Friday, January 20, 2006

The End of the Game

I'll have happy gun porn a little bit later today, but I think there are some important — and harsh — things that need to be said about the Winchester situation.

With the closing of the New Haven Winchester plant, I think what we are seeing is the End of the Game, the crumbling of the shooting = hunting = shooting paradigm that has driven the firearms industry since the end of World War II.

I know of two other major "name" rifle/shotgun manufacturers who are quite literally on the verge of bankruptcy, in worse shape than Winchester. A series of off-the-record phone calls yesterday confirmed that long gun manufacturers across the board are reeling from a bad year.

What can I say that I haven't said before?

There is not enough money on Wall Street, much less the firearms industry, to generate the new hunter numbers necessary to sustain the current model. The reasons are simple and straightforward: • Recruitment is not the same as retention. In a market with seemingly endless options for leisure time activities, percentage of people still doing the activity after 12-18 months shrinks drastically unless a system is in place to essentially "up the ante," constantly provide new stimuli to reinvigorate the participant. That's much more complex and expensive to accomplish in hunting than, say, in the shooting sports, where competition provides its own ramped up stimuli.
• The megatrends of urbanization/suburbanization, liability and increasing competition for the outdoor "resource" are not going to go away and are unlikely to subside anytime in the forseable future.
• The hunting markets is built primarily on accessory sales...hunters don't need to buy a new gun every year despite what you may read in the magazines. Nor do they buy a large amount of ammo and/or reloading components. If the gun manufacturers are going to survive, they have to be able to sell guns to someone.

The future of shooting is competition, training and self-defense. THAT is where the market is; THAT is where the new shooters are going to come from; THAT is our future.

The domino collapse of several "name" gun manufacturers in a row would be a disaster for us and the Second Amendment and a huge victory for the antigunners. And it would be a victory they didn't even have to work for. It would be a victory that we give the Brady Bunches of the world, all wrapped up in nice packaging with a pretty red bow.

We desperately need to WAKE UP!


Anonymous said...

Michael: As you well know I am in lock-step agreement with your analysis, but how could NSSF reconcile this fact of reality with the press release put out this past week that stated "hunting" generated more revenue this past year than ever before in history. Do they think that all the rifle/shotgun companies are going to branch into camo shorts, tree-stands and deer pee to upgrade their bottom lines?

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with your premise but I thought Cowboy action shooting was the hottest fad in shooting. That couldn't save the origional cowboy company.

Is IDPA the answer? Glock style shoots? Sorry but they seem to be preaching to the choir. ATA sporting clays, those folks are married to one gun.

Go to the SCI show next year and see what those guys drop on gear, guns and trips. Ten years ago you only saw Holland and Holland and such. Now everyone is there including Gunsite. Then walk over and see the Firearm Engravers and Gunmakers Exhibition that is alway held at the same time and not by chance.

As for Mr. James's comment, have you seen a Browning or Remmington catalog lately?

Great Blog.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry....the top brass has considered all the data and all the potential threats.

The top brass has concluded that there is no way the Japanese could ever develop shallow-water torpedo technology, and even if they did, their pilots aren't good enough to mount any sort real attack against us. And even if their pilots were good enough to do that, they'd never be so stupid as to attack us at Pearl Harbor.

And the top brass has also determined that the only real threat to the air fields is from sabotage, so the top brass orders that all aircraft be parked in the middle of the airfields in nice, neat rows, so you can keep an eye on them, and prevent sabotage.

The top brass knows. They've made the required decisions.......Don't worry, all will be well.

Just do what the top brass has determined is for the best, and all will be well.


Michael Bane said...

I have seen the Remington and Browning catalogs.I'm also privvy to some very unofficial numbers.

Did you see the Winchester 2006 catalo? Spectacular. Best year ever; best new products, etc. Except the year seems to be ending in March.

I've been to the SCI show, and I'm not saying hunting is going to disappear, especially the level SCI works at. However, it does not represent enough of a mass market to base the industry on. See my next post.

There is no one answer, but there is an overall strategy...put guns in people's hands. Trap, skeet and the s-c people are married to one gun, but they represent a fertile field to recruit new hunters from, and more importantly, they're GROWING.

Instead of funding one more hunter recruitment program, DOUBLE the funding to the Scholastic Clays Program -- the most successful youth shooting program ever. Double the funding for Scholastic Rifle. Design a pistol program for young people. etc.


Anonymous said...

I too agree wholeheartedly with Bane on this one, especially that training and self-defense are crucial to the future of shooting in America. I will just add that it seems that we also need to pay attention to range development as an important part of the equation.

With ever-increasing urban and suburban sprawl, places to shoot are becoming harder to find. There's not much hope for the sport and for training if there's no place to shoot. NRA, NSSF, and other groups should consider doing something like the Nature Conservancy does, only with land for ranges.

Rob Firriolo,
Just visiting from The Gun Zone

Anonymous said...

The range issue is an important and the number one reason I feel that rifle companies are having a tough time of it in comparison to handgun and shotgun products.

Think about it, how many ranges in your own local area (especially EAST of the Mississippi River) can handle centerfire rifles beyond 300 yards? Or even up to 300 yards?

One of the reasons mouse guns are popular is a lot of people are shooting them on pistol caliber ranges.

All The Best,
Frank W. James