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Industry News: August 2005
By Robert M. Hausman

The National Rifle Association Annual Meetings & Exhibits in Houston, Texas (April 15-17th) drew 59,000 visitors, a total just shy of the 60,000 visitors the NRA had projected the event to draw. The show was advertised to the public as “5-acres of guns and gear.”

Wayne LaPierre, NRA Executive Vice President, said original projections were for an attendance of about 30,000, but the volume of advance registrations caused the NRA to raise its estimate by 50 percent for the three-day event held at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Attractions included a performance of the national anthem by Ted Nugent; seminars on a variety of hunting, personal protection and political issues; a video-taped message to the membership from President Bush and a keynote banquet speech on firearms rights from Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX).

As usual, there were protesters outside the show site, with the largest contingent being present on Saturday. In perhaps a realization of the unpopularity of gun control at present, most of the demonstrators (which one estimate put at 200 people at its most populous point) confined their protests to the presence of DeLay, rather than guns. Many held placards reading, “Keep Guns, Ban Delay.” Rep. DeLay has become embroiled in allegations of unethical conduct regarding payments made to family members who served in positions during his re-election campaign, although such a practice is not unusual among politicians.

Virtually every area of the meeting saw increases, including membership recruitment and fundraising. Members passing through the Institute for Legislative Action booth (the NRA’s lobbying arm) sent more than 1,000 e-mail messages to their legislators from on-site computers and ILA’s Grassroots Division recruited more than 100 new FrontLines volunteers as well.

Election Results

On Monday, April 18, NRA’s Board of Directors elected its officers: Sandra Froman (President); John Sigler (First Vice President); Ronald Schmeits (Second Vice President); Jim Land (Secretary); and Wilson Phillips (Treasurer). Wayne LaPierre was once again chosen as NRA’s Executive Vice President, and he in turn reappointed Chris Cox as NRA-ILA’s Executive Director and Craig Sandler as NRA Executive Director of General Operations.

Outgoing President Kayne B. Robinson was recognized for “fighting for conservative principles and individual liberty” by the Republican Study Committee. North Carolina Representative Patrick T. McHenry (R-10) presented a plaque to Robinson on behalf of the 100-member RSC.

Newly elected board members include well-known actor and Second Amendment proponent Tom Selleck, former U.S. Senator Zell Miller (D-GA), and former Virginia Governor and former Republican National Committee Chairman James S. Gilmore III (R).

Zell Miller Honored

One of the highlights of the event was a presentation by Cox of the Harlon B. Carter Legislative Achievement Award (the highest honor conferred by NRA-ILA) to newly elected Board Member Zell Miller. As Governor, Miller signed preemption legislation ending a 15-day waiting period and eliminating local firearms laws. He also signed legislation protecting shooting ranges and establishing Eddie Eagle Gun Safety Week.

As a United States Senator, he stood up time and again for gun owners even as many of the leaders of his party abandoned the Second Amendment. As keynote speaker at NRA’s 2002 Annual Meetings, he said “Whenever I hear politicians talking about gun control, it makes me wonder if they understand my values or my way of life.”

NRA Golden Bullseye Award Winners

The third annual presentation of the NRA’s Golden Bullseye awards, which recognize top quality shooting sports products were given. The following awards were made by each of the below listed NRA publications:

American Rifleman Golden Bullseye award winners:
  • Springfield SOCOM 16 - Rifle of the Year
  • Ruger Gold Label - Shotgun of the Year
  • Taurus PT 24/7 - Handgun of the Year
  • Leupold VX-III - Optic of the Year
  • Speer Gold Dot .38 Spl. +P - Ammunition Product of the Year
  • Caldwell Lead Sled - Accessory of the Year

American Hunter Golden Bullseye Award Winners
  • Winchester Model 70 Super Shadow - Rifle of the Year
  • Benelli Super Black Eagle II - Shotgun of the Year
  • Remington Managed-Recoil Ammunition - Ammunition Product of the Year
  • Federal Power-Shok Low Recoil Ammunition - Ammunition Product of the Year
  • Leica Ultravid - Optic of the Year
  • Mossy Oak Apparel APX - Accessory of the Year
  • Suzuki KingQuad 700 EFI - Vehicle of the Year

Woman’s Outlook Golden Bullseye Award Winners
  • Kimber CDP Small Hands Package - Handgun of the Year
  • Valmet 512 SC Youth/Ladies Shotgun - Shotgun of the Year
  • Beretta Women’s Upland Clothing - Clothing of the Year
  • Leica Ultravid - Optic of the Year
  • Remington Managed-Recoil Ammunition - Ammunition Product of the Year

Shooting Illustrated Golden Bullseye Award Winners
  • DPMS Panther Arms Long Range 308 - Rifle of the Year
  • Rohrbaugh R9 - Handgun of the Year
  • Benelli Super Black Eagle II - Shotgun of the Year
  • CVA Kodiak 209 Magnum - Muzzleloader of the Year
  • Zeiss 10x42 Victory T* FL - Optic of the Year
  • Storm Case by Hardigg - Accessory of the Year
  • .204 Ruger by Hornady - Ammunition Product of the Year

SGCA Gains Recognition

During presentation of the NRA’s awards on Sunday morning to exhibiting firearms collectors groups, the newly formed Swiss Gun Collectors Association, an NRA-affiliated club, won two awards.

The first was for its overall display. The second was for an ornamented SIG P 210 pistol they displayed. Highlighted with gold engravings and unique white maple wood grips (simulating elephant ivory) by noted gripmaker Karl Nill of Germany, the pistol also had an eye-catching plasma-blue finish.

While the basic pistol was produced by SAN Swiss Arms of Switzerland, the ornamentation was performed by Swiss silver- and goldsmith Mueller-Murgenthal, producer of most SIG commemoratives in recent years. The presentation of the awards greatly surprised the staff of SGCA, as it was the first time they exhibited at the NRA show.

New Products

Some firms used the occasion of the NRA show to launch new products. Four new Ruger P95 pistols were shown with a textured frame, Picatinny-style accessory rail and re-contoured rounded trigger guard. The pistols have non-slip texturing on the grip area and a subdued texture on the remainder of the frame.

The new model designations are the P95R, KP95 PR, P95DPR and KP95DPR, covering both manual safety and decock-only versions with either blued alloy steel or stainless steel slides. The pistols have a four-inch barrel, two 15-round magazines and fixed sights and will be available this month. Ruger was recently awarded a contract for 5,000 P95 pistols by the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command.

The Swiss Gun Collectors Association showed its new Swiss product lines including Wenger wristwatches, Victorinox Swiss Army knives, and BRUNOX gun oil. SGCA is the exclusive U.S. importer of BRUNOX.

“We have a tremendous membership in this state,” LaPierre said at the conclusion of what was the 134th NRA annual meeting. “It’s been historically very positive to our issues and what we stand for.”

Ruger’s First Quarter Sales Improve

Increased first quarter 2005 net sales of $44.3 million compared to $40.2 million in the first quarter of 2004, and net income of $3.7 million or 14 cents per share compared to $3.9 million or 14 cents per share in the first quarter of 2004, are reported by Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc.

Chairman William B. Ruger, Jr. commented on the firearms results, “Firearm unit shipments increased 2% from the prior year due to strong demand for our new products and rejuvenated interest in our established firearms.”

Turning his attention to castings results, Ruger said, “Our castings business continues to improve, as evidenced by our 26% increase in sales from 2004. Further sales growth, which leads to the utilization of the relocated titanium foundry in New Hampshire, is important to this segment’s long-term success.”

The firm now has the fewest number of active lawsuits against it in many years, with but two “conventional” product liability and four “municipal” lawsuits.

Financial Details

For the three months ended March 31, 2005, firearms sales came to $39,100,000 or 88.3% of sales, compared to $36,138,000 or 89.8% of sales for the same three months in 2004.

Castings sales were $5,160,000 or 11.7% of sales during 2005’s first quarter, versus $4,099,000 or 10.2% of sales in 2004’s first quarter.

Earnings per share (for both diluted and basic shares) was 14 cents both in the first quarter of 2005 as well as 2004. Cash dividends per share were 10 cents in 2005’s first quarter, and 20 cents in the first quarter of last year.

There were 26,911 basic and an equal number of diluted shares outstanding in the first quarter of 2005. During the first quarter of 2004, there were 26,911 basic and 27,008 diluted shares outstanding.

Colt Guns to Use Greaseless Technology

Colt Defense, LLC, of West Hartford, CT has formed an alliance with UCT Coatings, Inc., of Stuart, FL, resulting in the introduction of a revolutionary coating allowing small arms to operate lubrication-free.

UCT’s patented nickel boron coatings are said to have the potential to change the way all firearms are built and maintained. As part of this alliance, UCT has granted Colt a long-term exclusive license to use this technology for the development, manufacturing and refurbishment of its weapons systems. Testing has shown (according to Colt) that UCT’s technology provides parts life extension, lubrication-free operation and corrosion protection.

“UCT’s innovative thinking and applied technology will allow us to introduce a new generation of easily maintained weapons for all elements of the small arms market, while reducing the maintenance required on existing arms as they are upgraded during refurbishment,” said Lt. Gen. (Ret.) William M. Keys, Colt’s President and CEO.

UCT Coatings, Inc. has developed and patented a family of performance coatings under the trade name of UltraChem that can be applied to most metal surfaces including lighter weight metals like aluminum and titanium. The technology is applicable to defense, aerospace, automotive, oil, gas and other industrial markets. UCT has received a patent for the use of nodular nickel boron coatings as a permanent lubricant on firearms and has trademarked the term “Greaseless Gun.”

Smith & Wesson Receives Military Contract

Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. has secured a contract to supply pistols to the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command Special Projects Office for shipment of the SW9VE pistol to the Afghanistan National Army.

Michael Golden, President/CEO, said, “This order is significant because it demonstrates that we are executing on our strategy to become a significant supplier of high quality pistol products to the military and federal government.”

Smith & Wesson competed with other leading firearms manufacturers for the award. The company declined to comment on specific volume and pricing, but stated that it will manufacture and ship its SW9VE pistols in May and June of 2005. The pistols will be manufactured entirely in the United States. The 9mm SW9VE is a double-action-only pistol constructed with an ergonomic polymer frame to accommodate various hand sizes, a through-hardened stainless steel slide and barrel, simple operation procedures and tool-less disassembly.

D.C.’s Claims Against Industry Dismissed

A decision of unanimous dismissal was handed down on April 21 during an en banc hearing of all common law claims, including ‘negligence’ and ‘public nuisance’ against all defendants in the Washington, D.C. municipal lawsuit against various members of the firearms industry. The court, however, let stand claims based upon the Washington, D.C. ‘strict liability’ act against identified manufacturers of what were defined as ‘machine guns’ in the act, used in crimes against city residents. It is uncertain at this time if any further appeal will be pursued by any party to this lawsuit (District of Columbia v. Beretta USA et al, No. 03-CV-24; Lawson et al v. Beretta USA et al, No. 03-CV-38).

One party to the suit, Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc. who was dismissed from the suit in this latest court decision, issued a statement noting that while the D.C. act purports to assign liability only to manufacturers of “assault weapons” and “machine guns” used by criminals in the District, its inexpertly drafted language could conceivably apply to any magazine-fed auto-loading firearm, which includes target pistols and hunting rifles.

“If a manufacturer lawfully sold a completely conventional firearm to a licensed retired police chief in New York which was subsequently stolen and, many years later through a series of underworld transactions, ended up being misused by a criminal in Washington, D.C., this bill would make the manufacturer absolutely liable, without any defenses,” commented Sturm, Ruger President Stephen L. Sanetti. “This is an unfair inversion of responsibility and creates an impossible situation for any manufacturer of any lawfully-sold product, short of ceasing business altogether. This is not the American way.”

The author publishes two of the small arms industry’s most widely read trade newsletters, The International Firearms Trade which covers the world firearms scene, and The New Firearms Business which covers the domestic market. He also offers FFL-mailing lists to firms interested in direct marketing efforts to the industry. He may be reached at: FirearmsB@aol.com.

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