Gun article in today's WSJ


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StephenT
July 28, 2005, 11:07 AM
Enjoy !

Selling Guns to the Gun-Shy

To Expand Customer Base,
Makers of Firearms Stress
Safety, Security and Size
By MARK FRITZ
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
July 28, 2005; Page B1

When Nascar racer Ryan Newman ran the fastest lap at the Texas Motor Speedway earlier this year, a member of Italy's Beretta family was waiting in victory lane, armed with a marketing strategy: a 12-gauge shotgun etched with Mr. Newman's image and valued at $65,000.

When grizzled gun dealers gathered for their big annual Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas last January, they found themselves rubbing holsters with a decidedly different demographic: people who play and profit from the booming sport of paintball.

Experiencing sluggish sales largely because hunters represent an aging demographic, the $2 billion-a-year gun industry has launched bolder marketing pitches to attract novices into the world of weaponry. Gun makers see potential growth in the self-defense, security and target-shooting markets, and the young, edgy, camouflage-clad Gen Y crowd is squarely in the cross hairs.

"You don't have to be a hunter to go shoot," says Scott Blackwell, division manager for manufacturing, product development and law enforcement at Beretta USA.


A Smith & Wesson ad


Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. unveiled a magazine ad this year that epitomizes the new approach. A young woman with a backpack stands alone near a canyon that yawns across a desolate landscape. The picture projects an image of adventure, with a whiff of vulnerability. But the copy warns that this is no easy prey: "I hike alone, I bike alone, I climb alone. But with my Smith & Wesson, I'm never alone."

In the gun industry, "there is a growing sophistication in marketing," says Gary Mehalik, spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. "It's widening to include people from more diverse backgrounds."

Taking advantage of a prevailing pro-gun political climate in Washington, a fear of terrorism, and the steady liberalization of gun ownership spreading through statehouses across the country, Smith & Wesson and other makers and sellers of guns are touting a host of new products and features.

"I think innovation is critical to the industry," says Smith & Wesson's marketing chief, Tom Taylor. This year, Smith & Wesson introduced the 460XVR, which is designed to send a slug flying at 2,300 feet per second, making it the highest-velocity production revolver in the world. It is capable of nailing a target two football fields away at twice the speed of sound. It was named the 2005 "Handgun of the Year" by a group of 471 gun dealers, writers and executives under the auspices of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the industry trade group.

The 460XVR is only a part of an arsenal that manufacturers are selling this year to Americans, who -- whether they like it or not -- keep getting more freedom to own, carry, conceal and shoot a stunningly eclectic selection of guns. The number of states with liberal conceal-and-carry laws -- permitting any adult without a felony conviction to slip a loaded Glock in his or her suitcoat -- jumped from 10 in 1990 to 39 as of this year.


Nascar racer Ryan Newman with a shotgun presented to him by Beretta


What's more, the Senate this week postponed debate on the nation's wartime defense budget to close its current session with a vote on whether to grant immunity to the gun industry from liability lawsuits -- an indication of the gun lobby's influence.

One industry initiative that is being widely embraced is an emphasis on safety features to lure people frightened of firearms -- a notable reversal from a few years ago when Smith & Wesson was the lone gun manufacturer to agree to a Clinton administration demand to install internal locks. (The brand was widely boycotted as a result.)

This year, Sturm, Ruger & Co. of Southport, Conn. -- the largest U.S.-based gun maker based on guns sold -- upgraded 40 models, largely with safety features, including a prominent indicator showing users that the gun's chamber is loaded. Ruger, one of the few publicly traded weapons makers, says net firearms sales rose 8.2% in this year's first quarter from a year ago.

Sigarms Inc., a German-Swiss joint venture, now markets a Mauser semiautomatic pistol for the "conceal and carry" market that it calls "the safest handgun on the market today." The weapon has seven different safety features, both external and internal.

Almost all gun makers are tempting prospective buyers with rifles and handguns that come in a variety of colors, including olive green and "urban camouflage." And, like the manufacturers of laptops and MP3 players, gun makers across the board are locked in a struggle to make smaller guns with a bigger bang -- pocket rockets to tuck into your Dockers.

Springfield Armory of Geneseo, Ill., unveiled the slimmest .45-caliber conceal-and-carry gun on the market this year, the crown jewel of its Croatian-built XD line of semiautomatic pistols. Closely held Springfield Armory says the XD line, which kicked off in 2001, is its hottest seller.


Models wearing clothes from Italian gun maker Beretta


The gun, the smallest of which has a suggested retail price of $514, has a $99 option just perfect for those unexpected encounters in dark alleys: a tiny flashlight that slips snugly along a track beneath the 3-inch barrel.

The XD line is aimed squarely at the Austrian-built Glock, which is celebrating its 20th year in this country. Along the way, it became a pop icon whose brand name has been invoked in an almost-uncountable number of rap tunes.

Jason Gillman, a 20-year-old student at the Great Lakes Maritime Academy in Traverse City, Mich., bought a .40-caliber Glock 23 in September. "It's comfortable to shoot at the range," he says, "and when I do start carrying [after he turns 21 next year], I'll be able to conceal it."

As more gun makers push new models that claim to be the smallest and the most concealable, Smith & Wesson recently reported that its net firearms sales for fiscal 2005 were up 11% from a year earlier, and it credited much of its growth to its large revolvers.

Sales of Smith & Wesson's gargantuan .50-caliber Magnum 500, introduced in 2003 as the most powerful production handgun on the market, seemed to accelerate in 2004 when the Violence Policy Center, a Washington gun-control group, issued a detailed report condemning the gun's outsize specifications and its purported ability to punch through most police body armor.

Unfazed, the company responded to attacks by making more variations of the Magnum 500: a longer one, a shorter one, and a modernistic model done in Darth Vader black

"Smith & Wesson should have paid the antigun movement royalties when they came out with that 500," says Russ Thurman, editor of Shooting Industry magazine.

Under an overhauled management team that includes former executives from Harley-Davidson, Black & Decker and Coca-Cola, Smith & Wesson has been taking advantage of the controversy, furiously marketing a brand name that has an 87% recognition rate among the general public, says Mr. Taylor, the marketing chief.

This year alone, Smith & Wesson is sponsoring a Nascar team, producing a cable-television show and promoting a pistol match to raise money for kids with cancer. It is also licensing its 153-year-old name to footwear, flashlights, baseball caps and barbeque grills. And it has retained a Hollywood product-placement firm to get more of its guns in movies.

The last time that Smith & Wesson had the world's most powerful revolver -- the .44 Magnum wielded by Clint Eastwood in the "Dirty Harry" movies of the 1970s -- sales boomed.

"Every time Dirty Harry made a new movie we'd sell all the .44 Magnums in the store," says Larry Barnett, a Huntsville, Ala., retailer.

Write to Mark Fritz at mark.fritz@wsj.com

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Rebar
July 28, 2005, 11:15 AM
The number of states with liberal conceal-and-carry laws -- permitting any adult without a felony conviction to slip a loaded Glock in his or her suitcoat -- jumped from 10 in 1990 to 39 as of this year.
Thank you republican party!

Souris
July 28, 2005, 11:46 AM
"liberal conceal-and-carry laws" & "the steady liberalization of gun ownership"

Now those are amusing turns of phrases!

It seems as though the article was attempting to be against the marketing of firearms. However, It seems that it couldn't quite hold the leftist view against all the marketing staements.

What a great article!

Ransom
July 28, 2005, 11:51 AM
Ya know, I'd like to see Glock or S&W or one of the other large companies sponsor a NASCAR team. That would be pretty cool.

Tory
July 28, 2005, 12:12 PM
"Ya know, I'd like to see Glock or S&W or one of the other large companies sponsor a NASCAR team."

Ya know, it would help if you read the article before posting.

"This year alone, Smith & Wesson is sponsoring a Nascar team..." :rolleyes:

Ransom
July 28, 2005, 01:28 PM
Ya know, it would help if you read the article before posting.

"This year alone, Smith & Wesson is sponsoring a Nascar team..." :rolleyes:

Well thats Busch, I was thinking more Nextel cup. Plus I think their sponsorship is only for a limited number of races and I believe its split between two drivers. I was thinking more of a fulltime deal. So dont jump dont my throat, ok pal?

KriegHund
July 28, 2005, 01:38 PM
Just ignore em....

Anywho, its great that they rae looking to the future. Makes me feel better.

Mulliga
July 28, 2005, 01:47 PM
The number of states with liberal conceal-and-carry laws -- permitting any adult without a felony conviction to slip a loaded Glock in his or her suitcoat -- jumped from 10 in 1990 to 39 as of this year.

Riiiiight...after they get fingerprinted, attend training, pay a licensing fee, etc. etc.

Liberal indeed.

LaEscopeta
July 28, 2005, 02:11 PM
It seems as though the article was attempting to be against the marketing of firearms.
I don't know; seems to me to be just reporting the facts of new marketing by gun companies. I'm not seeing the article as being for or against. IMHO, YMMV, etc.

shield20
July 28, 2005, 02:19 PM
I think WSJ is fairly conservative - and it does seem a nicely neutral article, which I would NOT expect out of say the NY Times or LA Times. :barf:

hso
July 28, 2005, 02:38 PM
"an arsenal that manufacturers are selling this year to Americans, who -- whether they like it or not -- keep getting more freedom to own, carry, conceal and shoot a stunningly eclectic selection of guns. "

They were going great until then.

Waitone
July 28, 2005, 02:38 PM
Bocephus Lugnuts, NASCAR driver extrordinaire, from the winners circle,

"Yea, when I went into turn 3 I saw Billy Bob hit the wall like a Smith & Wesson model 500 in a 6 in barrel. But I held on my steering wheel because it was fitted like a Springfield Armory's XD semi-auto. The race turned in my favor when the 38 car and I swapped paint. I took a major hit but my car was a reliable as a Kimber Classic Stainless Target. All in all my team functioned as reliably as a Springfield Armory M1 Garande."

Can't wait for the post race interviews. :D

HighVelocity
July 28, 2005, 02:54 PM
Interesting reading for sure. Are there actually people that believe guns are only for hunters? :rolleyes:

This adline isn't so smart though:

I hike alone, I bike alone, I climb alone. But with my Smith & Wesson, I'm never alone."

If you hike and climb alone that SW isn't going to go for help when you get caught in a bear trap of fall off a cliff. :uhoh:

Fudgie Ghost
July 28, 2005, 03:04 PM
I don't subscribe--yet--but I read the WSJ almost every day.

Editorally, the paper is fairly conservative, but the reportage can be neutral-to-mildly liberal. They keep those two areas pretty seperate, which is as it should be.

BTW, the WSJ is a great paper. They regularly have great guest columns on the editorial and op-ed page, and some of the letters they get are superb. They ran the original column by Bernie Goldberg that became his book, "Bias", Dorothy Rabinowitz did a great job exposing the witch-hunts that went on with some of the more sensational child abuse cases in the 80's, Peggy Noonan used to write regular pieces. They had a great article about a Marine (I think) officer during the invasion of Iraq--he was relieved of command, in what seems like more of a personality clash with his superiors---good stuff,, so much better than the NY Times, but of course that's not setting the bar very high. In fact that bar isn't set at all with that rag.

XLMiguel
July 28, 2005, 05:54 PM
Good read.

The larger point, and one that we all should be promoting at every opportunity, is that the number of states with 'shall issue' or otherwise liberalized CCW has increased 390% (from 10 to 39) over the last 15 years, yet the bloodbath and crime wave all the bliss-ninneies & gun-grabbers promised has yet to materialize.

The WSJ is hardly the lacky of the NRA or the right wingers. The VPC big lie is just that, a big lie, and firearms-related deaths and crime is down to boot. Go figure.

Cosmoline
July 28, 2005, 06:27 PM
Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. unveiled a magazine ad this year that epitomizes the new approach. A young woman with a backpack stands alone near a canyon that yawns across a desolate landscape. The picture projects an image of adventure, with a whiff of vulnerability. But the copy warns that this is no easy prey: "I hike alone, I bike alone, I climb alone. But with my Smith & Wesson, I'm never alone."

This sounds like one of Oleg's posters!

If you hike and climb alone that SW isn't going to go for help when you get caught in a bear trap of fall off a cliff.

Actually, it might very well bring help.

chopinbloc
July 28, 2005, 09:05 PM
Jason Gillman, a 20-year-old student at the Great Lakes Maritime Academy in Traverse City, Mich., bought a .40-caliber Glock 23
do i smell a straw sale?

actually, the article seemed pretty well balanced to me. they should have mentioned that the vpc's claim that the s&w 500 penetrates body armor is misleading at best. i'm sure you folks know that a .500 will penetrate class IIa as handily as .44 or .357. class IIIa will stop any handgun round even a .45-70 out of a handgun.

while hiking alone may be a bad idea, alot of people enjoy the solitude and peace they can only find by themselves. if you're gonna go alone might as well bring a piece, right?

22-rimfire
July 28, 2005, 09:19 PM
The article was about the gun business and was not slanted pro or con relative to ownership. Good article WSJ! Maybe I don't see the bias since I am on the pro side of the ledger, but it seems to be a basic report on the industry and its trends.

Standing Wolf
July 28, 2005, 09:23 PM
...like the manufacturers of laptops and MP3 players, gun makers across the board are locked in a struggle to make smaller guns with a bigger bang -- pocket rockets to tuck into your Dockers.

For those who may be unaware, Dockers are a product of the Levi Straus Company, which has been both practicing and generously funding shameless anti-Second Amendment bigotry for years.

1911user
July 28, 2005, 10:05 PM
I liked a couple of points made in the article.

The first was seperating the idea that all guns are (or should be) designed for hunting. Not everyone who shoots is interested in hunting and continuing that myth just encourages the idea that the second amendment is only about sport hunting. I've had it with "hunters" turning their noses up at something they wouldn't take into the field.

"I hike alone, I bike alone, I climb alone. But with my Smith & Wesson, I'm never alone." I thought that was a great ad statement about taking responsibility for ones' personal protection.

Tory
July 28, 2005, 10:15 PM
"the number of states with 'shall issue' or otherwise liberalized CCW has increased 390% (from 10 to 39)"

Check the numbers. A 100% increase would be 10 more states; 20 in all; a 200% increase would be 30 ADDITIONAL states.

It's increased 3.9x; but a 290% increase - which is still great!

Mulliga
July 28, 2005, 10:17 PM
do i smell a straw sale?

I bought a CZ-75 from a private party. Perfectly legal in many states.

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