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The SHOT heard 'round the industry.

Okay, so I'm a little loopy after spending five 11-hour days in the Houston Astrohall at the 1993 SHOT Show, but when the dust settles, I think this is going to be a very good year for the shooting industry. Although the wings of the plane are barely cool after my three-hour flight from Texas, I thought I'd take a few pages to expound on my initial impressions from this year's show.

Rather than point out specific new items (I'll do plenty of that in the next issue of SI) I'd like to discuss some trends that I think surfaced at this year's show. Okay, okay, maybe I'll pick out a few new products, but they are all representative of some exciting new directions which I see the market taking.

First and foremost, Ruger deserves considerable praise for being the first major gun company to give more attention than just a passing nod to the historical re-creation/re-enactment market with the introduction of its new Vaquero.

The Vaquero is a fixed-sight version of the Blackhawk, and a fine reproduction of the Colt Single Action Army with a retail price tag in the neighborhood of 1/3 that of the Colt gun. According to Ruger, this gun is being produced partly in response to the wishes of thousands of customers who participate in costumed Old Western, End-Of-The-Trail competition shoots.

Sure, all the old-timers say, "Why would anyone want to bother with those costumed weirdos? There's not that many of them; let them buy some of those Italian knock-offs if they can't afford the real thing."

Well, don't look now folks, but according to Ruger's market research there are 27 statewide end-of-the-trail competitions, staged in IPSC style but with single-action revolvers, double-barrel shotguns, and lever-action rifles. Ruger deserves kudos for not only acknowledging this market, but actually encouraging its growth.

From an editor's point of view, this may also be the tip of the iceberg on another industry trend. As the politicians paint the more threatening high capacity guns as "assault weapons," our industry may find that historical replicas are all that's left to be sold. After all, who can call something you would find in a history museum a "gang gun"?

Okay, next on our tour of predicted industry trends is double-barreled, sporting clays shotguns. There are three of these new guns, one from Weatherby, one from Winchester, and one from Remington, the last of which will compete with the Ruger Red Label as the second over/under shotgun to be made entirely in the United States.

Of course, this was a trend we all saw developing last year, but the fact still remains that as our "wide open spaces" become more and more urbanized, rifle and pistol ranges are going to be located on the outskirts of our cities -- sometimes several hours drive for residents of places like New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles. Shotguns, on the other hand, don't require such an extensive "safety zone" and can be placed in locations with only a few hundred yards of buffer area rather than a mile or two.

Whether the game is sporting clays or just good old skeet and trap, more and more customers are going to be joining the shotgun market.

While we're on the subject, I think another industry trend we're going to have to examine closely in the next few years is the non-hunting gun customer -- a perfect candidate for the shotgun games. For good or bad, as the "environmental movement" grows in the country and all around the world, gun dealers are going to be confronted with potential gun buyers who have no interest in hunting. (Of course, we all know hunters are some of the most concerned environmentalists there are -- no lakes, no ducks, right? -- but just try telling that to someone whose only experience with hunters has been seeing the movie "Bambi.")

Beyond even the non-hunting shooter, dealers need to look very carefully at the potential of the anti-hunting gun market. When you come in contact with someone who thinks hunting is bad. Are you going to chase them out of your store? Or are you going to say, "You know, there's a lot more to enjoying the tradition of firearms than hunting ..." and probably win a new customer for life?

Shooting is fun, and if we don't convince some of the younger generation of that fact soon, we are very likely going to lose them forever.

On the subject of making shooting more fun, two companies are examining a trend toward the time-honored sport of "plinking." Remington has introduced a new .22 LR semiautomatic rifle dubbed the Viper Model 522. Aimed specifically at the plinking customer and the first-time rifle crowd, the Viper has a host of safety features to assure that it won't go "bang" without the shooter knowing about it. Remington's rationale being that an unintentional firing may scare a young or inexperienced shooter enough to make an anti-gunner out of them.

The Viper has a synthetic stock, a 10-shot "banana" magazine (just crying out for a 30-round after market accessory; are you listening Butler Creek?), and a price tag so low you might mistake it for a bill for dinner and a movie. Also, many of the parts in the receiver are made of polymer to keep weight and cost down, and the receiver top is pre-molded to accept scope mounts. If you've been worrying about what gun to offer new shooters who want something fun and easy to take to the range or the north 40, this gun is the answer.

Along those same lines, Marlin has a new semi-auto chambered in .22 Win Mag, designated the Model 922. This gun is based on the Camp Carbine 9mm, but in .22 Win mag it's a great rifle for plinking and small varmint hunting. Marlin's ads don't show any kind of breathtaking hunting photos, but rather the effect of a .22 Win Mag bullet on a can of paint -- a good example of which customers this gun will appeal to. New from Marlin too are the company's first stainless steel guns, the bolt-action, tube-magazine Model 883SS in .22 Win Mag, and the tube fed semi-auto Model 60SS in .22 LR with a laminated Maine Birch black and gray finish.

Let's look for this first-time-customer trend to grow and maybe next year we'll see a Marlin lever-action in .22 Magnum.

In ammo, the trend in premium high-performance merchandise continues to escalate with several new products. Last year one of the most popular items on retailers' shelves was Black Talon handgun ammo, and this year Winchester has extended the Black Talon name to a line of high-performance rifle ammunition, available in all .30 caliber chamberings. Remington is offering two new shotgun rounds: a Copper Solid slug that combines sabot technology with a new fragmenting projectile, and Wet-Proof ammo to meet the perceived need in the market for moisture-resistant waterfowl rounds with a sealed shell and galvanized steel shot.

In handgun ammo, Remington also has the Golden Saber on its new product list, a handgun round with a thick brass-jacketed bullet and a Driving Band to increase accuracy, in .38, .357, .40, 9mm, and .45 calibers. For reloaders, CCI is offering a new Gold Dot high-performance bullet to give handloaded ammunition the same degree of stopping power as the commercially manufactured cartridges on the market.

For months we've been hearing that shooters aren't buying guns because they don't have enough money or because they don't have any faith in the economy, yet these companies are producing (and profiting from) high-ticket ammo! Perhaps this is a sign that shooters are satisfied with their guns, but they are willing to pay big bucks for accessories that make those guns perform at their peak.

If the amount of money a company puts into research, development, and advertising is any indication, the IPSC competition market is continuing to expand rapidly. This year two major companies introduced new competition gear which is aimed right at the action shooter.

First is Safariland, an established player in the action pistol market, which debuted its new 009 holster -- a totally (and I mean totally) adjustable holster which is made to keep the gun at the optimum height, angle, and cant for any body size.

The second entry is from a manufacturer which is new to the competition market: Bianchi. This year Bianchi introduced its new Gilmore line of pistol accessories, spearheaded by the Gilmore Speed Leader totally adjustable holster and followed up by the Gilmore signature line of red dot scopes, laser sights, scope rings, and shooting glasses.

The trend here is action. As our society becomes more fitness conscious, the idea of participating in a "sport" which involves the total physical activity of sitting at a bench, pulling a trigger, and leaning over to look through a spotting scope is going to bore young shooters to death. Before long they'll be out of your gun shop and back to the sport "Mart" stores buying running shoes, racquetball equipment, and aerobic videos.

Let's face it, action shooting involves lots of running, crawling, and hand/eye coordination -- it's probably the closest thing to paintballs with a real gun there is. Here's a concrete signal from two major accessory companies indicating they think this is more than just a passing phase.

More trends? No, that's probably enough, but there are a few items which deserve just a passing mention.

In the grip field, there's a new item from Hogue Grips which is just what dealers have been seeking for years: an after market item for the Glock. This simple little combat-style grip stretches around the plastic handle of the Glock and is held in place by tension. (This grip will also stretch around the handle of most large-frame autos.) With a price tag of under $15, how can any Glock owner pass it up?

Another new grip which seems to be something customers have been anticipating is Uncle Mike's new Boot Grip for the S&W 642 which gives the gun a tiny profile yet still making it as comfortable as S&W's stock neoprene grips (which, as any shooter knows, make the gun much more difficult to conceal).

Finally, just a little more industry scuttlebutt:

Two companies which were conspicuous simply by their presence at the SHOT Show were Springfield Inc., and Colt's. According to execs at Springfield, the company will be offering the same products as the old Springfield Armory and utilizing the same distribution system as well.

Colt's, despite what their executives were telling the press back in December, had several new products on display. First, the All American 2000 was yet again in the "New Products" section of the booth sporting several new steel parts to cure some of the malfunction problems which plagued it in the past, along with a compact version of the pistol as well. Also on display was the Detective Special revolver, now in full production.

The Colt's executive I spoke with in the booth said that the company's outlook was extremely good for 1993, that everything was going well, and that the company would be out of Chapter 11 within the next 60 days.

In the personnel department, one of the most respected men in the industry has parted ways with one of the most talked-about companies in the industry. The company is Glock, U.S.A., the man is former company president Karl Walter. Despite rumors of the decision to release Walter being based on mishandling of several important product liability issues, company officials maintained that Walter and Glock parted on good terms and that the decision was a mutual one.

Meanwhile, Bob Grueskin, formerly of Springfield Armory company, has been named as new marketing director for Hialeah, Fla.-based European American Armory, importer of the Italian-made Witness pistols. With the future of Springfield Armory and Springfield Inc. uncertain, customers may be turning to EAA as a reliable source for the extremely popular CZ-clone pistol.

Is that enough? Okay, we'll pick this up next month with a full review of the 1993 SHOT Show, including a report on Taurus' International beer drinking and jalapeno eating contest, complete with color pictures of this grueling event. (Where was the Olympic team when we needed them?)

For now, I'm off to enjoy the quart of barbecue sauce I brought home from the Lone Star state and to try a new recipe for barbecued duck. Mmm-mmm! If you didn't have a chance to make it to the Goode Company restaurant (recommended in the December issue of SI) you really missed something! And I must say that after eating Gulf shrimp and tacos al carbon at Ninfa's Restaurant I'll never quite be satisfied with California's Mexican food again. If I had known the food in Texas was so good, I wouldn't have waited for the SHOT Show to make a trip there.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:The Inside Scoop; SHOT show firearms exhibition
Author:Farrell, Scott
Publication:Shooting Industry
Article Type:Column
Date:Feb 1, 1993
Previous Article:Take a look around: lessons from other stores can be put to work for you.
Next Article:"Golden oldies: a handgunner's tour of the SHOT Show." (Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show) (Lethal Force) (Column)

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