And with the basic design of black rifles open to industrywide adaptations, gun makers began adding their own innovations and accessories to refine and improve the AR-15’s performance. By 2004, when the assault weapons ban expired, black rifles had emerged as a major category in firearms. But while Colt’s sales had shrunk in the intervening years, output exploded for black-rifle specialists like Bushmaster, Rock River Arms and DPMS.
“The little guys perfected the platform,” says Michael Bane, a gun blogger and writer who is the host of “Shooting Gallery,” a program on the Outdoor Channel on cable television. “They had the 10 years of the ban to get their chops down.”
But for most of those 10 years, these small manufacturers managed to fly under the radar of many gun owners, including Mr. Zumbo, a self-described traditionalist who says he had seen only one black rifle during a lifetime of hunting. “I had absolutely zero idea of the number of people who are into these types of firearms,” he says.
Not so for Mr. Nugent, who stocked up on black rifles before the ban took effect and estimates that he now owns about two dozen. If the boom in black rifles began in spite of the federal assault weapons ban, it has accelerated only in the two and a half years since the ban expired. Manufacturers have been freed to revive once-prohibited features like collapsible stocks, flash suppressors and large-capacity magazines.
Based only on the volume of accessories sold — such as high-powered scopes and flashlights — Mr. Bane estimates that as many as 750,000 black rifles, including about 400,000 AR-15s, change hands each year. Brownells, a company in Montezuma, Iowa, a big seller of firearms parts and accessories, says AR-15 gear has become its best-selling product category.
Because all but a few gun manufacturers are closely held private companies, overall sales figures for the black rifle industry are hard to come by. But companies are required to report their overall rifle production to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and based on that, many of the small manufacturers that have specialized in the guns are “on the verge of being big,” Mr. Bane says. One, Stag Arms of New Britain, Conn., opened in 2004 and is already producing 2,500 to 3,000 black rifles a month, according to the president and owner, Mark Malkowski. That would be 30,000 to 36,000 a year, roughly the same number that Colt was producing in the late 1990s.
Saturday, June 02, 2007
MB & the Nuge in the NYT
Yeah yeah, me and the Nuge on black rifles in the New York Times!