Industry News: November 1997

By Robert M. Hausman

BATF Reports Pistol Production Declined By Nearly 1 Million Units In ‘95

Reflecting the downturn in consumer demand for handguns occurring in the second quarter of 1995, this was following the legislatively induced gun buying panic of 1994. American pistol production in 1995 declined by nearly one million units from the 1994 total. Specifically, 1,195,266 pistols were produced in 1995, as compared to 2,014,336 in 1994, according to the latest available figures from the Annual Firearms Manufacturing and Exportation Report issued by the industry’s regulator, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (BATF).

By caliber, pistol production broke down as follows: only 260,059 units in .22 caliber were produced in 1995 as compared to 456,490 in 1994; particularly hard hit by the Brady Law’s attendant five working day waiting period and illegal background check fees imposed by chief law enforcement officers in some localities were smaller self-defense pistol production such as those in .25 caliber which declined by over 50% in 1995 to 51,025 versus 110,732 produced the year before. Similarly, .32 caliber manufacture dropped to 19,220 in 1995, as opposed to 29,818 in 1994. Pistols chambered in .380 totaled just 182,802 in 1995 while reaching a high of 313,915 in the prior year. 9mm products declined to 398,467 in 1995 compared to 752,801 in 1994. Pistols chambered for up to .50 caliber cartridges (including .45 ACP) dropped in production to 283,693 in 1995 versus 350,580 in 1994.

The top three pistol producers during 1995 were Smith & Wesson with a total of 241,906 units in all calibers (versus 269,549 in 1994). Sturm, Ruger & Co. finished in second place during 1995 with a total of 197,489 pistols (compared to 299,647 the year before). Beretta USA Corp. finished in third place in 1995 having made 158,858 pistols (in comparison to 201,517 in 1994).

The disastrous effects of the implementation of the “Brady Law” on manufacturers of popularly priced small caliber pistols often used for self-defense is dramatically illustrated by an examination of some of their production figures.

For example, Bryco Arms made 227,924 pistols in 1994 and only 56,727 in 1995. Davis Industries manufactured 85,124 pistols in 1994 and just 45,171 in 1995. Lorcin Engineering Co., Inc. produced 151,208 pistols in 1994 and saw its production drop to 83,463 in 1995.


Revolver production, on the other hand, declined much less dramatically to a total of 527,664 in 1995 from 586,450 in 1994. Since the 1994 Crime Law imposed magazine capacity restriction of 10-rounds effectively eliminated the market for double-column magazine high-capacity pistols; consumers opted to purchase handguns, which offered the most punch-instead of the greatest number of rounds.

As a result, production of .357 Magnum revolvers increased to 210,379 in 1995 from 170,856 in 1994. Also, .44 Magnum revolver manufacture increased to 90,144 in 1995 from 89,713 in 1994 (Part of the increase in .44 Magnum revolver production is attributed by industry analysts to the increased interest in big bore handgun hunting). Production of revolvers up to .50 caliber, however, declined to 30,269 in 1995 from 36,101 the year before. Manufacture of .38 caliber revolvers declined to 92,913 units in 1995 from 146,630 in 1994. Wheelguns in .32 caliber dramatically dropped in production from 9,160 in 1994, to 4,381 in 1995. And .22 caliber revolvers declined to 99,578 manufactured in 1995 versus 133,990 in 1994.

The top three revolver manufacturers during 1995 were Smith & Wesson in first place with a total of 258,223 (compared to 255,216 in 1994). Sturm, Ruger finished second with 148,439 wheelguns in 1995 (versus 136,394 in 1994). Colt’s Manufacturing Co. finished in third place in 1995 having made 40,085 revolvers (in comparison to 52,672 in 1994).


As did revolver production, rifle manufacture pretty much held its own in 1995 as total production came to 1,331,780, a modest decline from the 1,349,116 rifles produced during 1994. Shotgun manufacturing also declined slightly from the 1,254,926 made during 1994 to the 1,173,645 produced during 1995.

The top three rifle manufacturers in 1995 were Sturm, Ruger with 407,785 rifles (compared to 354,355 the year before). The Marlin Firearms Co. finished second in 1995 with 396,215 units (versus 358,372 in 1994). Remington Arms Co. finished in third place with 242,706 rifles in 1995 (as opposed to 204,496 in 1994).

Remington Arms Co. led the top three shotgun manufacturers in 1995 with 426,442 units (versus 403,012 in 1994). O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc. placed second in 1995 with 339,881 scatterguns (compared to 373,512 in 1994). And, finishing third in 1995 was H&R 1871, Inc. with 165,813 of their nifty single barrel guns (as opposed to 216,360 the year before).

NFA Firearms

Manufacture of machine guns dipped slightly during 1995 to 9,185 units from 10,248 during 1994. On the other hand, manufacturing of Any Other Weapons (such as short barrel rifles and shotguns, pen guns, smooth bore revolvers, etc.) declined significantly during 1995 to only 110 examples from 572 in 1994. No breakdown by manufacturer or caliber is provided for machine guns or Any Other Weapons in the BATF report.

There were also 8,607 miscellaneous firearms manufactured during 1995, versus 10,918 in 1994. Overall, American firearm manufacturers produced 4,246,257 firearms of all types during 1995 as opposed to a total of 5,226,566 in 1994.


The total number of firearms exported increased during 1995 to 441,331 from 422,728 in 1994. Export of pistols, revolvers, rifles and machine guns also saw increases, while exports of shotguns, Any Other Weapons and miscellaneous firearms showed declines.

Leading the gainers were revolvers with 131,634 exported in 1995 (versus 78,935 in 1994). The top three revolver exporters during 1995 were: Smith & Wesson with 113,899 units (versus 56,980 in 1994); Sturm, Ruger sending abroad 8,636 revolvers (compared to 9,383 in 1994); and, Colt’s Manufacturing Co. with export of 5,388 (in comparison to 5,105 in 1994).

The exportation of pistols reached 97,969 in 1995, up from 95,036 in 1994. The top three pistol exporters during 1995 were Smith & Wesson with 66,689 (versus 57,442 in 1994); Colt’s Manufacturing’s 10,351 pistols (compared to 12,890 the year before); and, Sturm, Ruger’s total of 6,399 pistols going abroad in 1995 (in comparison to 5,185 in 1994).
Machine gun exports climbed to 19,259 in 1995 from 16,729 in 1994. Any Other Weapon exports declined to just 27 in 1995, from 56 the year before. No breakdown by manufacturer was provided in either of these two product categories.

Rifle exports climbed to 89,053 in total in 1995, posting a solid gain over the total of 82,226 in 1994. The top three rifle exporters were Remington with 32,315 units sent abroad (versus 26,973 in 1994); Marlin Firearms shipping out 22,951 guns (compared to 14,174 in 1994); and, Sturm Ruger with 22,503 rifle exports (as opposed to 18,764 in the previous year).

American shotgun exports did not fare as well as most of the other firearm categories as total exports dropped in 1995 to 100,894 from 146,524 in 1994. The top three shotgun exporters, by rank, were: O.F. Mossberg with 24,653 units (compared to 46,459 in 1994); Remington sent abroad 19,764 shotguns (compared to 27,835 the year before); and, Winchester Licensee U.S. Repeating Arms Co. exported 18,454 units (as opposed to 27,922 in 1994).

MG Shoot Cancelled

In other news, the annual “North Country Summer Machinegun Shoot” hosted by the Minuteman Shooting Club of New Boston, New Hampshire has been postponed until further notice. The landowner of the Stratford Hollow site has decided to utilize the property for business purposes, thus rendering the range area unsuitable for machine gun shooting. The event had been taking place at the site for the past seven years.

The club is searching for a new range location and may purchase a site to be used exclusively for machinegunners. There are no plans to disband the club or cease operations. For further information, the club may be contacted at 603-537-1009.

Night Vision

Nightline, Inc. (PO Box 16-0819, Miami, FL 33116) has developed some interesting new infrared lighting options of interest to the professional. The MAXA BEAM searchlight is designed for military search and rescue missions. Within its 3.2-pound package is a short-arc, Xenon lamp producing a compact white light source with a 1 1/2 mile range in the spot mode. Crime suspects are easily disoriented with the pulse strobe. Marine patrols can observe suspicious boat maneuverings over a mile away without being detected. Covert IR filters and wired remote controls are available.

Nightline’s Phoenix Transmitter is said to be the first pocket-sized user-programmable infrared (IR) beacon designed for individual combat identification (CID). It is invisible to the naked eye, but has been seen from as far away as 20 miles with night vision systems. Its primary advantage is it’s instant no-tool field encoding capability, which allows any user to easily enter and change its flashing code, thus allowing units to be distinguished from one another.

The Firefly is Nightline’s miniature source of covert infrared light that can be used for an infinite number of applications (e.g. tracking a vehicle, creating a covert launching pad, or marking a rendezvous point). Each of the unit’s LEDs will emit covert light in a 360-degree hemispherical pattern. This 1-inch high strobe light, which can be viewed up to 3 miles away and is powered by a 9-volt battery, will penetrate most types of clothing, foliage, as well as cardboard. It can be placed under water to a moderate depth.

IR filters are now available from Nightline for the popular flashlights sold under the Mag-Lite, Sure Fire and Mini-Mag brands. The filters are manufactured of Polysulfone and block 99-100% of visible light.

The all new AN/PAQ-4C infrared aiming light from Nightline is eyesafe at 1,800 meters and is billed as the world’s smallest and lightest weight military standard aiming light. A combination of preset zero and accurate adjustors enables precise zeroing to be established by firing only a single 3-round shot group. Once boresighted to an arm, the operator simply puts the steady (non-pulsing) laser beam on target and fires.

Using ‘AA’ batteries, activation is by means of an integral switch with momentary and full on positions, or by a remote push button switch. Mounts are available separately. Since the device utilizes a steady, non-pulsing laser, domestic sales are limited to U.S. federal government agencies.

Nightline’s IR Target Pointer/Illuminator/Aiming Laser is the result of extensive field evaluation. Used hand-held or arm mounted, a seven position mode selector enables operation of the aiming light and pointer/illuminator individually or in combination, as well as providing high and low aiming light power.

The differences between infrared light sources and night vision gear is explained in Nightline’s literature. Infrared is part of the spectrum of light: a wavelength too long for the unaided eye to detect. This “invisible” light can be viewed through the use of night vision equipment. Such night vision devices are classified as passive as they do not emit any light, while infrared light sources are active as they do emit a beam of light which can be detected with infrared devices or other night vision equipment.

For the night vision user, light sources that have the capability of transmitting in the infrared spectrum can be very helpful and even critical in applications of extreme darkness.

For example, in an unlit building without windows, such as a warehouse, night vision devices alone would not have sufficient ambient light to operate adequately. Instead of the bright green image expected under optimal conditions, the user would view a black image with what would appear to be “static.” The same effect would occur when operating in rural areas far from city lights, in heavily wooded sites, and during nights with little or no starlight or moonlight. In the cases, the use of an IR light source will provide the additional light that the night vision device might need for successful results. Night vision devices do not normally require IR light sources to operate successfully; it is only in environments of extreme darkness that IR light sources may improve visibility.

Illuminating a warehouse from inside or lighting up the inside of a car or room from a distance of several hundred yards without being detected requires the use of a powerful searchlight with an IR filter. In operations using undercover agents, flashing IR lights may be placed in the pants pocket of each member for quick identification and safe maneuvering of the team.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V1N2 (November 1997)
and was posted online on December 29, 2017


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