Be Careful What You Wish For: Thoughts on the Business From What We Saw at NRAAM

NRAAM 2024 Staccato booth
Dan Z. for SNW

You know how the story goes…‘Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.’ Many of you might have thought I was going to pile on in regards to the current state of the National Rifle Association’ leadership. No, I’ll leave that topic to our boss man and senior editor.

Instead, I thought I might highlight some of the whispers and exclamations heard on the convention floor of the NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits held last weekend in Dallas, Texas. I have been attending firearms industry trade shows for about a quarter century and it’s interesting and often entertaining to speak with my friends in the industry about what they’ve heard from those attending such events. 

The 10 Gauge

The show floor hadn’t been open for an hour yet on Friday morning when I walked into the Benelli USA booth to greet one of my friends there. She said to me, “Someone just came into the booth and wanted to know when we were coming out with a 10 gauge shotgun.” My friend had to tell the gentleman that they are not going to make such a thing any time in the foreseeable future.

NRAAM 2024 Thompson Auto Ordnance TAO50 .50 BMG rifle
Dan Z. for SNW

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the 10 gauge, but let’s pause for a reality check. First, the number of ammo makers loading it can be counted on one hand…minus a thumb. Also, when you do find it in stock, the price of 10 gauge ammo can be on par with .50 BMG.

Sure the 10 gauge had its day, but that day is long past. If you want a big shotgun boom, try 3 or 3½ inch 12 gauge loads. Those will knock your fillings loose. 

NRAAM 2024 Springfield Echelon pistol
Dan Z. for SNW

At the Hi-Point booth, an attendee wanted to know when the Hi-Point carbine was going to be made in .223 Remington. Given the design of that gun, the answer is…never. One of my favorite suggestions from a person at the NRA show came from the Wilson Combat booth. A friend there informed me that a gentleman had suggested to them that they make the recoil springs on their M1911 pistols “lighter” so that “it will be easy for women to rack the slide.” I guess function, reliability, and physics be damned.  

Cautious Companies

It is sad that so many adult humans don’t understand basic manufacturing economics. I’ve lost count of the number of times a gun or accessory maker has told me, “Yep, the guy said, ‘If you make (fill in the blank), you’ll have two sales right now.” We smile back at them and what we don’t say is as long and you, your buddy, and five thousand of your closest friends are going to buy it, we’ll make it.

NRAAM 2024 Daniel Defense H9 pistol
Dan Z. for SNW

Thanks to the artificial and unnatural gun, ammo, and accessory boom from the year 2020 to 2022, the entire industry is now in a down cycle regarding sales. No manufacturer in their right mind is going to take out a $500,000 or $1 Million loan to R&D and bring to market a product that they do not know for certain will sell ten thousand units. And that is the trick, there is no certainty.

During the Obama-inspired gun sales boom, many companies saw no end to sales and took out huge loans to expand manufacturing facilities, only to have the rug pulled out from under them almost overnight. A lot of companies didn’t survive. 

NRAAM 2024 booth Daniel Defense rifle
Dan Z. for SNW

The GWoT brought big contracts and big money to the industry. Those days are gone, too. Look at how many companies have gone belly up. Colt went under (no surprise), then Remington and the companies of the “Freedom Group” were sold off in pieces to the highest bidders. According to my sources, Vista Outdoor, a massive hunting/outdoor shooting sports company has laid off hundreds, if not thousands of employees. 

Innovation Versus Risk

Yes, innovation is important and it’s what keeps us moving forward. Nonetheless, there is a balancing act between taking a risk on a trend and true manufacturing innovation. Trendy guns, cartridges, and accessories can be dangerous because the American gun market is so fickle. Don’t believe me? Ask the guys who mortgaged their houses in the late 1990’s to make cowboy action guns and gear.

30 super carry ammunition
Paul Markel for SNW

While perusing the aisles of a sporting goods store just today, I saw that they had .30 Super Carry ammunition marked down on clearance to move it out. That cartridge was an answer to a question that no one was asking and one can only imagine the amount of money wasted by Federal Cartridge Co. developing it and bringing it to market. Remember the 224 Valkyrie cartridge? Another DOA round.   

The Future? 

I don’t claim to have a crystal ball to divine the future of the firearms industry, but there is certainly a tremendous amount of trepidation and caution out there right now. This morning I read the news about Alliant Powder having suspended shipments of propellant powder for reloading as the demand for “defense-grade” nitrocellulose had skyrocketed due to foreign conflicts.

NRAAM 2024 Springfield 1911 pistol
Dan Z. for SNW

We haven’t even considered that the current administration in Washington, D.C. has declared war on the lawful commerce of the firearms industry. They have set loose their minions to hamper, hinder, and destroy legitimate American businesses. None of this has anything to do with safety or fighting crime, but everything to do with tearing apart the American firearms industry.

As a parent of three, I know that saying “be grateful for what you have” is often not something that people want to hear, but it is true. Rather than wishing for things that don’t exist or looking for new, trendy, anodized blasters with holes carved in them, now is the time to be truly grateful for the range of products available on the market today.

Take your liberty and freedom seriously. Both are under constant attack. We absolutely must right the ship that is the United States of America. If we stay on the current trajectory, what remains of the firearms industry will be a mere shadow of what it once was. 

Paul G. Markel is a combat decorated United States Marine veteran. He is also the founder of Student the Gun University and has been teaching Small Arms & Tactics to military personnel, police officers, and citizens for over three decades.

10 Responses

  1. Thanks for that. I’ve been hanging on several hundred shares of Ruger for several years, hoping that eventually the California market would open up when the roster got finally overrun. And it was nice to meet you at Michael’s buys the beer.

    1. I have 100 shares of Enron stock and the stock certificate is worth more than the shares which are worthless.

  2. 30sc is a great idea for a pdw/smg setup like a lower power 30 carbine. For small pistols where someone may have issues with 9mm and 380 isn’t enough sure but it is splitting hairs between two successful and popular options so…..damn. A lot of what I load for in pistol (not revolver) falls into similar pits of neat idea but limited market and between NFA and NY assorted infringements there isn’t as much usefulness as there could be. Anyone can have an interest that the industry isn’t producing but not everyone can reason through why (starting hint it’s not about you).

  3. “During the Obama-inspired gun sales boom, many companies saw no end to sales and took out huge loans to expand manufacturing facilities, only to have the rug pulled out from under them almost overnight.”

    Had Hillary won instead of Trump, they would still be in business.

    I’m looking at it this way, if the SCotUS in a month or so rules that non-violent convicted felons are now eligible to exercise their 2A rights, the boom that will happens is gonna be make the Obama panic look like child’s play. If that happens, new ammo plants will need to be built…

    1. Honestly one new primer plant would handle most of the issue especially after the Ukraine issue gets decided. Would be nice to get more powder though.

    2. Had Hillary won we would not have had the Bruen decision. She would have appointed communists to the Supreme Court.

      1. Commies need guns and ammo to keep the serfs in line before liquidation. Production would be different but 9mm and 5.56 would probably be the same. Potentially higher for NATO rounds with a slightly different dynamic in the mideast.

  4. So……we heathens should shut up and take what the overloads decide we need………bullshit!

    Mainstream companies make what’s cheapest, and brings the most cash – I get that.

    But they Do need to hear what people want.

    How many people were asking for 30 super carry? And yet it’s here. Looks like people are staying away in droves.

    Smith ad Wesson could easily make their mainline J frame revolvers with sights like the ultimate carry…….but they don’t.

    So they offer semi custom guns made with unobtainium part so they can “extract value from the market”.

    Ruger let’s Talo do their marketing for them on revolvers.

    Had a few email chats with Linsey’s about building a Sheriffs model flat top in pistol calibers. People like guns they can carry shoot.

    Would they sell? I think they would. But just about every Ruger single action is gobbled up.

    As it stands, they make 2500 or even 5000 and I never see one at a dealer. I see them on Gunbroker (sometimes) at 50% over MSRP.

    Companies used to make runs of various models on a yearly or bi-yearly basis. It created demand within a limited market.

    Showing disdain for what shooters want just because they can’t sell 50000 copies is a little dangerous.

    Maybe there are a few people who would buy a new 10 gauge ( not me).

    Seem like industry folks would solicit customer desires without denigrating them for something out of ordinary.

    Maybe Remington should have asked the un-washed masses what they wanted before bringing out the R9, R45, and R51. In fairness, the R51 would have been more successful if it had worked. But that’s another story.

  5. Sounds like Hollywood bitching because nobody is watching movies they didn’t ask for or the movies they did ask for that Hollywood felt obligated to make shitty rather than just the way they were asked for.

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