Connecticut-based gun maker Sturm, Ruger & Co. on March 21 temporarily stopped taking new orders for guns because it couldn't keep up with demand. In the first quarter, the company received orders for 1.2 million firearms, more than it made in the entire year in 2011. The company said it expects to resume accepting new orders at the end of May.
National outdoor retailer Gander Mountain in November chose Germantown, Wis., for its first firearms-only concept store, Gun World by Gander Mountain. Last weekend, Gander opened Gun World locations in Eden Prairie, Minn.; Wichita, Kan.; and West Palm Beach, Fla., said Jess Myers, a spokesman for the Minnesota-based outdoor chain. "There's been a real spike in not only firearms ownership, but learning how to properly use firearms as well," he said.
Massachusetts-based Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. said in its most recent earnings report that its firearm backlog at the end of January had grown to $198.5 million, up $124.7 million from the same time last year - an increase of 169 percent.
Suburban St. Louis-based Olin Corp. said that during the first quarter of 2012, the backlog for its Winchester Ammunition subsidiary increased by more than $100 million. Sales increased despite a drop in military and law enforcement sales, the company said in filings with securities regulators.
There are a number of factors driving the trend, those in the industry say, but one thing - politics - is mentioned by nearly everyone.
"There's been a pickup which may be related to the election and also is related to just an undercurrent of interest in personal defense that just continues to be there," Olin Chief Executive Officer Joseph Rupp said during the company's first-quarter earnings conference call with financial analysts.
Rafn says gun sales typically have surged in recent presidential election years.
This year, though, it's off the charts. That's because gun owners and prospective gun owners are uncertain whether whoever ends up controlling Congress and whoever wins the White House will support gun rights, Rafn, Lauer and others said.
It's a situation where consumers say, "'We're going to get our guns now,'" before the election, Rafn said.
Among other factors driving the gun trend:
The Wisconsin's concealed carry law. The Wisconsin Department of Justice has issued more than 100,000 concealed weapons permits since the law took effect in November. In announcing the 100,000th permit, the department said it continues to receive hundreds of applications each day.
"We're seeing a lot of new shooters and a lot of women shooters," Nugent said.
An overall feeling of insecurity. Every time a story hits the news about budget cuts affecting a local police department, more people consider buying a gun, Rafn and others said. Also, news of foiled terror plots or terrorist acts also sends people to the gun store. "The more trouble there seems to be in the world, the more people seem to be buying guns and being interested in guns who haven't been before," Krieger said.
The slow U.S. economic recovery is also adding to the feeling of uncertainty.
But anything related to guns seems to be defying economic trends.
"Firearms are really selling now, but it's not just firearms. It's everything - all the accessories, ammo," Lauer said. "This place is just hectic with guys running around here trying to get these orders filled."
"We've seen our business increase 20 percent to 30 percent over last year. It's just been phenomenal."
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