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Special intelligence: industry analysis from the inside.

Unless you've been living on another planet you've probably noticed that the trend in long guns today is practicality. Of course, there's still a segment of the gun buying public that want their field guns on the traditional side highly polished, blue steel on a nice piece of walnut. But an ever-increasing number of customers are taking to the idea of maintenance-free, weatherproof guns. And let's not forget camouflage; it certainly qualifies as practical.'

One has only to look at Remington's new introductions for '92 to see the trend.

The 870 and 11-87 will both be offered with a Mossy Oak camouflage paint job this year, as will the Model 700 rifle in the form of the Model CS. In all three cases the stocks are made of synthetic material, not walnut.

Then there's big Green's entry into the all-tainless arena with two Model 700's, one a regular line item, the other a Custom Shop proposition. The former will be designated 700-SS and is nothing more than a stainless steel version of the existing Model 700-AS, which is a matte-finished, ADL-barreled action set into a synthetic stock of Arylon.

The other all-stainless job is the Custom KS, which features a slim-barreled Model 700 BDL hand bedded into a Brown Precision stock of lightweight Kevlar.

Actually, Remington is a little late getting on the stainless band wagon. Browning was the first major manufacturer to offer an all-stainless, synthetic-stocked rifle with their A-Bolt Stalker, followed last year by Ruger and Savage. Ruger especially has enjoyed sales far better than anticipated this past year with their all-stainless Model 787-RP, despite its somewhat controversial stock that looks like ... well, it's a controversial stock ! With Remington joining the fray this year, can U.S. Repeating Arms be far behind with a Model 70-SS?

This year will also see Marlin throwing in with the utilitarian crowd with a couple of laminated-stocked rimfires, the 990L and the 882L. The latter is a clip-fed, bolt-action .22 Magnum, the other a 15-shot, tubular magazine, semi-auto in .22 LR.

Both can claim the added strength and stability that laminates bring, even though those attributes are more usable in a center rather than rimfire rifle.

Savage, too, is adding another version of their stainless, all weather Model 116 to the line; this one a detachable clip' version of the blind magazine model originally introduced last year as the 116-FSS. The new model carries the moniker

116-FCS and features the same black synthetic stock as its blind-mag brother.

The Trend Of Utility

One could speculate as to the origins of this utilitarian movement that's sweeping the gun industry I mean, are the manufacturers offering these guns in answer to consumers' demand? Or are they creating the demand by offering their products and, in effect, saying to your consumer: You need this ... we make it ... and here it is. " I suppose the truth lies somewhere in between.

In any case, there's no denying the trend towards guns built more for go than show.

As I said there will always be those traditionalists for whom a shotgun must have two barrels, and a rifle must consist of I 00 percent blued steel and walnut. But let's face it, those who gag at the sight of a laminated or fiberglass stock, non-ferrous components, stainless steel, etc., had better get used to it ! Unless I miss my guess, synthetic stocks and laminates will outnumber walnut on new guns by the end of this decade. Ditto for any component that has proven to do the job better than traditional materials, even at the expense of aesthetics.

Let's face it, aesthetics change, too. I can well remember the first fiberglass stocks. How terrible they looked and how clumsy and lacking of any symmetry or proportion. Today it's different. Synthetic stocks mirror the finest detail of line and contour found in the best custom stocks; it's just presented in a different medium. Once I wouldn't have been caught dead with one of those synthetic handles, but today every one of my serious hunting rifles sits in a stock comprised of some sort of fiberglass, thermoplastic, or laminated wood.

I like to think that I'm rather conservative when it comes to guns. I appreciate a fine custom rifle or shotgun that's been hand crafted from traditional materials, and I think a lot of the shooters out there who are buying these new wave' guns, if you will, feel the same way. But these consumers are also a lot more savvy than their dads or grandads, and to an ever-increasing number of them, it's what works best - what does the job - that's most important. As this younger generation of gun buyers comes to understand the advantages of new materials, the more adaptable they become. Believe me, there are a lot of young consumers out there to whom a Ruger 77-RP, a Browning Stainless Stalker, or a Winchester Win-Cam Model 70 instill just as much pride of ownership as a traditional all-steel and-walnut rifle did for their dads.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to put one's personal feelings aside, but anyone who enjoys even a modicum of success in sales, especially at the retail level, knows how to do it. Whether or not you agree with the current trends, the worst thing you can do is fight them.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:new shotgun designs for practical and maintenance-free use
Author:Sundra, Jon R.
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Previous Article:1992: business retail forecast.
Next Article:The legend lives on.

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