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IWA 2005 Sets Record Exhibitor Count
By Robert Hausman

Trade fair deemed successful despite tough European market

Though the past years have not been good for the European firearms market, the 32nd annual 2005 edition of IWA (Internationale Waffenausstellung) & Outdoor Classics held March 18-21 in Nuernberg, Germany was deemed successful.

A gain was made in the number of exhibitors to 1,002 from last year’s count of 988 and 2003’s total exhibitors of 966. This was the first year the exhibitor count exceeded 1,000. It is believed 27,000 persons were in attendance, the same as last year. Visitors came from nearly 100 countries.

Like most of the retail trade in Germany, the country’s firearms retailers recorded zero growth in 2004 for the third year in succession, Reinhold Lux, President of the German Firearms Manufacturers and Retailers Association frankly disclosed. He cited Germany’s over 5 million unemployed persons and especially the federal government’s over two-year delay of the announcement of the details of how Germany’s new firearms law will affect consumers, as reasons why business is so slow. The overall mood of retailers in Germany is one close to despair. While the number of international visitors to IWA is growing, the German visitor count is stagnating.

Consumer Monday Disappointment

A “Consumer Day” with clearly defined rules for admission was offered for the first time this year on the fair’s last day, a Monday, but the attendance count was disappointing. Some 10,000 entrance invitations were distributed to a carefully selected group of consumers who were holders of hunting and/or firearms licenses. However, slightly less than 1,000 were exchanged for entrance tickets.

“We had expected appreciably more visitors and made appropriate preparations,” said Walter Hufnagel, a member of the management board of the Nuernberg trade center. However, the idea is not being abandoned. “We are prepared to make another attempt to organize a Consumer Day on the Monday of the exhibition in 2006. We will work to determine the causes of this apparent lack of interest.”

The issue of allowing end-users into the show had been under discussion for several years. While there were apparently more exhibitors in favor of opening up the show, there had always been a group opposed. Consideration had been given to adding an extra day to the show, on Tuesday as the consumer day, in a reduced number of halls (the IWA fair currently occupies five halls). This would have entailed some exhibitors having to move their stands into one of the other halls to receive consumers and this idea was condemned by exhibitors in their responses to surveys by the show management.

In the end, consumers were allowed on the show’s last day, a Monday, but the turnout was disappointing. It was noticed that quite a few exhibitors had erected tape barricades at the entrances to their booths on Monday morning in an effort to keep consumers out of their booths.

German Gun Industry Surviving on Exports Alone

The weak domestic market has led German producers to increasingly seek export opportunities, and this is what sustained it during the past year, said Klaus Gotzen, General Manager of the German Firearms Retailers Association.

“The German guns and ammunition industry managed to compensate for the weak domestic market only through increased efforts in the export sector,” Gotzen said during remarks made at the fair’s opening. “The previous year’s turnover was reached due to the good reputation of German guns abroad and the flexibility of the companies.”

German Industry Statistics

According to 2004 figures available from the Federal Statistics Office (1st - 3rd quarter), German companies have maintained the year 2003 production value of 208 million Euro for sporting guns and gun components. Total German exports of sporting guns (including gun components) increased by 6% to 166 million Euro in 2004. Imports of hunting and sporting guns and gun components to Germany were worth about 42 million Euro, which corresponds to the results for 2003.

American Pavilion Busy

Once again, a pavilion was organized for American companies exhibiting at the fair. While not containing all of the American firms present, the pavilion area was perceived as being busier than at past IWA editions during the last several years. The weakness of the American dollar as opposed to the strength of the Euro made American goods attractive to Europeans, and they seemed to be buying.

Italian Industry Statistics

One of the more pleasurable events held each year during IWA & Outdoor Classics is the Italian dinner banquet sponsored by the Brescia Chamber of Commerce. In keeping with tradition, an overview was presented of the firearms production and sales figures of the Italian companies situated in the northern province of Brescia.

Overall, there was an increase in production of 2.87% in 2004, versus the year before. In 2003, a total of 623,721 firearms were produced, while in 2004 the total rose to 641,618; the highest quantity achieved within the last 10 years. Handgun production rose by 20.3%, making up 29.2% of the total. Long gun production, however, decreased by 2.93% from the 2003 figure to a grand total of 454,504 units in 2004.

A total of 78,651,579 Euro worth of arms and munitions were imported into the Brescia region of Italy during 2003, a gain of 128.77% according to the Brescia Chamber of Commerce. Exports of arms and munitions during 2003 totaled 192,781,723 Euro, a gain of 4.29%.

First-half 2004 data shows that foreign exports by Brescia and its provinces were steady in the face of a material appreciation of the Euro vs. the U.S. dollar and a global slowdown in trade flows for all sectors of industry. At the same time, the trend in most sectors of Italian business of relocating production to low-cost countries continued during the first half of 2004, with a steady level of investments being made outside the domestic borders.

The growth of Italian exports to Eastern Europe confirms the content of conversations this reporter had at the show with European exhibitors. Most said they view Eastern Europe and Russia as the growth markets of the future as the economies of these countries are on the upswing. While firearms ownership is still highly restricted in most of these developing countries, it is expected that controls on ownership will be loosened in the next several years. Firearms shows are starting to develop in some of these countries. One show in particular held in the fall, the Moscow Arms Salon, seems particularly poised for growth.

Law Enforcement Forum

For the first time, on the day before IWA officially opened, a Law Enforcement Workshop was held. Some 130 delegates attended talks on optics, police and military use of sound suppressors, functional clothing, new police ammunition and high-performance flashlights. The workshop was deemed a success and it will be held again next year.

AECAC Elects New Committee

During IWA 2005, the European Association of Civilian Arms Dealers (AECAC) voted in a new committee. Henk Ketelaar of the Netherlands is the new President, Yves Collety of France is the Vice President and Victor Fabregat of Spain was chosen as Secretary General. The members also intend to register the association in Brussels.

IWA New Products

IWA is primarily a sporting arms show, so there is not a great deal of tactical and/or military goods on display. However, if one knows who the producers are, one can either see such arms “in the back room” of some of the exhibitors’ booths, or in catalogs that can be provided upon request.

Oberland Arms, a German firm, showed their new OA-15 Police Carbine 556 (an AR-15 style product) in .223 Remington. A highly compact rifle, The 292mm/11.5-inch barrel was said by the producer to be the shortest possible practical barrel length, as experiments with shorter barrels resulted in less energy, less accuracy and not controllable in rapid fire. This model is equipped with a M4-style collapsible stock, A2 front sight, detachable A3 carry handle with fully adjustable rear sight and a Picatinny rail on the forearm.

Bearing a strong resemblance to the H&K MP5, the new Oberland Arms OA-5 9mm is a self-loading carbine with a roller locking system. Produced under license from H&K, it contains no used or surplus military parts. Chambered for the 9mm Parabellum cartridge, it comes equipped with a Picatinny rail, two magazines, sling, case and an Otis cleaning kit. It does not qualify as a sporting gun under German gun laws, but can be owned by hunting license holders or by those who hold an “Expert” rating on their German firearms license.

Oberland also showed the bull pup Steyr Mannlicher OA-UG Sport rifle in .223 Rem., which bears a strong resemblance to the Steyr-AUG, which is prohibited from importation into the U.S.

Zastava Arms of Yugoslavia, while exhibiting mainly sporting guns, also produces a variety of military designs. For example, it M21S 5.56mm rifle is a Kalashnikov-inspired design with side folding buttstock, but can also accept a 40mmn grenade launcher. The rifle also has a built-in Picatinny rail, enabling attachment of optical devices.

Zastava’s M84 7.62mm belt fed machine gun is supplied with or without tripod mount and optical sight. A folding bipod is also available. Other features include all high tensile steel construction, hammer forged barrel, chrome plated bore rated for 18,000 rounds with most major parts produced on CNC-machinery. A close cousin to the M84 is the M86, which is intended for mounting on tanks and combat vehicles as an auxiliary gun. It has an electro-triggering mechanism and is directed onto the target by the vehicle’s fire-control system. Both the M84 and the M86 are gas-operated, have a rotating bolt locking system and have a firing rate of 700-800 rpm.

Zastava also produces a 12.7mm heavy machine gun, the M87. Its features include high-tensile heat treated steel forging construction, hard chromed bore, front and rear mechanical sights, CNC-machining of functional parts, belt feeding and forward eject of empty cases.

The infantry version of the M87 is tripod mounted and contains a gunner’s seat and a low mounted telescopic sight for shooting at ground targets. The mount can be disassembled in three major components, each of which is lighter than 25kg, so that the system can be transported in a soldier’s backpack. It can also be vehicle mounted for use as an anti-aircraft gun.

Zastava also produces a 30mm Automatic Grenade Launcher, the BGA. Its main purpose is in use in the disabling of open and covered targets at distances up to 1,700 meters and the neutralizing of light armored vehicles at distances up to 1,000 meters. Feeding either from a belt or a 29-round drum magazine, it has an adjustable rate of fire from 50 to 400 rpm.

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