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Speaking with Alan Mossberg.

"Our competition today is not limited to U.S.R.A.C. shotguns or Remington shotguns or imported shotguns. Our competition is the Marlin .30-30, the Model 99 Winchester and any other short range rifles.

We now have the attention of the shooting industry." Alan I. Mossberg

Alan I. Mosberg, President of the Connecticut firearms firm which bears his family's name, spent much of the latter half of 1990 at the center of controversy, first for his June 25 Capitol Hill press conference in which, as reported by both the Associated Press and Gun Week, he announced that his company was working to develop so-called model legislation" to form a basis for a federal law mandating gun locking devices on all of the nation's 200 million firearms.

Just about the time that O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc.'s public relations/advertising agency, DoeAnderson of Louisville, Kentucky, was stamping out that particular fire and putting the proper spin on Mossberg's "nationwide gun safety program," new advertisements for Mossberg's Home Security 410 broke in firearms consumer and trade publications, causing much heated comment from not only competing firearms manufacturers, but from many of the females at whom the campaign was specifically targeted.

Shooting Industry met with Mr. Mossberg in his North Haven offices where he had graciously consented to an interview, with the caviat, as stated by his public relations representatives Ken Hoskins of DoeAnderson, that there be absolutely no questions concerning "the legislation issue."

Aside from the possible sexiest aspects of the HS 410 campaign, there are some surprising claims made for the scaled down Model 500 in .410 bore that we felt Mr. Mossberg needed to address. So, there was plenty of material that could go on the record.

SI: What about charges that your current advertising campaign for the HS 410 is "anti-handgun?"

AIM: Well, first, we're not anti-handgun. It's possible that it could be construed that way. Our basic message is that, historically, people have felt that handguns are proper for home defense, we're only talking home defense. We simply say, and those ads frankly point out, that there are alternatives, and the alternatives should be considered before you make your decision. For instance, when we began to look at the shotgun as a home defense gun, we conducted some tests. Basically these were wall tests. We constructed walls within our shooting range, and found out that the 12 gauge'll take out more than two pieces of wall board, and take them out pretty smartly. Secondly, we found that the 20 gauge to a lesser degree would do the same, and even under certain circumstances the .410 will penetrate two pieces of wall board.

S 1: One line of consumer advertising copy reads "At close range (a handgun) was simply too inaccurate." Since the person rather than the firearm would be more properly considered inaccurate," isn't this a decidedly anti-handgun message?

AIM: I think, yes, we would agree with that. It is not to imply that the gun is inaccurate, it's simply to imply that an untrained person shooting a handgun, having made the decision to pull the trigger, has a less likely probability of a hit then would the same untrained person firing a shotgun.

SI: Another copy line states that the HS 410 "...packs more punch on impact than a .44 Magnum." Mossberg's research paper on the subject makes clear that you are not particularly fond of the concept of penetration, but aren't you totally ignoring the importance of adequate penetration as a necessary adjunct of "stopping power?"

AIM: That is the key in an encounter within a home, and that's all we're addressing ... that penetration would be the least desirable of all the characteristics. For instance, if you take a .45 or a .357 Mag or probably even a .38, a belly shot can, without hitting any ribs or anything, can penetrate a person and still take out several walls. And that's what we're concerned about.

SI : What has been the delay in shipping laser-sighted version of the HS 410 that was displayed at the 1990 SHOT Show and promised for delivery last Spring?

AIM: The problem is that we haven't been able to get the adaptor welded properly to fit the existing forearm. It's an engineering problem, a wire harness type of thing. The laser is already developed. The finished laser-sight models are ready for shipment.

SI: Let's get back to the anti-handgun aspect of Mossberg's HS 410 campaign.

AIM: They were purposefully very strong ads because we did a market survey to get a reaction to this type of situation. In almost every case, with dealers and consumers, the handgun was the answer which immediately came forth when the question was asked "What can I buy my wife for home defense?" When it was explained that there was an alternative, the overwhelming interest that came back "Show us the alternative and give us the information!"

SI: What is your response to comments that the HS 410 campaign is also "anti-female," chauvinistic and condescending in tone?

AIM: It could be construed that way, but let me tell you what we tried to accomplish. One of the elements that was very strong in the survey that we took, was that a young woman decides that she's uncomfortable at home alone without a gun. So she goes to buy a gun, and she probably is going to take her husband, boyfriend or a male friend who knows guns. Many of the male people that I know are very macho, and they would not recommend something small like a .410. They'd want something like a 12 gauge or a .45 Auto or a rifle, and we specifically developed these ads to let everybody know that we were going after a specific market, to try to convince the potential customer, a female, that this is the gun she needs - she's not going out bear hunting or on African safari - she's not going to be in a street gun fight. She wants to defend her home! You don't want to "over-gun" her because if you do you destroy the very thing we're trying to prevent, which is accidents in the home. Everyday we hear in the paper abut people in the next room - kids getting shot - and it's all reflecting very badly on our industry. We stand for gun ownership, but it's got to be responsible, and I don't believe it's responsible to have too much power in a home defense situation.

SI: Haven't you perhaps forgotten the lesson taught Ruger some years ago by the singularly most devastating advertising response the firearms industry ever saw, S&W's "Thicker May Be Better In Burgers and Shakes." ad?

AIM: Campaigns take different tones, and we now have - because you are sitting here today, and because of other things that are happening - we now have the attention of the shooting industry. And many more people have called up- distributors, dealers and customers and said "I never considered that. I want one for my wife! Almost everyone who has come into this factory as a visitor has left with placing an order, saying "Send one to my local dealer! I want to get one for my wife... she would never have a gun in the house before, but this is what she needs."

It's going to be a tough sell, and because it's a tough sell, we're planning a series of very tough ads to get the attention of people. But the feedback has been extremely positive...

SI: But you haven't gotten any direct feedback from entities such as Smith & Wesson, such as Ruger, such as Colt?

AIM: No, not formally. I will say this, that a salesman from a handgun company, which I will not identify, did comment to one of our salesman when they were discussing what business looked like for 1991. The handgun individual said, "Well, we have two forecasts: one without your HS 410, and one if you get into full production on it." Now that was said in jest, but half of what's said in jest, you know ... there's always some truth in those remarks.

SI: If a firestorm of angry response lands on the doorstep of O.F. Mossberg's & Sons from others in the industry, and you start getting hotline phone calls from S&W's Steve Melvin about using one of his revolvers in your ads, or Colt's Ron Stilwell complains about bashing handguns, or Ruger's Gary French says "What the hell are you guys doing down there? We've got enough problems with the press outside," then what?

AIM: Well, let me say this, is this not the U.S.A.?
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:O.F. Mossberg and Sons Inc. President
Author:Lydecker, Waldo
Publication:Shooting Industry
Article Type:interview
Date:Jan 1, 1991
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Next Article:Lethal force: the training factor.

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