The Economy And The Personal Defense Gun Market

The poor economy can change the buying habits of gun shop customers, sometimes in unexpected ways.

Yes, four years of the Obama presidency has seen the firearms industry flourish as a bright spot in an otherwise grim economy. The general public — fearing the loss of the right to own certain firearms, or the right entirely — found money to purchase firearms and ammunition.

But the long recession has had a separate effect on firearm purchasing trends. In last month’s column, I mentioned a longstanding family gun shop in West Virginia. It had a long history of selling top-quality hunting rifles and sporting shotguns as its bread-and-butter product. However, today the shop deals with a public that primarily wants to buy AR rifles and polymer-framed, self-defense pistols.

This month, we visit shops on opposite sides of the country to get their take on changing customer tastes in the current economic times.

Used-Gun Option

At Bill’s Gun Rack in Kernersville, N.C., Steve Morgan says the local economy is down so far that local job fairs overflow with attendees. Bill’s Gun Rack is located near a pawn shop, and Morgan says every day, he and the rest of the gun shop staff see people carrying guns into the pawn shop, far more than they see people carrying them out.

Gun Rack owner Bill Dudley does not traffic in low-priced guns. His shelves and showcases are stocked only with quality firearms. Within that context, customers with tight budgets are steered to pre-owned firearms.

“We’re selling a lot of traditional revolvers out of the used gun showcase,” Dudley said, showing me a nice old Colt Agent lightweight .38 snubbie priced at $399, and a 2-inch Smith & Wesson Model 64 in the same caliber in very good shape for $425. Simple to operate, these guns appeal to first-time gun buyers in particular.

Despite the economy, the shop also does a brisk business in new revolvers of the same type.

“The J-frame Smith & Wessons are consistently very popular here,” Morgan explained, noting that Ruger LCRs and Taurus and Charter Arms small-frame wheel guns are also steady sellers.

“The Glock is our best-selling pistol and when we can get used ones, they practically fly out the door,” Morgan said. “Smith & Wesson Military & Police semiautos sell very well for us. There’s a lot of interest in the new gun in that series, the little Shield, but we’ve only been able to get a few in to sell. Those who’ve bought them are very pleased with them. We also sell a lot of the Springfield Armory XD models, with the XD(M) being the single most popular here right now.”
By Massad Ayoob

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