 2016 and whether Democrats will recover from their midterm losses. Anything is possible and we could see yet another “scare” that drives up both prices and sales.

    There are many 2A rights issues working through the courts. One is carry rights on both coasts that will need to be settled by the high court. We can expect (eventually) the court to weigh in on the protection of both semi-auto rifles like the AR-15 and perhaps even a challenge to the NFA limitations on making new Class III weapons. Several states have relaxed rules on suppressors and more may follow. There are challenges to “approved gun lists” like those used in MA and CA which will tell us if states can infringe the right by demanding features no one wants and some that can’t be done.

    We have to ask what happens in and to the firearms industry if we win. A few landmark cases might change the business dynamics both for good and bad. A ruling relaxing restrictions on carry laws in our most densely populated states could mean a significant rise in sales. A decision in favor of “military style” (aka militia-style) rifles could lower prices and perhaps demand as people relax and put off a purchase decision. That’s bad news for manufacturers. Likewise, limiting how far states can go in regulating firearms as a product (i.e. demanding loaded chamber indicators, extra safety devices, etc.) could increase the market in previously-owned guns while forcing prices lower on new guns. More protections for the ownership, carrying and use of firearms could sedate the market and reduce profit margins. The good news is that it’s likely to spur new owners as prices decline.

    Making things that last a lifetime is expensive and the margins aren’t always very high. (Even less so when prohibitionists attempt to sue for various, spurious reasons.) Adding consumable products – like gun cleaning and accessories – can realize larger profits.

    In regards to quality, there are many complaining about it regarding S&W’s line. Criticisms run the gamut from moaning about the consumer-self-inflicted “lock” to MIM parts to barrel construction. But at one time people turned their nose up at Ruger for using investment castings (“they’ll always be inferior to forgings”) and the idea of plastic guns. The recent specimens from S&W that I’ve owned are at least, if not more accurate than older models. Firearm owners are a fussy lot. One accuses S&W of not being innovative with new designs, yet new designs get slammed because they are too different than “tried and trued” favorites. Why invest the effort and piles of money for a major innovation when surly old grumps and traditionalists will call them junk at every chance. Seems to me that hurts a brand much more than discounting excess inventory.

    Thank you for putting up with my verbosity.

  31. 1) Core products. For S&W I think of revolvers. Win., it’s M70 and ’94. Colt for 1911s, Peacemakers, and I guess ARs.
    2) Quality. Should go w/out saying, but I’ll say it anyway.
    3) Customer support. Ruger’s is top-notch.
    4) Market share/demand. You will note the two largest market increases in recent years has been for 1911s and ARs. Other suppliers have stepped up to meet the demand, and market is nearing saturation. Entry level ARs can be had for less than $500.00 these days. A couple of years ago you couldn’t buy one at all.

    A couple of observations-
    If you have been building 1911s for like a century, there is no excuse for making one of marginal quality. *Ahem* See the mid-70’s Colt 1911s.
    If you slip, somebody will take up your slack.

    All of my Smiths were made before the Clinton era debacle.
    and consequently do not have the heinous safety. They are all of excellent quality.

    I do not own any plastic guns at all. The 3rd-gen S&W autos are just right for me.

    I recall the backlash against S&W for “caving”, but they were literally fighting for their lives.

    • So were all the other manufacturers. S&W chose the wrong path, that of surrender to the pressure. I had bought an S&W airweight for the bride 10 days prior, or that sale would not have been made.

  32. Keep the brand as narrow as possible. Focus the entire company’s efforts on realizing and promoting the brand premise, from designing the product to pushing sales to providing customer service. If a new product doesn’t fit you must acquit.

    Isn’t that what got Colt into trouble?

    A good company should try to diversify its product line. What it shouldn’t do is interpret a short-term, government-induced bubble as a long-term trend, and sink a lot of capital costs into a crowded market where you have neither the advantage of quality/experience, nor price.

  33. Thoughts:

    1. I think various folks are hitting various elements of the truth with their comments. I am going to try (and probably fail) to bring it all together in this post.

    2. This is not a brand issue. Neither the actual brand itself nor the intangible worth of S&W is impaired by its AR line. By most accounts S&W makes a competent rifle. I seem to recall this blog endorsing the S&W M&P 15 Sport as the best entry-level AR. We would have a brand issue if S&WW attempted a brand extension into a product line in which it failed to execute, thus damaging the overall intangible value of the enterprise. That is not the case here.

    3. The real problem is that S&W extended into a product line that has become highly commoditized and which has tremendous sales volume volatility. In the grand scheme of things there is precious little differentiation in an off the rack $600-$800 AR-15. Just about any AR-15 bought in this price range from any one of several credible manufacturers will have similar features as and perform similar to any of the others. Differentiation in the AR-15 space occurs at higher price points and is seen in rifles made by true craftsmen. While S&W does sell more expensive rifles, this is not where it makes its hay in the AR world. This lack of differentiation leads to fierce competition in price and margin compression.

    4. I think it is inarguable that AR-15 sales tend to boom when bans are threatened only to wane when the threat is removed. This leads to difficulties in correctly forecasting appropriate inventory levels and in procurement of raw inputs. I am sure S&W is feeling the pain of its supply chain inefficiencies, as is every other major manufacturer.

    5. If I was running S&W (wouldn’t that be awesome!) I would be tempted to license the brand name to an extremely reputable manufacturer (Windham Weaponry?) allowing me to add value while not exposing me to margin compression and sales volume volatility. I would instead focus on revolvers and semi-auto pistols. FWIW I am a big M&P fan, I own 3 in various sizes.

    • Thanks for the insight. I wws going to opine but lack gun industry insight, so all I’d say is that if S&W got into a new line of guns, and did it in house, then they have a large investment in tooling, plant and equipment, AND the human capital to do it right, and unless you want to simply go into the red faster, you cant compete on price against someone who already has that, with reliable QA, and service, like Ruger, at lower already paid for sunk costs.

      So you have to expand volume, to make up for thinner profit margin, but is the AR segment has cooler, from back when the finance and marketing folks did the busijess plan, so if sales are slowing in ARs overall, then they are stuck, and simply have to waiit out the more thinly capitalized competitors who are getting squeezed in the middle at the good quality for best price segment.

      And take on more debt to buy up low priced related lines, that can be distributed, wider, using SW reach and wiith higher profit margin, that goes back to pay the overheaf, firm-wide, including debt relief.

      Which is what they seem to be doing. Lets hope their debt doesn’t include too much floating rate that can kill them with interest swing. The bond ratings will be early sign, obvs.

      Me personally, on a first AR as practical HD, plinking, not knowing biz, willing to pay for reliability, ie warranty and service, I’d be thinkijg big name with rep for all that, not specically rifles, so SW works, as does Ruger, and until price comes down, not so much Colt, who got fat and dependent on one supplier,

  34. Branding didn’t cause Smith & Wesson’s problems. Most firearms makers make a broad range of products at a broad range of prices and always have. Looks to me like Smith screwed up by making long term capital investments to exploit a bubble.

    • I’ll expound this some. How did Smith manage to sell the bejeezus out of the M&P Shield with a crappy, diluted brand? Are Smith’s revolver sales down compared to other companies’ over the last six or so years? If not, then that pretty well debunks the branding theory.

  35. I love smith revolvers, and am happy to pay $1000 for one, as they are quality. In fact, after trigger jobs, I feel they are better than my Colt Pythons, which people are paying crazy $3000 for, and, I get 8 shots! Locking systems do not bother me…I just don’t use them, no big deal.
    I think Smith, and others, are running into a problem of market saturation, especially in AR market place. Need to come up with a new “gimmick” to excite people – see IWI Tavor windfall the last few months as example. Maybe an AK-AR (piston drive) would have been a better, gimmicky, idea, or perhaps a Performance Center bolt action precision rifle, with a sub-MOA warranty, or something along those lines.

  36. And yet Ruger continues to grow stronger. Ruger continues Bill Sr’s tradition of NO DEBT. Thats right. SR is completely self funded. When the post Newtown surge happened, they continued with their LONG TERM expansion plans. Of course, like everyone else, Ruger is affected by the this post binge hangover. But they are uniquely prepared to weather it. By simply laying off workers, something they rarely do, Ruger can significantly reduce their op ex. With no debt load, they can survive on crumbs, ready to grow when the market again supports it.

    You don’t have to admire SR’s products. But they are easily the best run gun business in the US.


    • I agree.

      Moreover, when Ruger seeks to trim costs, they seek to do so in ways that don’t create safety problems. Many of their guns, while strong as hell, might not be as highly finished as some others.

      The #1 way Ruger got their costs down was to become THE industry experts at investment casting of parts. If I were running a gun manufacturing company and I needed castings made for a gun, Pine Tree Castings (Ruger’s casting arm) would be the first people I’d call, over all other foundries. They know their stuff about casting, and they already know the casting issues with firearms.

      • Thanks, Dys. What do you think of the staineless barrell on the Ruger SR556 varmint. Is it worth the extra weight and cost, for a backup rifle you can leave in corner of hunting cabin, in between plinking, or basing thru hushes and mud on hogs? occasional coyote depredation? Bring on boat instead of stainless Mossy or Benelli M4 H20.

        • I haven’t seen the Ruger AR products in this area (yet), but all my AR’s either have a chromed bore or a stainless (416 or 420) barrel. Stainless barrels tend to last a bit longer than chro-moly steel in the throat erosion issue, and the corrosion resistance is an added plus on any field rifle.

          I personally believe that, given the lack of finishing on AR’s (ie, no blueing, only parkerizing and spray-on/bake-on paints), there’s no reason to not use a stainless barrel.

  37. Here’s yer problem S&W: Your prices are too high. You’re M&P costs more than a Glock so why should I walk away from them? Your AR-15s are lackluster but quality however they cost more than a PSA. You don’t innovate except in high end guns. You’re chasing the pack on everything: Govenor, M&P, AR-15 etc. I’d love to switch my pistols to an American brand but as of yet, I’m not seeing a reason why.
    Get in front of Glock. Get in front of Daniel Defense. For less. Don’t copy Taurus anymore. Ever. Beat Ruger on revolvers.

  38. I gotta stick this in, here, though it doesn’t pertain. I am sitting here reading with Fox News on the TV. They are currently showing a segment on the trial of some shooter, haven’t been following, but the clip is of a lawyer holding a pump shotgun and working the action while the gun is pointed straight at the judge, about 10 feet away. I swear, you just can’t make this shit up!

  39. In a year and a half, S&W sales will go through the roof. Again. And so will every other firearms manufacturer. I will make the prophesy that M&P-15’s will have a wonderful resurgence in sales.

  40. All BEWARE ! On the S&W Model 10, why does S&W continue to have the floating firing pin instead of the traditional hammer firing pin combination ? I had to qualify at the Range on 20 June 15, and I had about 5 malfunctions with this revolver. During double action fire, after pulling the trigger, the firing pin failed to strike the primer on the chambered .38 caliber bullets. I had to switch to single action fire in order to shoot off the rest of the ammunition ! Also, this had nothing to do with the way I squeezed or pulled the trigger.

    If I had to use this weapon for self defense, I could have been killed because of the malfunctions ! This same situation happened to me with the S&W Model 317, .22 caliber snub nose revolver. That time I had over 10 malfunctions because of the same problem with the firing pin not striking the primer. I am beginning to lose faith in S&W !

  41. I agree with the AR15 statement but like all Smith products, they drill holes all over them and fill them with removable “safety” devices or write paragraphs on the slide or Fkup things with their stupid logos. I absolutely HATE the bright white MP on my AR and only bought it because I got the lower cheap.

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