Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center, seems to have a simple job: find the hint of a fact, and abuse it to craft bizarre anti-gun fiction. Such was the case in “The Collapse of the AR-15 Assault Weapon Market,” Sugarmann’s recent Huffington Post article.
The article brought guffaws of laughter or outright mockery from gun bloggers, who found the closure of KBI/Charles Daly not to be evidence of a market in decline, but an example of a company with a questionable reputation for quality failing to survive even during a seller’s market.
It is absurd for anyone to ever cite the failing of a new and minor player in an industry segment as evidence of the collapse of the entire market, and it isn’t very intelligent to take the claims of outbound corporate officers at face value when they place the blame elsewhere for their company’s collapse. KBI/Charles Daly tried to jump into a market segment with which it had no experience, mistimed their entry into the market, and misjudged their niche. It collapsed as a result.
But is there any truth to the claim that the AR-15 market is in decline? Yes … and no. It depends very much on who you speak with in the crowded world of the “black rifle.”
The AR has been around in various guises since the late 1950s, with its most famous variants being the selective-fire M16 rifle and M4 carbine used by militaries around the world. The semi-automatic civilian version is extremely popular with both civilians and law enforcement. Its modular design allows for near endless customization, and it can be found in SWAT lockers and hunting cabins alike.
By far the most common basic variant sold over the past 18 months is the carbine version of the rifle that features a 16″ barrel and a 6-position-adjustable stock. No doubt favored by returning military veterans and admirers of military equipment, the carbine closely resembles the compact M4 favored by the U.S. Army and some Marine units. These so-called “M4-geries” are sold by dozens of gun companies at varying price levels and they form the backbone of the market.
Tom Spithaler is sales director for Olympic Arms, one of the larger and more commonly stocked AR manufacturers. When I spoke with him, the message seemed mixed.
The market for the AR15 is not collapsing. It has collapsed …. when you compare them to the artificially inflated numbers we saw over the last year and a half due to the election of Obama. That aside sales are VERY good. .. They are not what they were just after the election, but they are still very good. We (Olympic Arms) are always able to weather these peaks and valleys better than other brand names as we truly manufacture what we sell. For us, it is just a matter of changing focus from one type of AR to another.