By Massad Ayoob
Traveling the country to teach, testify as an expert witness and shoot matches, I naturally visit as many gun shops as I can along the way. “What’s trending?” is an easy opener to ask a business owner. After several of these conversations, certain trends begin to take shape — here’s what we’re gathering from some of your peers.
Slim, subcompact 9mm pistols have reigned supreme for several years, and all signs point to their continued dominance. Kahr started the trend with the PM9, which was greatly accelerated by the Smith & Wesson Shield. GLOCK poured more kerosene on this sales bonfire with the recent introductions of the G43X and G48. The G43X lives up to its name, being the 6+1 capacity GLOCK 43 with an extended grip frame and 10-round magazine. The G48 consists of the same frame and magazine with the barrel/slide assembly stretched to a tad over 4″ in length. In other words, it’s the slimmed-down GLOCK 19 so many of your customers have been hoping for over the past three decades.
How do you sell one of these pistols to a customer who already bought a GLOCK 43 from you? It’s actually pretty easy: Let him or her know a GLOCK 48 alongside the GLOCK 43 they already own will essentially give them four guns, not just two!
The reason is, the top ends interchange. When the customer gets home from your store and introduces the new G48 to the “old” G43, he or she has two pistols: a little one easy to conceal, and a bigger one still concealable, but easier to shoot and holds four more full-power 9mm cartridges. Put the G48’s top end on the stubby G43’s frame, and the customer has a short-butt gun now much less likely to bulge when worn on the belt or IWB at the hip. Additionally, the longer sight radius enhances accuracy, and the longer barrel can burn more powder engendering more velocity and energy per shot. The longer barrel/slide also bears gently on the hip, tucking the butt in more toward the body and actually aiding concealment.
At the same time, the opposite “FrankenGlock” now created — the short G43 top on the long G48 lower — creates the equivalent of a G43X. One very strong trend is AIWB: appendix inside the waistband carry. Because the side of the grip frame now lies along the wide surface of the abdomen, a “long-handled” pistol conceals better than it would at or behind the hip. If the wearer has a shorter torso, a gun with a small barrel may be more comfortable for him or her in this carry position. The longer grip allows a more positive grasp and a surer, faster draw. Finally, speed of draw is aided by a shorter-barrel gun, since it clears the holster sooner.
Which sells better? It seems to be a toss-up. My local gun shop tells me the G43X and G48 are selling equally well. Another gun shop in the area has found these two new GLOCKs to be the hottest items at the indoor range’s rental counter, and “those who try, buy.” A staff member at that shop tells me they’re selling roughly five G43X pistols for every eight G48s. Yet a third dealer is finding in his shop, the shorter G43X is outselling the G48. Most dealers have already found the logical answer: Stock both!
These 10-shot pistols enter a market niche explosively created in first quarter 2018 by SIG with their introduction of the P365, the first 9mm in its size class to hit 10+1 capacity. After some typical growing pains (namely, not enough supply to keep up with rampant demand), SIG seems to have the P365 squared away. It has made a huge number of friends among professionals and is continuing to sell extremely well.
Considered an abomination when first introduced in 1950 (Colt’s lightweight Commander), the 9mm 1911 continues to rise dramatically in popularity at present. The reason? Led by Nighthawk Custom, and Springfield Armory with their EMP (Enhanced Micro Pistol) platform, gunmakers have finally figured out how to make a platform designed for the longer .45 ACP cartridge to work reliably with the shorter 9mm Luger round. This allows shooters to take advantage of the amazingly light recoil the 9mm generates in the big 1911, not to mention the 1911’s famously good trigger pull and easy-to-reach trigger. All these features make the 1911 9mm especially “female-friendly,” as well.
Wilson Combat, Colt itself, Kimber (including their very tiny, very sweet Micro 9) and Ruger have since followed suit. Another example is SIG, whose appropriately named Ultra-Compact — a 1911’ish 9mm — has proven to be a smash bestseller.
Armed citizens and off-duty cops have always looked for the most effective ammo to stop a threat, and are generally ready to pay a premium for it. One recent development is the fluted bullet.
Dr. Martin Topper is a well-known gun expert, and gave an excellent lecture on ammunition selection for self-defense at the annual Rangemaster Tactical Conference (TacCon), held at the NOLATAC range in New Orleans in March 2019.
(Fluted bullets are available from Black Hills in their HoneyBadger line, and also from Lehigh and Underwood.)
“The flutes have a venturi effect that transfers energy by accelerating tissue fluids at a 90 degree angle from the bullet path as the bullet rotates while penetrating,” Dr. Topper told us. “So, I call them ‘shock shape.’”
After extensive testing Topper now personally carries Lehigh Extreme Defender, designed in accordance with FBI ammo protocols including barrier penetration. When hiking or hunting, he loads up with Lehigh Extreme Penetrator — with up to 30″ penetration, it isn’t suitable for street or home defense, but is effective against large, four-legged predators.
A week after TacCon, I was at the annual conference of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA) in St. Louis. One of the presenters was gun dealer and master instructor Ed Santos (owner of Center Target Sports in Post Falls, Idaho), who spoke on “Terminal Ballistics and Shaped Projectile Performance Analysis.”
Of hybrid bullet designs, Santos said, “We can no longer say ‘if a handgun projectile doesn’t touch the tissue it can’t cause trauma to it!’ Just last year we lived by that concept. Now, however, handgun projectiles are defeating Level IIIA Armor and causing significant trauma to tissue beyond the permanent bullet cavity.”
In shooting animals, Santos found the G2 bullet (not to be confused with Speer’s G2, a polymer-filled JHP considered a second generation of their street-proven Gold Dot) to be absolutely devastating.
My own experience with fluted bullets confirms they do have promise. Last June,
I took a hog with an ARX Interceptor round out of a 5″ Springfield Range Officer .45 ACP, and found it performed much like
the best hollowpoints. I haven’t yet, however, run across any field reports of this ammo being used in actual gunfights.
Nonetheless, anything touted as the “latest and greatest” is going to be “hot” in terms of sales, and it’s something you might want to consider having on your shelves if you don’t stock it already.