The Column, No. 117:

2017 Retrospective and the Upcoming SHOT Show 2018

By Randy Wakeman

2017 was a challenging year for the shooting sports industry. Prior to the November 2016 Presidential and Congressional elections the major players in the industry had to make their production decisions for 2017 based on the available market projections. The campaign of 2016 was an unprecedented attack on the Bill of Rights and the Second Amendment. Even this year, it continues, with the moronic attempt to blame the Las Vegas tragedy and violence in general on the GOP and the NRA.

The industry guessed the politicians (who have all sworn to defend and protect the Constitution) would continue to attack it and the polls all indicated this would be the case with a Clinton Presidency. Consequently, the industry continued to produce at a very high level to meed the anticipated continued panic buying (as per the O'bama years). However, with the election of President Donald Trump and the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, consumers breathed a sigh of relief and the panic buying bubble subsided.

Not wanting to lose market share and also to help their dealers, many major manufacturers offered deep discounts and rebates in 2017. It has been brutal to the bottom line in many cases, but it has been a spectacular year for the savvy shopper. A year unlikely to be repeated anytime soon, as inventories go back to more traditional levels.

Nevertheless, the industry has seen something in the area of a 20% drop in sales and a 50% drop in profits, some segments (Armalite rifles, for example) being harder hit than others.

Mossberg has re-entered the centerfire market in a big way with the Mossberg Patriot bolt-action line-up. The Patriot walnut models are about the best you can do for the dollar and I suspect they will be popular for a long time.

Smith & Wesson has knocked it out of the park with their improved M&P M2.0 pistols. The stiffer frame, industry-leading grip texture and improved triggers combining to make these pistols extremely popular.

Fabarm USA's L4S autoloading shotgun line, my personal favorite hunting shotgun, has been expanded with their L4S Sporting model. It has superlative balance, clean machining and is just plain fun to shoot. I would expect a few more surprises from Fabarm this year.

On the shotshell ammunition front, the Kent Bismuth loads are better performers than any steel loads, easy on chokes and barrels and a lot less expensive than tungsten loads. Kent has a big winner here.

The Remington V3 autoloader, now available in walnut, is the best Remington autoloader ever. I expect the V3 line to grow as time goes by, and Remington has already announced their 870 detachable box magazine models that are certain to find favor in their HD / tactical segment. Of the expanding line of Remington handguns, my personal pick of the litter is the relaunched R51.

After a long time in development, North American Arms has starting shipping their new break-top mini-revolver, the Ranger II. The initial offering is with a 1-5/8 inch barrel, with 2-1/2 inch and four inch models to follow.

For those who have asked, "Is it all tactical?" . . . well, it sure looks like a lot of it is. Too many new offerings seem to get smacked with the ugly stick before their introduction.

It is going to be an interesting year, a year of reorganization and a year of eliminating slow-sellers. Weatherby has already dumped their 28 gauge SA-08 and Element autoloading shotguns. The glut of Armalite-platform rifles and 9mm pistols in the market suggests that something has to give. The so-called "entry-level" bolt action rifle market has never been more over-crowded. It is going to be an interesting year.

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Copyright 2017 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.