The consequences of proposed legislation across the USA on the gun industry are being addressed in a series of adverts and videos produced by the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
The hastily conceived and proposed legislation in many states and even in the US Congress has been generated by emotion – a response to the school shooting rampage in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14th last year. It has been propelled by a belief by some that banning particular firearms and putting an arbitrary limit on magazine capacity, and even ammunition purchases, will lessen the likelihood of the criminal misuse of firearms.
Of course, criminals don’t obey laws and, with history as a guide, the impact on incidents of crime would be negligible.
Innocent and law-abiding citizens, however, would be dramatically impacted by the passage of such legislation. And this is not a hypothetical ‘what if’ scenario.
In Colorado, for example, new legislation limits the capacity of magazines. As a result, upon the signing of these bills by the state’s governor, magazine manufacturer Magpul Industries announced it would begin manufacturing magazines outside Colorado.
Magpul’s action was just the first of several possible moves by manufacturers in those states adopting new restrictions on firearms’ features and magazine capacities. Pro-gun states are aggressively recruiting companies to move there by offering tax-incentive packages.
Leafing through the wreckage
Left behind, inevitably, are the workers who choose not to relocate with their employers.
Also left behind are the vendors who do business with the Magpuls that move their facilities. The direct and trickle-down economic impact on hard-working citizens, many of them breadwinners, is severe.
We can hope that government officials would be compassionate about the plight of these businesses and their employees. For most politicians, however, the factor that often gets their attention is votes. Each of these people potentially displaced from the workforce is a voter.
Connecticut is home to many firearm manufacturers. The Connecticut River valley, in fact, is commonly regarded as the birthplace of the firearm industry in the USA. It is also one of the states that quickly after the Newtown school shooting reacted rashly with restrictive gun-control legislation.
Connecticut is also the state where the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) is headquartered.
NSSF, as the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting-sports industry, has dedicated its mission to promoting, protecting and preserving hunting and the shooting sports.
To help fulfill that mission, the NSSF has produced a 25-minute video in which the employees and management of three Connecticut-based companies in the firearm industry speak out about their jobs and their combined economic impact on the state.
Available on NSSF’s YouTube channel, the video, by late March, a mere month after its release, had attracted more than 16,000 views (www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsR7U6Tha78&rel=0).
That film demonstrates the challenge that new gun-control laws present to these companies and the individuals who comprise their workforce. And it should be clear that each of these people votes.
Getting the message out there
Similarly, the NSSF produced television advertisements for these same three companies – Colt’s Manufacturing Company, O F Mossberg & Sons and Stag Arms.
Featured, again, are management and employee personnel. Their message is, in part, that an outright ban on the sale of popular semi-automatic rifles and magazine bans of a specific capacity present the real prospect of decreasing good-paying jobs in Connecticut.
The ads aired on cable television around the state. If you’d like to view the ads, you can see them online as follows:
Colt – www.youtube.com/watch?v=svg68Du0Yhg
Stag Arms – www.youtube.com/watch?v=vY2UsyX1rGA
NSSF followed these up with the release of a radio ad (nssfaudio.s3.amazonaws.com/CTradio.mp3) that focused on the proposed legislation, its off-targeted intentions and the impact on the businesses and their employees.
Colt’s Manufacturing CEO, Dennis Veilleux, in a published ‘opposite editorial’ piece in a Connecticut newspaper, argues that a ban sought by the Connecticut governor on modern sporting rifles in that state would so seriously impair the iconic Colt brand with American consumers. He said that even historical ties and a highly skilled workforce may not be enough to keep manufacturing of those semi-automatic rifles in the constitution state.
The NSSF will continue to spread the word in Connecticut and throughout the nation that, while misaimed gun-control legislation may not have an effect on the crime rate, it certainly may cause an increase in the unemployment rate.
IWA OutdoorClassics marked its 40th birthday by fully living up to its reputation as one of the leading international trade fairs for high-quality products for hunting, shooting sports, outdoor activities, law enforcement and personal security.
In all, 1,207 exhibitors from 50 nations met more than 38,000 trade visitors from over 100 countries on the four days of the show.
Three out of four companies and two out of three visitors came to Nuremberg from abroad.
It was a far cry from the first IWA in 1974, with the 100 exhibitors at that time accommodated in a single hall, presenting their products to some 2,000 visitors.
Today, four decades later, the spectrum of products and services has also expanded many times in line with the number of exhibitors and visitors.
Alongside the classic exhibition segments for hunting and shooting sports, the outdoor and law enforcement segments in particular have showed growth.
Opening the show, Joachim Herrmann, the Bavarian state minister of the interior, stressed the importance of the exhibition: “Such a success story can only be written by an event that possesses exceptional expertise and professionalism, but also real passion and enthusiasm for hunting, shooting sports, the wide variety of outdoor activities and, not least, security.”
Thomas Preutenborbeck, the exhibition manager at the NürnbergMesse venue, added: “The 40th IWA was, of course, an opportunity to look back on its development from a German product show for the specialist gun trade and gunsmiths to a world-leading multi-themed exhibition.
“Now we are particularly looking to the future, because IWA is still growing continuously. Our allocation in 2013 enabled us to achieve another four per cent space but this is nowhere near enough to meet every wish for exhibiting space.
“So it is already clear: we will add another hall – the ninth – for next year’s IWA. The exhibition is also being given a new and dynamic outfit for external communication, which transports the many themes even better than the previous image.”
Meanwhile, those also registering distinctly more visitors – up by around 20 per cent – were the second Enforce Tac, an international exhibition and conference for law enforcement, security and tactical solutions, with its accompanying workshops; the European Police Trainer Conference; and the German Police Management Academy Conference.
Make a date
The next IWA takes place in the NürnbergMesse from Friday to Monday, March 7th to 10th, 2014.
Enforce Tac returns on Wednesday and Thursday, March 5th and 6th, 2014.
IWA 2013 AT A GLANCE
Number of exhibitors: 1,207 (2012: 1,204)
Nations represented: 50
Number of trade visitors: 38,000 (2012: 36,004)
Countries present: 100
Percentage of overseas exhibitors: 75%
Percentage of overseas visitors: 66%
Main exhibiting countries: Germany, USA, Italy and Great Britain
Main visiting countries: Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, France, Italy and Russian
As hunters review their gear for the spring season, many are adding hydration packs, water systems and purification products to their equipment lists, says Lou Dzerziak.
“It's much easier to drink from a bladder while hunting than a bottle. There's less movement, it's hands-free and the carry is much more comfortable,” explains Christian Mason, the director of sales and marketing at Deuter USA.
“The military has used hydration packs for many years for this reason and hunters want that same ease of use, comfortable carry and capacity.”
David Czerwinski, the co-founder and president of Vapur, reports: “If you are a hunter spending hours in the woods, hydration is important. Everyone is embracing these products.”
Vapur has signed a licensing agreement with Mossy Oak and is creating a new line of products featuring camouflage patterns hunters are interested in.
Hunters have embraced hydration for some time but, until recently, the choice has been relatively limited. Now hunters can select from a variety of packs designed specifically to carry hydration reservoirs. Other manufacturers offer customised systems consisting of reservoirs, hoses and bite valves that can be added to an existing pack.
“In the past there was pretty much one choice carried by retailers catering to the hydration market. Now we are seeing more companies making products that are more specific to a hunters requirements,” reports Jim Vernon, the brand manager of Hydrapak.
“Some are hitting the market now, like Geiggerrig, while others are just on the horizon. Consumers no longer have to select from various mountain-biking packs to have hydration while hunting.”
Bob Geiger, the vice-president of operations for Geigerrig Hydration Packs, comments: “Water use is one of the top things you need to be concerned about in the outdoors. We’re opening the door to as much water as you can use for as many different purposes as you need.”
Hunting for water
An older generation of hunters can probably recall a time when army-surplus metal canteens and canvas belts were used to carry water into the field. While more sophisticated hydration systems for the outdoors have been on the market for at least a decade, the pace of innovation from market leaders has slowed.
New brands are taking advantage and introducing new feature sets that are attracting attention from outdoor enthusiasts. Geigerrig offers a unique pressurised hydration system that significantly expands the usefulness of the pack.
“In the past, water in hydration packs was limited to one person and basically one purpose – drinking. You couldn’t share the water because everyone would have to share the same bite valve,” explains Bob.
“We wanted to provide a water system that enabled people to spray their hands and face, share water with friends, hydrate the dog and refill anywhere in the world at any freshwater source and be able to keep going. That’s what people are looking for from their hydration pack now that we are on the market.”
As the market has evolved, product designs are acknowledging the specific needs of hunters. Weight, reservoir volume, convenience and comfort top the list of considerations.
“Outdoorsmen are looking for hydration products that are portable, lightweight and easy to carry,” explains David. “One of the challenges with hard-sided bottles is that when they are empty they still take up the same amount of space in your pack. With Vapur, the bladder folds up, weighs very little and doesn’t rattle around.”
With more options available, hunters are finding hydration packs that don’t require compromises. “So much of hunting is personal preference, but pocket configuration, size and profile are all important,” explains Christian. “With a hydration pack, some hunters want it under their jacket, some need the tube insulator and some simply want a small hydration pack that works for the variety of sports they do.”
Convenience is another critical feature. “Anyone who has struggled trying to get a full bladder back into a pack will recognise the differences in the way hydraulic reservoirs are designed,” reports Erik Hamerschlag, product line manager at Osprey Packs Inc. “Consumers are looking for a design that maintains the shape effectively and is easy to handle getting in and out of the pack’s hydration sleeve.”
Another aspect is cleaning the reservoirs. Early models required consumers to buy special cleaning brushes or chemical tablets to remove bacteria, dirt or residue left over from an energy drink.
The latest ones are much easier to maintain. Many are dishwasher safe and the product designs have improved to make cleaning more efficient and effective.
“We offer a combination of flexible materials and ingenious design so users will be able to use a Hydrapak system season after season,” says Jim. “The key differentiation is the ability to reverse the reservoir to clean and dry. Where other brands sell supplemental cleaning supplies, Hydrapak offers a system engineered to maintain simply.”
In the field, small details matter. Hydration hoses that dangle or flop around can be a real nuisance to a hunter. Most new designs offer a way to store the hose and bite value out of the way. Osprey, for example, uses magnets on the bite valve and pack harness to secure the system effectively.
Sportsmen who start their hunting adventure with a full water bladder are now taking more time to consider what happens when their thirst drains that reservoir of cool, clean water.
Water purification tools are becoming an important part of a sportsmen’s hydration system. “When you are in the backcountry and don’t have potable water readily accessible for a refill, your only option may be a pond or slow-moving stream,” reports David.
“You start the day with the water from your tap and when the reservoir’s empty you are done. You have to find another tap or go back to camp. With this, you change all that. You aren’t talking about running out of water. Find a water source, plug in the filter, fill it up and go,” notes Bob. “You need gear that allows your range to be sustained with hydration.”
Purification options include tools like the SteriPEN that use ultraviolet light or filters that can be connected to hydration hoses. “Having a UV water filter is valuable if you get lost or delayed. Then you have access to clean water in an emergency situation,” says Tim Archambault, the director of e-commerce at SteriPEN.
Vapur uses a .2 micron micro-filter to filter out 99.999 per cent of all bacteria, protozoan cysts and Giardia.
“Those are the kinds of things that are going to make you uncomfortable and sick,” says David. “You can drink from those natural sources without worrying about getting sick.”
Christian offers: “If you use a treatment tablet, just drop it in and shake it around once the slider is on. It's easy to clean and has an anti-microbial finish on the interior. If you use a SteriPEN, the opening is large enough to stir the water and treat it effectively.”
Filters that can be used with hydration hoses offer a convenient approach to a safe water supply. “There are some excellent water-purification filters that are compatible with our connectors,” says Jim. “Users can snap these filters directly to the reservoir and begin pumping in filtered water.”
Brand managers believe hunting and sporting-goods retailers can improve sales of hydration products by focusing on a few merchandising tools.
“We would suggest merchandising hydration components, reservoirs and filters adjacent to these styles to create a hydration-specific micro-store,” notes Jim. “Hydration components are great items to increase average sales for consumers who presumably need a reservoir upgrade as well.”
Christian adds: “A hydrated hunter is more steady, has better endurance and is going to perform better in the field. With merchandising, it's a matter of showing that certain packs fit comfortably under jackets, or show the features specific to their hunting sport. That's the key – putting the customer into the scene with the proper hydration equipment.”
Following the terrible murders at the elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14th, 2012, three trends have emerged in the USA: strong active self-defence sales, increased passive self-defence sales and increasing concentration of gun ownership. These trends are, in a sense, one and the same.
First, perhaps fearing that the new laws will be enacted restricting the sale and ownership of military-style or semi-automatic firearms (or high-capacity magazines), US citizens have crowded into gun stores. Many businesses report that they have since experienced record sales.
At the US Firearms Academy in Reno, Nevada, owner Mark Hessler is ecstatic about assault rifle (AR) sales. Mark says that every time a liberal politician or high-profile celebrity spouts off about gun control, his cash register rings.
The second trend is in a rise in the sale of passive self-defence items such as home security cameras, motion detectors, pepper sprays and armoured backpacks for children.
The average game-scouting camera from Cuddeback, Moultrie or Bushnell will serve wonderfully for home-perimeter awareness, taking still photos or videos and recording sound. If it is connected to a GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) wireless service, a properly positioned camera can record every movement around the home, from the neighbour’s dog pooping in the yard to intruders, and relay the images instantly to your computer screen.
Body armour has now been incorporated into backpacks for schoolchildren and Amendment II co-owner Derek Williams of Salt Lake City, Utah, has been widely quoted saying: “We didn’t get in this business [manufacturing body armour] to do this, but the fact is that our armour can help children just as it can help soldiers.”
Who owns what?
The third trend, and one that is very important for the long run is that, while sales of firearms in the USA have unquestionably grown, gun ownership has become evermore concentrated.
The Connecticut murderer, Adam Lanza, took guns belonging to his mother, Nancy – and then killed her. He was 20 years old.
The murderer in the Aurora, Colorado theatre shootings, James Holmes, was 25 years old. Jared Loughner was 22 when he attempted to murder US Representative Gabrielle Giffords in 2011. Seung-Hui Cho was 23 when he killed 32 and wounded 17 at Virginia Tech in 2011.
The shooters in the above cases and thousands of others – thousands, but certainly not all (and the above cases do not represent a scientifically valid statistical sample) – were young.
But US gun ownership has become demographically concentrated, although not among the young. Reported trends suggest that fewer individuals, primarily older white males, are expanding their personal gun collections.
According to a 2007 study by Harvard University, about 20 per cent of all US gun owners possess 65 per cent of all civilian firearms. Half of the 20 per cent reported owning four or more guns.
Another survey by the University of Chicago indicates that the real percentage of Americans owning firearms has declined dramatically.
In 1980 about a third of US citizens owned guns; today that number has fallen by a third to about 21 per cent and only 10 per cent of women are armed.
This is despite long waiting lines at National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) First Shots events, where individuals who have never handled a gun before can take supervised practice shots and learn the basic principles of gun safety.
Paradox and irony
It is an enormous irony – and perfectly illustrates the American paradox – that the murderous assault on the school in Newtown took place just around the corner from the headquarters of the NSSF, the owner of the SHOT Show.
Months before that January 2013 international shooting business event, NSSF senior vice-president Chris Dolnack predicted a record turnout of more than 60,000 people.
The NSSF’s public outreach with First Shots is only one of a number of initiatives designed to pull Americans away from their addictive electronic devices and introduce them to the world of hunting, shooting and an active, engaged lifestyle.
The Archery Trade Association sponsors the National Archery in the Schools Program. The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point promotes BOW – Becoming an Outdoor Woman – a non-profit-making, educational scheme offering hands-on workshops to adult women in every US state and Canadian province: “We encourage a supportive environment conducive to learning, making friends, and having fun.”
And there’s the rub. No-one is going on a mass killing spree with a bow and arrow or an atlatl (spear thrower), but firearms give an opportunity to isolated and perhaps lonely and angry (or simply mystified and clueless) individuals to call attention to themselves and their needs, regardless of the pain they cause others.
This is where NSSF’s First Shots programme – and others like it – are extraordinarily valuable… and not just socially but from a business perspective too.
To grow the shooting sports beyond the older collector generation that is buying a fourth or fifth gun, we have to reach out much more dramatically.
We have to reach down generationally to youth and offer education as well as experience.
(It is the author’s firm belief that not one of the people who takes up firearms and begins shooting friends, relatives and neighbours, has been a graduate of such a programme as First Shots or Archery in the Schools or BOW.)
Not only does a scheme like First Shots give experience pulling a trigger but it introduces young people to role models and to a community and it appears that, in almost every case of a young person on a shooting spree, they were marginalised individuals, not members of an effective community of interest.
Risk and insurance
We cannot eliminate all risk. Tornadoes will kill people in the USA this year. Heat waves will destroy crops in Europe; earthquakes will crush sleeping Asian families beneath tons of debris.
We can, on the other hand, begin to minimise risk. We can buy insurance. By supporting programmes that bring marginalised groups and individuals into the shooting sports community, through areas like First Shots, we buy insurance.
Paradoxically, by teaching someone to shoot, bringing them into the business to handle firearms and meet the professional staff, and teaching them to hit what they are shooting at, we provide for the future of our children and our way of life.
A coalition of hunting and angling groups and the outdoor industry briefed members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus last autumn on the rise in hunting and fishing participation in the USA.
The groups, led by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), Cabela’s, Safari Club International, American Sportfishing Association and National Marine Manufacturers Association, used recently released data from the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) 2011 National Survey on Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation to compare hunting and fishing participation and expenditures to mainstream industries.
“To put it in perspective, the 37 million sportsmen and women over the age of 16 in America is the same as the population of the state of California, and the $90 billion they spent in 2011 is the same as the global sales of Apple's iPad and iPhone in the same year,” commented Jeff Crane, the president of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.
“Hunting and fishing have been, and clearly continue to be, important elements of our country’s outdoor heritage, and they are critically important to our nation’s economy – particularly the small local economies that support quality hunting and fishing opportunities.”
The participation and economic data, released in August by the USFWS, shows a nine per cent increase in hunters and an 11 per cent increase in anglers, compared with the 2006 survey.
An important thing to note is that these numbers only account for sportsmen and women aged 16 and older, so actual participation is likely higher when adding in youth.
Most notable, however, is that hunters and anglers continued their strong spending habits.
From equipment expenditures ($8.2 billion for hunters, $6.2 billion for anglers) to special equipment ($25 billion towards boats, RVs, ATVs and other such vehicles) to trip-related expenses totalling more than $32 billion, sportsmen and women continue to direct their discretionary income towards their outdoor pursuits.
“Our industry has continued to have strong returns, even during this lagging economy, and the reason is the commitment of hunters and shooters to their outdoor activities,” said NSSF president Steve Sanetti.
“The economic impact of hunting and fishing is profound in South Dakota and across the country,” noted John Thune, the Republican Senate co-chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC), at the briefing.
“It’s important that we have policies that promote hunting and fishing and support the outdoor industries.
“People don't think about hunting and fishing in terms of economic growth,” stated Jon Tester (Democrat of Montana), the Democratic Senate co-chairman of the CSC, to the participants.
“The statistics in the new economic impact report are great and will go a long way to telling the public just how important hunting and fishing are in this country.”
“One of the statistics I learnt today is that the $6 billion that hunters spent in 2011 on guns, ammunition and archery equipment is comparable to the sales of bicycles in the USA. This is particularly important because most of those gun and ammunition companies are based right here in this country, meaning sportsmen's dollars support American jobs and American workers,” said Bob Latta (Republican of Ohio), the Republican House vice chairman of the CSC.
“In today’s world, we are talking about economics and jobs – those are the main drivers in most policy discussions. It is so important to see how strong the sportsmen's community is and what they are doing to support the American economy so they have a voice in those discussions,” commented Jim Risch (Republican of Idaho), Republican Senate vice chairman of the CSC.
Beyond the impact to businesses and local economies, sportsmen and women have played an essential and unmatched role in conserving wildlife and fish and their habitats.
Sportsmen and women are the nation's most ardent conservationists, putting money towards state wildlife and fishery management.
When you combine licence and stamp fees, excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment, the tax from small-engine fuel and membership contributions to conservation organisations, hunters and anglers directed $3 billion towards on-the-ground conservation and restoration efforts in 2011 – that is over $95 every second.
This does not include their own habitat-acquisition and restoration work for lands owned or leased for the purpose of hunting and fishing, which would add another $11 billion to the mix.
The comparisons released during the congressional briefing are the beginning of what now includes more detailed economic and participation data and comparisons to more industries.
A full report that includes state-by-state information was released in January.
For the sake of clarity – and who doesn’t like clarity? – let’s establish some groundwork.
We customarily think of the USA as the gorilla in the room when it comes to selling weapons around the world, from derringers to missiles.
But it ain’t necessarily so. Necessarily…
SIPRI, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, estimates arms exports in millions of US dollars “at 1990’s prices”.
Here are the top six exporting nations for 2010:
Of course that’s everything from a $4 million Russian T-90A main battle tank to a $20 million US F-16C Fighting Falcon. So, sure, we can pound our chest: “We’re number one!”
It may come as a surprise that SIPRI estimates the USA is also one of the top weapon importers (again, 2010 data in millions):
South Korea $1,131
The US is a major supplier of armaments to governments around the world – and a significant importer as well.
But isn’t that what we would expect, the US being the “land of the free and home of the brave,” the world’s policeman, the world’s only super power? Or is the story is more complex…?
According to the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (the ATF) Annual Statistical Update for 2012 (reporting 2010 data – keeping the playing field level here), US manufacturers produced 5,459,240 small arms:
Miscellaneous (pistol grip firearms, starter guns, frames and receivers) 67,929
That’s a lot of sidearms but the total was actually down slightly that year – down about 95,000 from 2009.
What was down? Rifles by 400,000.
What was up? Pistols by about the same number.
Surely, with only four per cent of the world population, all those guns are not for domestic consumption. Many of that 5.5 million must be exported… or not.
The ATF says that in 2010 less than five per cent of firearms built in the US were sold abroad:
The US export high was almost twice that in 1993 – 431,204 guns!
On the other hand, the country of cowboys and the Wild West, of Dirty Harry and Rambo, of concealed carry and individual freedom and stand your ground actually imported about 12 times the number of guns it exported in 2010:
Who sells into the USA?
Something is afoot around the sales counters of America’s gun stores and the ATF has come close to identifying just what that is. Get ready for more numbers…
The top six export countries selling into the USA:
Brazil – handguns 359,846; rifles 381,097; shotguns 105,676. Total 846,619.
To more effectively tap the US market, Taurus created a subsidiary, Taurus International Manufacturing Inc, or Taurus USA, in 1984.
Austria – handguns 515,396; rifles 7,191; shotguns 51. Total 522.638.
Glock commands 65 per cent of the market share of handguns for US law enforcement agencies and supplies numerous national armed forces and security agencies worldwide.
Germany – handguns 265,092; rifles 46,288; shotguns 2,148. Total 313,528.
A host of manufacturers sell on name and the reputation for German craftsmanship: Anschütz, Heckler & Koch, Krupp, Mauser, Sig Sauer, Walther and Krieghoff.
Italy – handguns 104,911; rifles 12,222; shotguns 137,768. Total 254,901.
A lot of Davide Pedersoli handguns, rifles (including muzzleloaders) and a few of the shotguns (including Rossi) arrive in the USA destined for cowboy action and re-enactor games but many of the shotguns are superior and expensive shooters from Perazzi, Fausti, Franchi and Caesar Guerini.
Russia – handguns 16,900, rifles 148,556, shotguns 50,837: Total 216,293.
Not too many years ago the USA and Russia fought terrible battles through puppet states in Africa, Asia and Central and South America. The fact that Kalashnikov’s AK-47 would eventually become a popular truck gun in the US (cheap and rugged) or that factories in Tula, Russia, would accept capitalist partnership with ‘the West’ was unthinkable… a generation ago.
Croatia – handguns 211,001; rifles 0; shotguns 0. Total 211,001.
HS Produkt is a Croatian firearm manufacturer best known for the design and production of the HS2000 and XDm, a semi-automatic pistol sold in the US market as the Springfield Armory XD.
America’s biggest exporters
It would seem that value attaches to the “Made in the USA” stamp on a firearm and perhaps it still does but, in the middle of a worldwide economic recession, these companies have been able to hold on to foreign market share… or they did in 2010. Nevertheless, get ready for some surprises!
Top pistol exporters
Smith & Wesson 19,602
Beretta USA 12,859
Sturm, Ruger & Co 11,703
Sig Sauer 9,921
Top revolver exporters
Smith & Wesson 17,071
Sturm, Ruger & Co 5,690
Top rifle exporters
Sturm, Ruger & Co 25,823
Maverick (Mossberg) Arms 13,141
Thompson Center 6,503
Legacy Sports 4,045
Top shotgun exporters
Maverick (Mossberg) Arms 35,138
Braztech (Rossi) Int’l 4,464
Miscellaneous firearm exporters
Maverick (Mossberg) Arms 12,646
In January, 1979, the first SHOT Show debuted in the St Louis (Missouri) Convention Center.
Considered a great success, the three-day event brought together 290 exhibitors and 4,700 attendees on 52,153 square feet of exhibition space.
No-one knew quite what to expect, so show manager Jerry Van Dijk eventually admitted that he had laid out the venture “with aisles on the diagonal to create the illusion of a larger overall footprint.”
Thirty-five years later, management firm Reed Exhibition is preparing for the 2013 Show (actually, its planning for the 2015 one now).
To be held at the Sands Expo & Convention Center in Las Vegas, it will have a floor plan almost 12 times the area of the original show: 625,000 square feet. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the show’s owner, expects to host 1,600 exhibitors and nearly 60,000 attendees at the expanded four-day event.
A growing concern
It’s a testament to good management and a vibrant industry that the SHOT Show has grown. It’s wonderful that it supports the NSSF, its initiatives and promotions, especially recruitment.
But has the event simply become too overwhelming? Do aisles teem with individuals from 50 countries, many of whom seem to have only a marginal relationship with the shooting sports?
In an age of costly and difficult travel, is it too expensive now and, well, just too much? Is bigger necessarily better?
The answer to those questions depends on your perspective. Twenty years ago an inflexible SHOT lost most of its archery exhibitors, about 10 per cent of floor space.
But a decade later, a more flexible organisation added military and law enforcement, and those categories may now total as much as one-third of the modern show.
As big as the event has become, NSSF’s Chris Dolnack says SHOT has actually downsized in recent years.
In Orlando in 2009, it covered 715,000 square feet. The Orlando shows (2003, 2007 and 2009) seemed spacious, almost luxurious, but their huge footprint and modest attendance perhaps gave an illusion of emptiness that the current space in Las Vegas certainly does not entertain. Since then, the show has steadily declined in net floor space.
The move to a relatively permanent exhibition hall at the Sands Expo & Convention Center was unpopular in its first year. Compared with Orlando, its low ceilings promoted a sense of claustrophobia.
Attendees and exhibitors complained about the confusing layout, weirdly numbered or misaligned booths and lack of signage.
Chris admits that customers were clearly not happy about being tightly packed into the rented area. He recognises that retail customers as well as exhibitors choose to attend SHOT; it is not mandatory.
“The Sands put money into the facility to spruce it up,” he says. “Then NSSF worked to improve navigation, provide additional signage and guides, supply additional food and beverage opportunities and widen the aisles. If people don’t have a good experience, they won’t come back. The NSSF took a revenue hit, but providing a sustainable venue that works for our customers is what SHOT is all about.”
Cheek by jowl
To an attendee riding the escalators or standing in line for coffee, it may be the number of other attendees, however, that gives the show a sense of overcrowding.
A figure of 20,000-plus was common into the 21st century – and three-day shows seemed crowded – but shooting, hunting and the outdoor trades are what Chris calls “a dynamic industry.”
Thus, in the past 10 years, SHOT has tripled in attendance size. Chris believes three things have accounted for this growth.
Firstly, with a great deal of promotion and despite initial suspicion of “black guns,” the US industry has successfully promoted semi-automatic AR-15s and their many accessory and after-market options to hunters as modern sporting rifles.
Secondly, there has been carry-over from the 9/11 attacks.
Thirdly, as square footage for traditional hunting commodities plateaued and even declined, the law enforcement and military market “really took off and in about 2007 we saw a dramatic increase in attendance.” Chris says SHOT’s composition “reflects what we see in retail shops.”
To illustrate this take-off, the NSSF reported 20,390 attendees in 2007 and an astonishing 57,390 in 2011.
Responding to complaints that the NSSF needs to screen attendees better, Chris says: “We have implemented additional screening layers to help remove non-qualified attendees at considerable cost, but with limited results.”
His suggestion to prevent overcrowding is to ask for the industry’s help preventing non-qualified persons from entering SHOT “under the guise of being exhibition staff or part of a retail store’s sales or purchasing staff.” This, according to Chris, is “being a part of the solution rather than part of the problem.”
Too big… or not big enough?
Of course, trade-show planning is an art. If a show is too crowded, a visitor can’t spend quality time at a manufacturer or distributor booth.
If it is poorly organised, like a mismanaged retail store, it will frustrate serious visitors and discourage repeat business – and trade shows, even our own SHOT Show and the IWA & OutdoorClassics, in Nuremberg, are businesses and makes millions of dollars for the owners.
If a show is too spacious or there are too many exhibitors or attendees for the time available, a retailer must budget time and progress carefully. At some point, it will cease to be productive and, perhaps even more importantly, cease to be fun.
Here are two contrasting views from exhibitors.
John Schild, the vice-president of Gamo Outdoor USA, is a specialist in developing promotional opportunities at SHOT. He does not think the show is too big.
“At a good show I can meet all my customers and make meetings on time,” he says. “There are a lot of tire kickers at SHOT, lots of mom-and-pop shops. Gamo doesn’t sell much directly to small stores, so I suppose the gauge for me is how well I can interact with key customers to discuss programmes and sales.”
At Canada’s FlashFog Security, co-owner Herman Arias says SHOT is definitely too large: “We started in the outdoor pavilion and now have an independent booth.
“I don’t think people have time to walk the whole show. We miss maybe a third of potential customers just because the show is so large, and we get lots of ‘miscellaneous people’ looking for ‘freebies.’”
Unlike the most attendees who prefer Las Vegas to other venues – and SHOT has only been held in Vegas or Orlando in the past dozen years – Herman prefers Orlando. Las Vegas has “too many distractions,” he says and, in Orlando, families can go to Disney World.
As if that wasn’t enough, there has even been discussion of extending SHOT to five days…
When nations from around the world sent some of their finest athletes to London for the Olympic Games, the occasion, for many, represented the pinnacle of their competitive careers. Among those athletes were shooters.
For the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association of the firearm, ammunition, hunting and shooting-sports industry in the US, those shooters provided gratifying moments, in part because we have been able to watch many of these athletes develop.
Bringin ’em on
For example, the NSSF established the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) to allow youth to become acquainted with trap shooting while developing character traits such as teamwork, leadership and self-esteem.
A year later skeet and sporting clays were added to SCTP’s offerings. Nearly 30,000 youngsters from elementary school to high school participated during the time that the NSSF administered the programme. Many of the members of the USA Shooting Team today were participants in SCTP.
After NSSF handed over the administrative reins to the Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation, the NSSF continued to be a major sponsor of the programme.
While under the NSSF’s management, a high-school student from Eatontown, in Georgia, by the name of Vincent Hancock enrolled in SCTP.
His dad was, in fact, the state director for the programme. The younger Hancock had already shown shooting prowess before entering SCTP, but the programme allowed him a more competitive shooting experience.
After high school, he enlisted in the US Army, where he became part of the military’s famed marksmanship unit.
At the 2008 Games in Beijing, Vincent, as a 19-year-old, captured the gold in Men’s Skeet, reaching a lofty place on the medal stand, about which the founders of SCTP could have only fantasised when the NSSF began the programme.
Vincent did it again in London, becoming the first Olympian ever to repeat gold-medal performances in Men’s Skeet. At the same games, other American shooters distinguished themselves.
Foremost, perhaps, was Kim Rhode, a Californian who, with her near-perfect (99 out of 100) record-setting performance, accomplished something no other American Olympian in any sport had ever achieved. By earning the gold medal in Women’s Skeet, Kim became the first American ever to capture a medal in an individual event in five consecutive Olympics.
Making a song and dance
On August 22nd, 2012, NSSF applauded the efforts of the entire US Olympic shooting team in a full-page advertisement that ran in the nationally distributed USA Today newspaper.
The ad gave special tribute not only to Vincent and Kim but also to the record-setting Jamie Gray, the gold medallist in Women’s 50-metre Three-Position Rifle, and Matt Emmons, a winner of a gold and silver at previous Games, who added a bronze to his medal collection by taking third place in the Men’s 50m Three-Position Rifle event.
Beyond yielding bragging rights to nations and individual shooters, however, the Olympic shooting competition demonstrated the potential to produce far greater benefits.
In placing in the Men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol competition, India’s Vijay Kumar did more than simply win a silver medal. His success has inspired the government of his home state of Himachal Pradesh to commit to building a world-class shooting range to provide training facilities to young marksmen.
“It’s not just about medals,” Vincent said, after winning the gold, as quoted by the New York Times. “It’s about how big I can grow the sport and how many people I can bring into it. These kids may not be able to play basketball or baseball, but they can shoot. They’ll have a great time, especially when they break lots of targets.”
For many recreational shooters and hunters, their first experience with a firearm occurred at a shooting range.
It may have been indoors using a pistol, airgun or even a rimfire or centrefire rifle.
Outdoors, they could have enjoyed similar options and also learnt to break clay birds while honing their shotgunning skills.
These ranges are not only where shooters are born but also where people become more accurate shots while becoming more accustomed to their firearms and ammunition.
It might be where law enforcement personnel heighten their skills, or where sportsmen enjoy meeting on a weekday evening to compete in a friendly league.
The range might be government-owned, or it might be a commercial operation open to the public. Or, the layout might be on a club’s property, available exclusively to its members.
Each of those types of facilities faces its own challenges, and they all can use advice on how to run their ranges better.
The Range Report magazine, published by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), has long been addressing those challenges and offering advice from experts.
NSSF, the trade association for the firearm, ammunition, hunting and shooting-sports industry, has now transformed The Range Report, its magazine for shooting facilities, into an exclusively digital publication with the release of its summer 2012 edition.
The magazine appears on a new website, www.rangereport.org. In addition to the current digital magazine, the website also provides a variety of other features, including past issues in digital format; frequently refreshed range news; instant access to specific features and departments; direct e-mail to the magazine’s editor; a link to information on advertising in The Range Report; and advertising/sponsorship opportunities on the website.
“The magazine has a great history as ‘the’ trade magazine for the shooting-range industry, and this next step in its evolution is appropriate as the magazine makes itself more available to more people who thirst for the information the magazine and the website can present,” said Bill Dunn, the NSSF’s managing director of marketing communications.
The reaction from the shooting range community to the magazine and the website was swift and positive.
“A professional and attractive piece of work. This is such a valued read for range operators and future range operators. Nicely done!” commented Robin Ball, the president of Sharp Shooting Indoor Range and Gun Shop in Spokane, Washington.
“Looks awesome! Great tool for the industry,” wrote Barry Laws, the CEO of Openrange, in Crestwood, Kentucky.
On a mission
The Range Report is a magazine with the mission of helping shooting facilities both operate more economically, environmentally and legally sound and provide their members and customers with the best experience possible.
It is published quarterly, in January, April, July and October. Plans are in place to issue monthly newsletters to promote and supplement the magazine.
People wishing to subscribe for free, and thus receive notice and a link to each new issue, may click on ‘Subscribe’ at the top of the new website’s home page. Prospective advertisers can click on a similarly placed tab.