By Massad Ayoob
Dealers visited the Smith & Wesson booth to see its latest products firsthand. The company showcased
its new-for-2018 entries, including several variants of the M&P M2.0 pistol line, M&P10 Sport and the latest
innovations in the Performance Center line.
Most gun dealers reported cash flow and profit went down in 2017. Some attributed it to a “Trump Slump,” with fear-induced buying no longer a top driver of sales. Yet, NICS background check numbers showed healthy — even booming — sales. One explanation for this apparent contradiction is as demand dropped, prices did too. This phenomenon could account for the “this is my last chance to buy one” customer to be replaced by the “I’ll never be able to buy Gun X this cheap again!” customer. It would also account for what might appear numerically to be healthy sales to still result in an unhealthy drop in cash flow and net profit.
The industry’s response has been more new products to drive interest in the consumer market, and we have a bumper crop from the 2018 SHOT Show. Thanks to a push to get products into the hands of consumers sooner, several companies debuted products in the weeks building up to the show.
Ruger is a perfect example. In the weeks before SHOT, Ruger announced an economy version of their slim-line, pocket-size LC9 9mm. And the Ruger Security-9, a direct analog in size, caliber and capacity to the hugely popular GLOCK 19, but at a markedly lower price point. The one I’ve tested has been very reliable so far, with a surprisingly manageable trigger and a manual thumb safety, the use of which is implied by the manufacturer to be optional. Perhaps bigger news still from Ruger is the return of a pistol-caliber carbine. The 9mm PC Carbine is a handy takedown that looks more like an innocuous 10/22 than an AK-47. They’re light and handy, take cheap 9mm practice ammo and offer muzzle blast as mild as their recoil. They feed Security-9 magazines, but come with an adapter for the much more numerous GLOCK 9mm magazines.
Speaking of GLOCK, the company’s Gen5 pistols have been in the stream of commerce for months. The service-size G17 and compact G19 are now joined by 9mms on both ends of the bell curve of size, a little Gen4 GLOCK 26 subcompact and a 5.3-inch barrel version, the G34 in Gen5. New for SHOT, with a release-for-sale-to-the-public right in the middle of the show, was the G19X — comprising the compact 4-inch barrel GLOCK 19 barrel/slide assembly atop a full-length G17 frame, complete with “+” magazine extenders bringing cartridge capacity up to about 20 rounds of 9mm. In FDE, the 19X is essentially a “civilian” version of GLOCK’s entry in the recent U.S. military pistol trials, minus the ambidextrous thumb safety the military demanded.
SIG SAUER P365
Small Is Still Big
SIG made a big splash with their new P365 model, a designation speaking to its mission of everyday concealed carry. The motif is a short, slim slide enclosing a full power 9mm barrel, combined with a 10+1 cartridge capacity.
Springfield Armory proved the super-slim 9mm’s have not entirely supplanted today’s generation of super-small pocket pistols chambered for .380 ACP. After watching the spectacular success of SIG’s tiniest 1911, the P238, Springfield is now offering a similar model in their new 911.
PCC (Pistol Caliber Carbine) events have made a recent impact in USPSA and IDPA competition, reflecting a strong growth of interest in these guns. More and more makers are coming out with them (mostly in AR-15 formats), although Kalashnikov had an AK-lookin’ 9mm pistol on display, the KR-9.
There is a new high in the current renaissance of the 10mm Auto cartridge, which has become hugely popular in Alaska for protection against large bears and is also increasingly popular in less dangerous climes. For example, Springfield Armory announced a couple variations to the TRP 1911 chambered for the big “Ten.” Lone Wolf, providers of steel frames for customizing GLOCKs, introduced a large-frame option for .45 ACP GLOCK 21 uppers and 10mm GLOCK 20s. Hi-Point introduced a 10mm version of its low-priced semiautomatic carbine for 2018.
Revolvers are still with us. As noted above, Ruger had a bunch of new introductions. One is a return of the old SP101 chambered for 9mm. Another is the Ruger GP100 rendered as a round-butt snub-nose .357 Magnum with seven (count them) chambers in the cylinder.
However, the revolver that seemed to get the most immediate attention at 2018 SHOT came from Colt. It took the form of the new Night Cobra, a dark-finished spurless-hammer variation of the Cobra introduced by Colt last year. Some fans of this new six-shooter had been hoping for a lightweight version, or one with a 3-inch instead of 2-inch barrel, or in .357 Magnum. Maybe next year?
North American Arms is now shipping a tip-up version of its popular miniature .22 rimfire revolver, which has been displayed at SHOT in the past. The ability to dump all the empties at once and load without a tiny gate is a desirable feature — whether the buyer sees it as a novelty gun or a personal defense weapon will make this NAA Ranger 2 in .22 Magnum appealing to many of your customers.
O.F. Mossberg & Sons 590M
Long Guns & Hybrids
Big news in defensive shotguns for 2017 was the 14-inch barrel “sort of pistol grip” shotgun introduced last year as the Mossberg Shockwave, and quickly followed by Remington with their Tac-14, neither of which require NFA licensing for the owner. In the latter part of 2017, Remington came out with their slide-action 870 DM, the suffix standing for its detachable (box) magazine. It was Mossberg’s turn to follow, and they came up with a variation of their Model 590 pump gun with box magazines providing up to 20-shell capacity. This quickly created another variation of hybrid from both companies, the Shockwave-type firearm combined with the box magazines.
One point on this theme: defensive shotgunners are debating the practicality of interchangeable box magazines versus the shotgun’s traditional tubular magazine online. One selling point is being largely if not entirely missed: There are many households, particularly those new to having a gun in the home, where the compromise between spouses is “Okay, you can have a gun, but you have to keep it unloaded.” They’ll be able to load a box magazine into one of these new shotguns and rack one into the chamber a whole lot quicker than they can fill a tube shell by shell. With some customers, this element can sell the gun by itself.
One of the hottest hybrids at the show came from Franklin Armory, best known until now for their binary triggers for MSRs, which fire one shot as the trigger is pulled and another as the trigger is released. Dubbed the Reformation, this MSR-platform .300 Blackout or .223 has a regular shoulder stock but only a sub-16-inch barrel. Franklin Armory has stated it’s ATF-approved and not subject to $200 tax and BATFE licensing because it’s not technically an SBR. The rationale: the rifling is straight cut but not spiral, thus (at least in theory) making it not truly “rifled” and certainly not “smoothbore.” Accuracy is reported by the company to be only four minutes of angle, but they promise new ammo with a bullet shaped like a football with fins will improve that. Time will tell, but it’s certainly an example of innovation in action, and that alone will sell the Reformation to some of your customers.