Staying “Essential” During COVID-19


The “Essential” Argument

With many sectors of the U.S. economy struggling in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the firearms industry has continued to flourish. This can certainly be attributed to the sudden surge of first-time gun buyers, but also due to the fact dealers and other businesses have been able to continue their operations in most states.

NSSF has been engaged in numerous battles at the federal, state and local levels to ensure industry businesses are deemed “essential” during the pandemic. NSSF President and CEO Joe Bartozzi sat down with Shooting Industry to share insights on NSSF’s policymaking impact, as well as other resources available to dealers during the pandemic.

The “Essential” Argument
Bartozzi described the NSSF’s multi-tiered approach to secure the “essential” designation for industry businesses.

“The first element to this was because so many of our members (and non-members) are defense contractors — supplying firearms and ammunition to the government and law enforcement groups — it was more or less of a no-brainer: National defense is certainly essential, regardless of us being in a crisis or not,” he said.

NSSF also pressed why retailers and ranges should continue operation.

“We recognized first responders, sheriff’s offices and L.E. personnel in many parts of the country get their guns and ammunition from retailers and distributors and get training at the range. It was a natural outreach; this is certainly something we don’t want to cut back on, especially now,” Bartozzi continued.

Long lines at gun stores also played a significant role in this “essential” designation argument.

“People were really keen on exercising their constitutional rights. To say safety, home/personal protection of citizens is not essential … well, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that,” Bartozzi stated. “We made this point to the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) and we were very successful.”

(March 28: DHS designated firearms manufacturing, distribution and retail/ranges as essential critical services to remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

ATF FFL Sale Guidance
NSSF was also instrumental in working with the ATF, which provided an open letter to FFL dealers April 10 with significant implications. In part, the letter clarified “a licensed importer, manufacturer or dealer may engage in the firearms or ammunition business for which the business is licensed on any part of its business premises … .” (Emphasis added.)

This guidance facilitated a drive-up model for dealers, to protect both employees and community members.

“This was huge,” Bartozzi noted. “We don’t want people congregating and spreading the virus. With the ATF’s guidance on what constitutes the premises, it opens up the opportunity for people to be safe — while also maintaining the ability to have a retail store and offer firearms and ammunition.”

Bartozzi credited ATF for issuing this guidance swiftly.
“This really helped the retailer of our industry and is the direct result of NSSF’s diligence and ATF’s willingness to listen to us and make a consideration on this — a lot of credit goes to those folks for stepping up and doing it quickly,” he said.

ATF launched other efforts to ensure dealers have all necessary information during the pandemic, and began initiating voluntary calls to stores in mid-April.

Community Engagement
The COVID-19 pandemic has generated plenty of negative headlines. However, Bartozzi stressed this crisis gives the industry an opportunity to make positive inroads in the community.

“We want to get the word out our industry cares, gun owners care and we really want to be a part of the country’s recovery,” he said. “It can be as simple as donating blood or donating to food pantries. A lot of our members are donating PPEs and making masks/face shields — which is wonderful.”

NSSF demonstrated this ethos with recent donations totaling $25,000 to three first-responder groups located near its Newtown, Conn., headquarters.

Online Resources
As dealers across the country report, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to record numbers of first-time gun owners.

“This crisis validates what we’ve been saying forever: a constitutional right is just that — a right. You never know when people are going to feel the need to exercise their rights,” Bartozzi said. “There are potentially a million or more new gun owners just in the last couple months — so now, we have to be most welcoming.”

To assist in this significant uptick of first-time gun owners, NSSF has added new online resources.

“We urge dealers to promote getting new customers trained, even if it’s done remotely. We have a lot of safety videos — safe gun handling and storage — as well as product videos on our YouTube channel and websites. They’re freely available,” he shared.

NSSF’s Project ChildSafe launched new tools for first-time gun buyers, including an infographic and a firearm storage and safety assessment quiz. These materials are available in a new “Resources for New Gun Owners” section at

Additionally, to help dealers stay up to date on important COVID-19 developments, NSSF added a landing page to its website with general news, state-by-state alerts, COVID-19 mitigation strategies, safe work practices and more. It’s available at
As the country grapples with the long-term effects of COVID-19 (and November just a few months away), NSSF will continue to work on behalf of the industry.

“We’re doing things to benefit the entire industry, and it’s important to show voters and elected officials our industry is united and it stands behind its principles. Now, more than ever, we need to show strength in numbers because candidate Joe Biden has set his sights directly on our industry. If we can get more members, we’ll have more clout on Capitol Hill and congressional districts,” Bartozzi concluded. /

Editor’s Note: Additional excerpts from this interview — including topics such as the benefits of NSSF membership and the importance of staying informed through initiatives like #GUNVOTE — are available at

KelTec 3D Prints Improved Protective Masks For Local Hospitals

KelTec has repurposed its 3D printers for N99-quality masks to supply local hospitals after one of the company’s engineers improved upon the design of the Medical University of South Carolina’s (MUSC) S.A.F.E. Mask, as well as creating a variety of additional cartridge options.

KelTec Engineer Toby Obermeit’s designs are being made available to help fill the immediate needs of healthcare workers and first responders everywhere. The reusable masks currently feature replaceable Roomba filters.

“After Toby studied the original S.A.F.E. filter cartridge design, he then optimized it by making it faster and easier to print. He submitted this improved design to MUSC, and officials at the university were so impressed they asked for help with the next-generation mask design,” said Matt Stanek, KelTec marketing manager.

The original design required cutting and gluing a HEPA filter, but the new designs utilizing various Roomba filters are much easier to assemble.

“We’ve accomplished a lot. We’ve made improvements to the mask itself, as well as created multiple cartridges, which take different types of filters. There is even a mask design with an integrated filter cartridge,” said Obermeit.

“Caring about each other — our families and neighbors — is in our DNA. These are difficult times, and we have friends, family members, neighbors and customers on the front lines. We’re just glad we can be of some help, given how much they’re helping us and our communities,” said Derek Kellgren, KelTec sales director.

TriStar Arms Launches New Website

TriStar Arms announced its new website is now live. The updated site makes for simpler browsing, is mobile-friendly and includes multiple options for purchasing. Media assets, including high-resolution images and specification sheets, can be found in just two clicks.

“TriStar is known for its sharp focus on value and quality. This focus includes the value of your time. We have created a beautiful and efficient website to handle all of your TriStar needs,” said Ryan Bader, VP of sales and marketing for TriStar Arms.

Purchasing options include direct links to the Gallery of Guns, The Shooting Store and websites, with pre-populated model numbers to ensure finding the right gun.

Identifying which TriStar is right for each customer is also easier, with products sorted first by application, then identified by model name and image within each category. Those include hunting, home defense/tactical, sporting, trap and youth.

Additional refinements to the website include new-for-2020 models, such as the Viper G2 .410 Youth, Viper G2 SR Blue, the Trinity line and the Viper G2 .410 Turkey model. /

Meprolight Adds TrackStreet To Enforce MAP Policy

Meprolight recently announced a partnership with TrackStreet, a platform designed to reduce online pricing violations in order to enforce MAP pricing for its dealers. Through TrackStreet, Meprolight will be able to use artificial intelligence to enforce the minimum prices retailers will be allowed to advertise and use to resell its products.

Meprolight, a division of SK Group, is a manufacturer and global supplier of quality electro-optical and optical sights, self-illuminated sights for pistols, shotguns and rifles and night vision and thermal sights and devices.

“Meprolight has always kept our retail and online partners in the forefront of our mind, and by working with TrackStreet, we’ll be able to further push Meprolight’s brand and image through responsible pricing,” said Bill Yerby, GM and VP of sales and marketing for Meprolight USA.

TrackStreet’s MAP enforcement platform automates many otherwise manual processes, such as the sending of MAP violation notices, tracking policy compliance and the creation and distribution of customized Do-Not-Sell lists. Overall, MAP pricing will help Meprolight further reflect its brand image through online sales, and continue to improve relations with its partners. /

FN Awarded U.S. Army M4/M4A1 Contract

FN America, headquartered in McLean, Va., announced a five-year indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract to supply the U.S. Army with M4 and M4A1 carbines, with a potential value of up to $119 million.

In addition to the M4 and M4A1, the company currently holds contracts for the FN M240 medium machine gun and its variants, the FN MK 46, MK 48, MK 17 and MK 20 SSR from the U.S. Special Operations Command.

FN America is the U.S. subsidiary of Belgium-based FN Herstal S.A. The company provides U.S. military, law enforcement and commercial customers with a complete range of state-of-the-art, small-caliber firearms and associated ammunition under the FN brand name.

NSSF’s SHOT Show Receives Creative Award

The Davey Awards has recognized NSSF’s SHOT Show with a Gold Award in its Design/Print category for the show’s “Fully Loaded” print advertising. The award recognizes NSSF and CSG Creative, SHOT Show’s creative agency, for the 2020 show’s print ad creative efforts.

The Davey Awards are sanctioned and judged by the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts (AIVA), an invitation-only body consisting of top-tier professionals from a “Who’s Who” of acclaimed media, advertising and marketing firms. AIVA members include executives from organizations such as Condé Nast, Disney, GE, Microsoft, MTV, Yahoo! and many more.

The NSSF’s SHOT Show is the largest trade show of its kind in the world, attracting attendees from 115 countries in addition to all 50 U.S. states.

More than 55,000 industry professionals attended the 2020 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, with the number of exhibiting companies exceeding 2,500. Next year, the SHOT Show is adding even more exhibits, education, meetings and experiences in the all-new Caesars Forum. /

Redesigned Safariland Break Free Product Line

Break Free Updates Branding

Safariland’s Break Free, maker of CLP “one-step” cleaning, lubricating and protectant firearm solution and other products, announced updated product branding. The rebranding highlights the Break Free legacy, and presents product features in a clean, easy-to-read, modern design.

“Built on a quality reputation spanning five decades, Break Free CLP is the original CLP, a product known to the market as the ‘gold standard’ formula. The new branding reinforces our brand’s continued commitment to exceed performance expectations at every level,” said James Imhoff, Safariland VP and GM.

Break Free CLP solutions are Mil Spec-formulated from friction-reducing synthetic oils with anti-wear additives, and are designed to clean, lubricate and preserve firearms in extreme environments. They perform in temperatures ranging from -65 degrees to 475 degrees Fahrenheit, even after salt-water immersion.

The full Break Free product line also includes Collector products for long-term storage; Powder Blast for eliminating powder residue, plastic streaking and grease and oil build-up; and the newly renamed Performance Gun Oil (originally LP), which reduces friction, stops foreign particle build-up and inhibits rust and corrosion.

Break Free’s new packaging features a light-colored label highlighting specific new products with colorcoding. Visually appealing icons have also been added to the packaging, all headlined by a refreshed, contemporary logo design.

American Holoptics Acquires EOTech

American Holoptics LLC, a subsidiary of Koucar Management, has signed a definitive agreement with L3Harris Technologies to acquire EOTech Inc. The transaction is expected to close mid-2020, and is conditioned on customary closing conditions.

American Holoptics’ prior strategic acquisitions of Elite Defense and HEL Technologies represent a solid foundation of cutting-edge optical science and weapons systems distribution. American Holoptics’ leadership team has broad and deep experience providing quality products to the global weapons accessory market, with a customer-first and technology focus.

EOTech designs, manufactures and markets electro-optical products, VUDU rifle optics, thermal devices and night-vision systems. The company is especially known for its advanced-technology Holographic Weapon Sights.

“EOTech brings together technologically advanced product lines and production capabilities that will integrate well with our existing business and strategically expand our product portfolio. Together we will deliver an all-new level of service, innovation and integrity to military, law enforcement and civilian users around the world,” said Matt Van Haaren, CEO of American Holoptics.
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Mammoth Introduces All-Natural Hand Sanitizer

Mammoth has introduced its own line of all-natural, certified-organic hand sanitizers in response to the unexpected demand for hand-sanitizer products. The hand sanitizer has been available in retail stores serving the industry, as well as convenience stores, grocery stores and mass merchants since late April.

“Dealers are appreciative of having another option that assists in filling the shortage across the retail landscape. We take pride in being able to supply an American-made product that supports our economy as well as the directives of our governmental entities in a time of such need and uncertainty. Our intent is this will be an ongoing category extension of our Mammoth brand,” said Bob George, director of sales and marketing for Blackbird Products Group.

“It’s fortunate we had the domestic manufacturing capability and raw-material supply chain in place through a sister company, allowing us to quickly pivot to sanitizer production in reaction to the growing demand,” said Mike Hannigan, CEO of Blackbird Products Group.

Formulated to meet World Health Organization standards for alcohol-based hand sanitizer use in medical settings, Mammoth hand sanitizer has an 80% alcohol content, proven to kill 99.9% of germs.

Mammoth hand sanitizers are free of parabens, sulfates and other harmful chemicals found in many hand sanitizers. The new line of Mammoth products is available in four sizes with pump applicators: 2 oz., 4 oz., 8 oz., 16 oz. and a 33.8 oz. refill bottle.

Expanded Kinsey’s Dealer Show “Better Than Ever”

The 2020 Kinsey’s Dealer Show (KDS), held in March at the Hershey Lodge in Hershey, Pa., saw record attendance, with around 20% growth over last year’s show.

Revamped floor hours provided additional convenience, and strategically located lunch bars added easy food access. Kinsey’s expanded categories were on full display, allowing dealers to stock their shelves with archery, firearms, ammunition and general outdoor products.

Dealers were offered the best prices of the year on products and flexible payment plans. Dealers also took advantage of the improved KDS E-Show electronic ordering system, now in its sixth year. This interface allowed dealers at the physical show to easily review, add and adjust orders on the fly, while still capturing attendee-only benefits.

“Whether you are an archery dealer, firearms dealer, combination dealer or a vendor, there were a lot of new faces at KDS this year. New faces mean new interactions and new sales. We are looking forward to continuing to grow our assortment, and be a one-stop-shop for outdoor and hunting retailers,” said Justin Gorman, Kinsey’s director of sales.

In response to feedback from 2019’s show, Kinsey’s added more entertainment, new best-of-show items and table seating for everyone at Dealer Appreciation Night, while retaining its popular Casino Night and Bucks Box. This year’s headliner act was Uncle Kracker.

“Thank you to everyone who attended and helped make our show a success. We believe Q3 and Q4 will be strong for the hunting market this year,” said Kelsey Heisey, KDS coordinator.

Trijicon VCOG 1-8x28

Trijicon VCOG 1-8x28 Selected By USMC

Trijicon Inc., global provider of innovative aiming solutions for the hunting, shooting, military and law enforcement markets, announced the selection of the Trijicon VCOG (Variable Combat Optical Gunsight) 1-8×28 riflescope as the U.S. Marine Corps’ Squad Common Optic (SCO).

The $64 million contract award will begin with delivery of units this year. Trijicon will manufacture the SCO at its Wixom, Mich., factory.

“Our warfighters deserve the very best equipment in defense of our nation. The Marine Corps’ SCO evaluation process was extremely rigorous, and we are honored the VCOG was selected to continue the tradition of battle-proven riflescopes the Trijicon ACOG began in 2004 as the Marine Corps’ first rifle combat optic,” said Stephen Bindon, Trijicon president and CEO.

Specifically designed for close-quarter battle and long-distance marksmanship, the Trijicon VCOG 1-8×28 is forged from a nearly indestructible 7075-T6 aluminum housing, and is waterproof to 66′. The first focal plane reticle allows subtensions and drops to remain true at any magnification.

Featuring ruggedized electronics, the VCOG boasts 11 user-selectable brightness settings, including two night-vision settings. An integrated dial fin allows easy rotation through the magnification range, and a near-constant eye relief means no head or stock position adjustments are needed. An integrated mounting adapter eliminates the need for conventional ring mounts, allowing users to quickly and easily mount the VCOG to any rail system.

“We introduced the VCOG 1-8×28 to the commercial market in early 2019, but its design was inspired by requests from our warfighters. During design, development and testing, we constantly challenged ourselves to produce a scope that would deliver the performance necessary in the most punishing of conditions,” said Chuck Wahr, Trijicon’s global VP of sales and marketing.

Trijicon counts among its users every branch of the U.S. military, special operations forces, U.S. government agencies, state and local law enforcement and many of America’s allies.

Primary arms Optics Names High-Performance Partners

Primary Arms Optics announced its standout partners in 2019. These honors are granted to partners who have gone above and beyond in both sales and business development.

The Breakthrough Rep of the Year Award went to Patrick Boccabello from Vince Pestilli & Associates. Boccabello was a leader in establishing new dealer accounts, and his exceptional performance in Q4 placed him at the top of the chart.

The Breakthrough Agency of the Year Award was presented to Outdoor Outfitters Group based in Shawnee, Kan. Outdoor Outfitters Group was responsible for the most business shipped in 2019.

Kenzie’s Optics, based out of Cartersville, Ga., received Breakthrough Dealer of the Year Award. Starting with Primary Arms Optics in 2019, Kenzie’s Optics sold more products than any other new dealer.

Zanders President and COO Stefanie Zanders (center) accepts Federal
Ammunition's Premium Partner award during the 2020 SHOT Show.

Zanders Sporting Goods Receives Accolades

Zanders Sporting Goods was recently honored with several industry awards. TriStar Arms and Remington both recognized Zanders as the Distributor of the Year. It was the third year in a row Zanders received the award from TriStar, and second from Remington. The company also received Wildlife Research Center’s Gold Standard sales award for 2019. Adding to the honors bestowed for the year, Zanders was named Federal Ammunition’s (owned by parent company Vista Outdoor) Premium Partner.

TriStar Arms’ VP of sales and marketing, Ryan Bader commented, “We couldn’t be happier with the continued growth and commitment the Zanders’ team has shown; 2019 marked the best year TriStar has ever had. It’s because of customers like Zanders Sporting Goods that make all of this possible. We are proud to partner with such a strong company and they are most deserving of Distributor of the Year for 2019.”/
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Nosler Presents Awards

Nosler presented awards to recognize excellence in territory development and customer growth to individual members within the company’s independent sales and marketing groups.

Established this year, the Nosler Territory Development Award was given to Chance Winters from Roberts Sales Company, Jeremy Fuller from Outdoor Marketing Group and Jayson Conroy from Wild West Marketing. Each recipient was presented with a Nosler M48 Heritage Rifle.
“Chance, Jayson and Jeremy won these awards because they each showed terrific drive and initiative throughout the course of 2019,” said Pat Mundy, Nosler VP of sales and marketing. /
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Savage Arms Awards Distributor Of The Year

Chattanooga Shooting Supplies Inc. (CSSI) was named Distributor of the Year by Savage Arms. The award reflects the rapid growth in sales of Savage Arms products by CSSI throughout 2019.

“We’re honored and take great pride in our longstanding relationship with Savage. This award is a testament to our mutual commitment to offer innovative products in the market,” said Ron Staffieri, CSSI president/CEO. /

Aimpoint Reveals Dealers Of The Year

Aimpoint’s 2019 Future in Sight Dealers of the Year for the commercial and law enforcement markets were awarded to Scalarworks (commercial) and GT Distributors (government).

Scalarworks’ (Easton, Penn.) leadership and drive made Aimpoint a cornerstone offering in their product line. “Our mutual commitment to innovation makes Scalarworks and Aimpoint a natural partnership,” said Matthew Nyman, director of commercial sales. “We are looking forward to many prosperous years ahead.”

With a long history as a trusted supplier to the law enforcement and professional communities, GT Distributors of Rossville, Ga., served as a catalyst for Aimpoint’s growth in 2019.

“GT Distributors continues to play an instrumental role outfitting officers with the best red dot optics on the market. We thank Jim Orr and his team for their support and commitment to the law enforcement community,” said Matthew Swenson, VP of government sales.
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