The NASGW Hunting Show, held in November in Tampa, Fla., was a time for the unveiling of new products, presentation of awards and launching the 1999 buying season. It was the 25th anniversary show for the National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers.
While enthusiasm dominated the show floor, there was concern over the lawsuits big cities have filed against the industry. Calls were made for the industry "to become much more on the offense" in fighting the lawsuits and to withdraw from New Orleans as the site for the SHOT Show in 2000, because "the city is trying to destroy our business."
Despite the lawsuits, Bryan Tucker, NASGW president, sees no significant economic changes for the industry this year.
"I see nothing coming that would make it better or worse," he said. "I would say, however, that things may be better for manufacturers, especially long-gun manufacturers, because of extremely short inventories at both the wholesale and dealer levels."
On the show floor, 202 manufacturers opened their booth to an estimated 1,700 visitors.
Smith & Wesson unveiled its new pistols featuring titanium components for reduced weight. The new S&W pistols are up to 25 percent lighter than traditional models. The .38 caliber pistols come with wood or rubber grips. Also expected for 1999 are .32 Magnums. High-capacity magazines for the pistols are available for law enforcement use only.
Winchester has a new semi-auto shotgun, the Super X2. It's available in 3inch and 3-inch Magnum shells.
"Winchester hasn't had a semi-auto shotgun in several years," said Paul Thompson. "So this is a major introduction for us."
At Blount, senior vice president of sales Ron Petty says the company is continuing to look for other companies to add to its outdoor division.
"I know the corporate people are constantly looking at opportunities for buying companies," he said. "They could, at some point, look at the fishing industry. But I don't think we've completely filled the circle on the hunting side. We'll do that before going outside the hunting market."
At Pearce Grips, Lane Pearce talked about the company's new color-coded magazine grip enhancers for the full-sized Glock.
"It's an offering for the law enforcement training community and competitive shooters," Pearce said. "We make them in red, blue, green, standard black and lawenforcement orange. The competitive shooters like them because they can identify their magazines."
DAC Technologies attracted a crowd with its newly modified trigger lock that fits firearms from muzzleloaders to semi-auto pistols with oversized trigger guards. It retails from $10 to $12.
Larry Scott, vice president of sales, pointed out that DAC also sells trigger locks in three-packs that are even more economical. He advises putting them by the register for last-minute impulse sales.
MREs have gone civilian. SOPAKCO Packaging, the company that makes the military "Meals, Ready to Eat," has developed a series of products for camping and emergency use. After years of fielding calls from sportsmen looking for a source of civilian MREs, SOPAKCO officials decided three years ago it was time to enter the consumer field. Their first year they went strictly for the disaster-preparedness market. The second year they turned to Army-Navy surplus store distribution.
"This is our next step," said company president David Kuntarich. "We're now trying to reach the mainstream sporting goods retailer."
The news at Walker's Game Ear is an adjustable-frequency circuit in all their products. According to company president Bob Walker, this new circuit gives the customer the ability to fine-tune the Game Ear.
John Palmer, regional sales manager for Connecticut Valley Arms, said the company is offering new camo patterns, as well as a lot of new accessories for the black powder shooter.
"We're also trying to be more descriptive in our names of firearms so people know what they're buying," he said. "For example, 'Colorado Musket Mag 100' means it's a musket mag, it shoots musket caps, and the maximum load is 100 grains of powder."
Palmer said in-lines now represent about 80 percent of the black powder market. He says they're more reliable than older guns in wet weather.
Kleen-Bore is offering a new gun-cleaning mat designed to protect working surfaces. It has a non-slip backing and is impervious to most gun-cleaning solvents, according to sales and marketing representative Christopher Lambert.
Commenting on the big-city lawsuits, Lambert said, "I think the industry as a whole needs to become much more on the offense. We've got to band together instead of just standing back and blocking these punches as they come. We've got to show this industry in a positive way."
Chris Leight, director of consumer products at Howard Leight, says the company now has the highest-rated earmuffs in the world.
"Our new earmuffs have a noise reduction rating of 31," he said. "This is the first time anyone's broken through the barrier of 29."
At Dynamit Nobel, there's expansion in air rifles and match firearms.
"We're going to be importing a couple of new compressed air rifles from a different manufacturer," said Dynamit Nobel president Frank Turner. "We also have a line on some new match rifles and pistols. We're trying to expand our line in that area."
Turner pointed out how new laws are affecting companies that manufacture and ship firearms accessories.
"We make percussion caps for black powder guns," he said. "DOT (Department of Transportation) looked at them and increased the hazard class so UPS can't ship them any more. They can't take guns away from us, but they can make it too inconvenient for us to do business."
Turner also expressed some concern about the 2000 SHOT Show.
"We're supposed to go to New Orleans," he said. "Given the lawsuit New Orleans has filed, that should be out of the question. The city is trying to destroy our business."
Otis Technology has a new tactical-gun cleaning kit.
"It cleans .17 to 10-gauge, with no exceptions," said Jerry Williams, vice president of sales. "It contains a special cleaning rod for cleaning .22 semi-automatics from breech to muzzle, and a pistol rod for cleaning semi-autos and revolvers from breech to muzzle. It even has a complete set of bore brushes."
He said the lawsuits against the industry have him very concerned.
"The lawyers are looking to make money," he said. "They're not going to back down until they get money out of us like the tobacco settlement."
One new product that drew a lot of interest was the Gunbrella from Innovative Sports. The Gunbrella is a gun cover for long guns that's camouflaged and waterproof. It protects a firearm from wet weather, yet a hunter can still shoot if game appears.
Miltex, an international importer just getting into the firearms business, drew interest with their foreign firearms. The company is the exclusive importers for quality Bulgarian firearms for the law enforcement and competitive shooting markets. Their flagship lines are the Arcus-94 and the Makarov Special Edition.
Zippo, the lighter company, is moving into the outdoors market with a series of lighters designed for the sportsman, including one in camouflage.
"The Zippo lighter works in virtually any type of weather," said David Seymour, export manager. "You can light it, put it down and have both hands free to start a fire."
On the first day of the show, the industry got its first look at a new public relations campaign. Several months ago, the National Shooting Sports Foundation hired the public relations firm of Porter Novelli to coordinate a major media to improve the industry's national image. A new publication, "Taking Charge of Tomorrow," was available to those attending the show.
At the show, a number of manufacturers were recognized for providing quality service to members of the association during the past year.
Wholesaler members rated 129 nominees on delivery, warranty policy, freight policy, marketing policy, invoicing and credit, packaging and customer service. Winners were divided into two categories: those who received five to seven nominations and those who received eight nominations or more.
CATEGORY I (5 to 7 nominations)
Manufacturer of the Year:
PMC Ammunition/Eldorado Cartridge Corp.
1st Runner Up: Smith & Wesson 2nd Runner Up: Birchwood Casey 3rd Runner Up: Federal Cartridge Co.
CATEGORY II (8 or more nominations)
Manufacturer of the Year: Leupold & Stevens Inc.
1st Runner Up: Michaels of Oregon Inc. 2nd Runner Up: Blount Inc. Sporting Equipment Group 3rd Runner Up: Winchester Ammunition/Olin Corp.
25 YEARS OF SHOWS
During the show in November, NASGW honored those companies who had exhibited at all 25 shows. Those companies are:
The Allen Company Inc. Birchwood Casey Blount Inc. SEG Bushnell Sports Optics Worldwide Connecticut Valley Arms Inc. DBI Books/Krause Publications Faulk's Game Call Co. Inc. Federal Cartridge Co. Hoppe's, a Brunswick Company Hornady Manufacturing Co. Hunter Company Inc. Interarms K.B.I. Inc. Kwik-Site Co. Leupold & Stevens Inc. Marksman Products Michaels of Oregon Co. Inc. O. F. Mossberg & Sons Inc. MTM Molded Products Co. Pachmayr/Division Lyman Products Remington Arms Co. Inc. Savage Arms Inc. Stoeger Industries Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc. Tasco Sales Inc. Thompson/Center Arms Co. Trius Products Inc. Winchester Ammunition/Olin Corp.
Next year's NASGW Hunting Show will be held in Phoenix, Ariz., Nov. 18-20, 1999. For more information contact the National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers, Suite 700, 400 E. Randolf St., Chicago, IL 60601; (312) 565-0233.