Industry News: November 1998

By Robert M. Hausman

Shooting Industry to Launch $15 Million Public Relations Effort

A major public relations and advertising campaign to create measurable growth within the gun industry as well as to counter the disinformation efforts of anti-gun groups, was proposed during the recent Shooting Sports Summit attended by 160 industry representatives.

In this, the third such Summit to be held in as many years in which firearms manufacturers and representatives from related firms meet to discuss and formulate strategies to grow and maintain their businesses during the year, the highlight of the meeting was the idea for a voluntary 1/2 of 1% Shooting for the Future tax on companies’ gross sales. To get the ball rolling, several major manufacturers agreed to begin paying such a “tax” effective January 1999. It is estimated that the program could generate $15 million in funding annually.

Bob Scott, vice president of marketing and sales, Smith & Wesson, one of the firms which has agreed to pay the tax, commented, “For the first time, we have the potential to have sufficient funds to offset a significant portion of the anti-gun campaigns that we are faced with on a regular basis. This could ultimately spell the difference between our ultimate success or failure.”

“The idea that all companies involved in the manufacture of shooting and related equipment might contribute a portion of their annual sales to an overall promotion and development fund is an extension of the ‘Dollar-a-Gun’ concept that has been discussed over the past several years,” said Bob Delfay, president and CEO of the trade group, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) of Newtown, Connecticut, the organizer of the meeting.

“The Dollar-a-Gun concept, while simple, has two basic flaws. At $1 per firearm, some companies would contribute a much higher percentage of their sales than would others and firearms manufacturers would be the only ones asked to contribute. These shortcomings are solved by a uniform and broad-based 1/2 of 1% approach,” Delfay said.

Vito Genco, attending as a representative of an Italian firearms trade group, said, “A similar self-imposed tax on firearms and ammunition was put in place in Italy several years ago and is working very well with 90% of manufacturers signing on in the first three years.”

Don Gobel, president of Browning and U.S. Repeating Arms, noted, “Recent surveys show that the majority of the non-shooting general public still support the private ownership of firearms. However, the well-financed anti-gun groups are and will continue to negatively influence these same people. The recent tragic school shootings are clear evidence of how they use their allegiance with the media to do so.

“We can no longer sit on the sidelines and react defensively whenever there is a crisis. We must become pro-active by launching our own public relations media campaign to tell our story to the general public. Since such a communications campaign will cost a lot of money, I support a 1/2 of 1% surcharge on all shooting products to fund such a program. I know of no other way,” Gobel said.

Another program discussed was the “Step Outside” effort which encourages new participants in the world of shooting and is coordinated by the NSSF. “A recent study conducted by the research organization, Roper-Starch Worldwide, found that there are 67 million men and 47 million women who would accept an invitation to go target shooting, if asked,” commented Delfay.

“These numbers are staggering,” Delfay continued, “the key is to reach out to these people by extending the initial invitation and-if you are able-mentor the individual until he/she is proficient enough to go on his/her own.” Delfay was recently elected to the Board of Directors of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, the largest ad hoc caucus in Congress.

In a presentation entitled, “Guess Who’s Coming To The Gun Club-Or Not,” Joseph Wheeler, an economic consultant, stressed that $470 billion in African-American buying power can be a substantial opportunity for the firearms industry.

“What this means to the shooting sports,” said Wheeler, is “a substantial opportunity” to attract new entrants. “With only 2% of the African-American population participating now, there is the opportunity to increase that percentage to at least the national average, 7%,” he explained.

“Having established that a market does exist, the question then turns to, how do we ‘invite them to dinner,’ or in this case, to the shooting range.” Wheeler cited an article by Eugene Morris titled “The Difference in Black and White,” published in American Demographics magazine. “The author points out that respect and acceptance are always issues,” Wheeler said. “African-Americans will spend money where they are respected and aren’t made to feel like outsiders.”

Wheeler went on to call for new gun advertisements directed specifically to blacks. “I suggest we design ad and marketing campaigns that suggest African-Americans are the primary market. We need to see black personalities shooting and hunting. The message must be directed at a black audience with images that say, ‘come on in.’”

News Tidbits

In other news, the U.S. Department of State recently revoked 250 licenses to export some 14,000 handguns to Great Britain. The stated intention of the action is to stem the illicit flow of firearms worldwide. U.S. officials indicated American firearms shipped to Britain over the last several years could have been re-exported and used to fuel conflicts in other parts of the world, especially since civilian handgun ownership has been outlawed. While end user certificates are required from the receiving countries stating where the firearms are intended to be sold, the U.S. has no way of enforcing the certificates, should terms be violated by the other country.

Non-lethal weapons systems are gaining a greater share of Department of Defense spending, the trade publication Defense News recently reported. In 1997, the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate was established at Quantico, Virginia to coordinate non-lethal weapons programs across all four service branches and the Special Operations Command. Between 1996 and 2003, over $130 million will be spent on non-lethal weapons programs.

The technologies under development range from acoustic devices that cause internal organs to resonate resulting in discomfort, permanent damage or death, to electronic magnetic waves that can cause interference with brain functions, cerebral hemorrhaging and visceral disruption.

Robin Coupland, a surgeon in the Health Operations Division of the International Committee of the Red Cross, wrote in a 1997 paper on non-lethal weapons for the British Medical Journal that survivors of future wars may return home with psychoses, epilepsy and blindness.

China has developed the ZM-87 portable laser disturber. Its manufacturer, China North Industries, Corp. describes the device in its sales literature as having one of its major applications to “injure or dizzy the eyes of an enemy combatant.” U.S. troops are reported as having deployed the Sabre 203 laser in Somalia, which the Helsinki-based group, Human Rights Watch called a device that could be used to blind people.

Russia has developed radio frequency weapons and other non-lethal technologies and Germany, Israel, France and Great Britain are developing antipersonnel laser programs or other directed energy weapons.

Home Gun Inspections

The Arlington County Virginia police Department has instituted a policy of “Home Site Inspections” in the application approval process for Class Three firearms, the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) reports. Arlington’s new police chief, Edward Flynn, instituted the policy.

There is no statutory authority under federal or state law for the police to conduct such inspections, writes the VCDL in an Internet membership alert. “Such inspections of homes is a violation of our Fourth Amendment rights. We should not have to subject ourselves to government searches just because we want to own a military style firearm, the very type of gun that the Second Amendment was written to protect.” The group has instituted a letter writing campaign to local officials in protest of the directive.

New Sniper Scope

Leupold & Stevens, Inc. of Beaverton, Oregon has introduced a new tactical scope geared towards military and law enforcement applications featuring a bullet drop compensator. The new Vari-X III 3.5-10x40mm Long Range M3 scope features a side focus adjustment using a parallax adjustment dial positioned on the left side of the scope turret housing. Conventional parallax adjustments, which are located on the objective bell of the scope, require reaching to the front of the scope to make parallax corrections, often resulting in the shooter losing sight of the target.

Meanwhile, Redfield, Inc., the 90-year old manufacturer of optics, has virtually shut down its operations following the emergence of financial and environmental problems. The company’s problems began with the discovery of environmental pollution in homes in the vicinity of Redfield’s Denver, Colorado plant. The use of cleaning chemicals by the optics manufacturer in the recent past is suspected of having infiltrated groundwater in the area.

When news of the pollution problem became known, Norwest Bank seized the company’s assets. Lester A. Jones, Redfield’s president has resigned. At press time, it was uncertain whether the company would continue operations.

Sierra Bullets of Sedalia, Missouri has unveiled its new 77-grain MatchKing bullet, designed for AR-15/M16A2 rifles used in the Service rifle category of High Power rifle competition. The new bullet was developed in response to requests for a magazine length projectile of high ballistic coefficient. Manufactured with an elongated boattail, but an ogive compatible with the magazine feed requirements, this new MatchKing has a ballistic coefficient of .372. Due to the bullet’s length, a 1X7” or 1X8” rifling twist is required.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V2N2 (November 1998)
and was posted online on November 4, 2016


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