The Paradox and Absurdities of Carbon-Fretting and Rewilding

Herschel Smith · 28 Jan 2024 · 4 Comments

The Bureau of Land Management is planning a truly boneheaded move, angering some conservationists over the affects to herd populations and migration routes.  From Field & Stream. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently released a draft plan outlining potential solar energy development in the West. The proposal is an update of the BLM’s 2012 Western Solar Plan. It adds five new states—Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming—to a list of 11 western states already earmarked…… [read more]

Suppressor Manufacturer Gemtech Will Close Headquarters In Idaho

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 11 months ago

TFB:

What a difference a year makes. Last June we announced that Gemtech was breaking ground on a new world headquarters. Last night we learned that in six to nine months Gemtech will no longer exist in Idaho. At a company meeting yesterday, the remaining Gemtech employees were told that the facility would close and that all business would be moved to Smith & Wesson’s headquarters in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Some manufacturers are so tone deaf it amazes me they’re still in business.  S&W has been told time and again by me and literally everyone else that they need to move operations completely and with prejudice away from their current state and come South.  Or West.  Idaho would be fine, or somewhere in the Northwest redoubt, or South would be better.

Leaving the liberal politics behind would be a requirement, of course, but instead of doing this, S&W is buying smaller companies and moving them to Massachusetts.

Procedure: [1] Find the worst possible thing you could do to alienate your customer base, and [b] do it.  If you’re dumb.

Will Smith & Wesson Buckle To This Pressure?

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 2 months ago

NYT:

In the early 1880s, legend has it that Daniel B. Wesson, a co-founder of Smith & Wesson, the gun manufacturer, heard about a child who injured himself by cocking the hammer and pulling the trigger of one of his firm’s revolvers. Wesson, known as D. B., was so distraught about the accident that he and his son, Joseph, developed a more child-safe revolver that they called the .38 Safety Hammerless.

Wesson was also my great-great-great-grandfather. Though it has been half a century since my family was involved with Smith & Wesson, I feel a twinge of responsibility every time a mass shooting occurs. I realize this is not entirely rational: I play no part in making or selling firearms and have never lost anyone close to me from gun violence. But it still haunts me.

[ … ]

It is only fair for me, for all of us, to demand that our gun manufacturers become leaders in this national discussion around gun violence. They create products designed to kill human beings. The responsibility that must accompany the creation of weapons like an AR-15 is too large to be brushed aside by shouting about freedom and an amendment to our Constitution ratified in 1791.

Yes, the company and other gun makers have taken some steps in calling for better enforcement of the national background check system and sponsoring firearm safety programs. But they can do so much more.

I would start by asking the parent company of Smith & Wesson, American Outdoor Brands Corporation, to push for gun-violence research. Since 1996 the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been severely restricted in researching gun violence. If gun manufacturers are truly responsible organizations, they should wholeheartedly want to back this research as a public health concern. Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the C.D.C. from 2009 to 2017, asked Congress repeatedly to fund research in gun-violence prevention but never succeeded.

In response to recent questions from BlackRock, an investment firm that owns the largest share of American Outdoor Brands, the gun maker’s president, James Debney, and chairman, Barry M. Monheit, said, “We must collectively have the courage to ensure any actions are guided by data, by facts and by what will actually make us safer.” Sounds like Mr. Debney, Mr. Monheit and Dr. Frieden are on the same page, so let’s see Smith & Wesson lead the charge in renewing gun-violence research by the C.D.C.

I would also ask that the company publicly endorse the Brady Campaign’s Gun Dealer Code of Conduct. It should support requiring universal background checks and a national registry for tracking its products, and indeed all firearms.

To the author, Eliza Sydnor Romm, I would say that it’s not that it doesn’t sound entirely rational to feel responsibility for the criminal behavior of others, I’d say that it’s so irrational it makes you seem like an imbecile and a dolt.  It would be no different than feeling responsibility for hit and run accidents perpetrated by drivers of Ford trucks, and then trying to tell Ford how to design and build trucks because of that.  If that sounds stupid, it’s because it is.

As for Smith & Wesson, I don’t know much about the parent company of American Outdoor Brands, but I have heard fairly bad things about Black Rock.

BlackRock announced new products for clients looking to avoid investing in companies that make or sell firearms for civilian use, a significant step for the world’s largest asset manager as Wall Street comes under pressure to take a stance in America’s gun debate.

“As it has for many people, the recent tragedy in Florida has driven home for BlackRock the terrible toll from gun violence in America,” it said in a statement in March. “It has put a spotlight on the role of companies that manufacture and distribute civilian firearms. Some of the largest manufacturers and retailers are held in the portfolios of millions of individual and institutional investors around the world.”

On Thursday, BlackRock said it had created new exchange-traded funds and products for pensions and retirement plans that screen for companies that make or sell firearms. BlackRock is also shifting the indexes of existing exchange-traded funds focused on socially responsible investments to avoid gunmakers and sellers.

Back to Smith & Wesson, such moves as the author describes would mean certain, sure and almost immediate death in the market place as gun buyers turned their backs on the company and their workers fled for greener pastures with Ruger or other companies.  Perhaps the Performance Shop at Smith & Wesson could relocate South like so many other gun makers and start up shop in a friendlier climate.

And perhaps busting up one of the leading manufacturers of firearms is the purpose of pressure like this.  What will Smith & Wesson do with an owner who doesn’t like their products?

It Is A Privilege That We Allow Individuals To Hold Onto Something That Causes Harm And Death

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 7 months ago

News From Boston:

BOSTON – Allowing the use of silencers and the attorney general’s authority to regulate firearms were hot topics at a Public Safety Committee hearing Thursday that saw lawmakers and gun rights advocates tangle over the Second Amendment.

More than 100 people piled into a Statehouse hearing room for the hearing on more than 50 bills dealing with firearms. Gun control activists congregated on one side of the room, many wearing orange T-shirts with “Moms Demand Action” or “Stop Gun Violence” on them. The other side of the room featured gun rights advocates, some of whom wore shirts bearing various slogans.

“We have some folks in this room who believe it is a privilege and we have some folks in this room who believe it is a constitutional right” to own a firearm, National Rifle Association spokesman John Hohenwarter said. “I think that’s where the fight lies.”

Hohenwarter and other gun rights supporters keyed in on a statement Rep. Marjorie Decker, a Cambridge Democrat, made at the hearing as she was testifying in support of various gun control measures and against bills she said would erode Massachusetts’ status as the state with the lowest rate of gun deaths.

“It is a privilege that we allow individuals to hold onto something that causes harm and death,” Decker said. “It is a privilege to have a car license, it is a privilege to have a gun license.”

Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners Action League based in Northboro, said Decker’s comment illustrated frustrations lawful gun owners feel in Massachusetts.

“One of the problems that we face here in Massachusetts is that the Second Amendment is barely recognized in the state as a whole and certainly not as a civil right. I could not have asked for a better witness to that than the previous legislator that actually described our civil rights as a privilege,” Wallace said. “I am aghast that an elected official would actually say that … but that’s not unusual.”

One issue that elicited testimony in favor and in opposition on Thursday was removing the state ban on suppressors, or silencers, which attach to the barrel of a gun and reduce the sound of a bullet being fired.

Sen. Michael Moore, D-Worcester, the co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, and Sen. Donald Humason each filed bills (S 1340/S 1317) to remove the ban on the use of suppressors. Massachusetts is one of 10 states that bans gun suppressors for hunting and one of eight states that bans them for consumers.

“I see them as a tool to continue firearm safety education without having to damage your ears,” Amanda Deveno, a firearm safety instructor and GOAL member, told the committee. “It also makes it easier for me as an instructor on the line to communicate properly with my students.”

Deveno’s argument did not go over well with John Rosenthal, the founder of the nonprofit Stop Handgun Violence.

Rosenthal said that having the Committee on Public Safety approve a bill deregulating silencers “is like the FDA commissioner saying we should deregulate arsenic.”

American Suppressor Association President and Executive Director Knox Williams said the opposition to the suppressors bill “is pretty boilerplate, based on common misconceptions from people who have never taken the time to go out and hear a suppressed gunshot.” He said a gunshot from a gun with a suppressor attached is still as loud as a jackhammer.

Also at issue Thursday was the authority of the attorney general to regulate the sale of firearms. Last summer, Attorney General Maura Healey drew the ire of Second Amendment advocates and sportsmen when she heightened her office’s enforcement of an assault weapons ban that had been on the books for years by cracking down on copycat assault weapons.

Humason, a Westfield Republican, filed S 1326 to remove the regulatory authority for the attorney general from consumer protection laws, Humason and Warren Republican Rep. Todd Smola filed S 1322/H 1310 to strip the attorney general of the office’s authority to regulate weapons and to repeal previously issued regulations, and Spencer Democrat Sen. Anne Gobi filed S 1316 to do away with the term “copies and duplicates” in the definition of assault weapon.

Rep. David Linsky said the bills were “filed in retaliation” to Healey’s actions and urged the committee not to advance the legislation.

“The attorney general has the authority to promulgate and enforce rules on all items sold to consumers in Massachusetts, including firearms. Attorney General Healey acted within her constitutional authority as the consumer advocate to stop the sale of copycat assault weapons and protect the residents of the commonwealth from these illegal weapons,” Linsky, a Natick Democrat, said. “Stripping the attorney general of her authority to regulate firearm sales would set a troubling precedent and leave our residents vulnerable to the whims of the powerful gun lobby.”

The theme of federal inaction ran through Thursday’s hearing, with multiple representatives and gun control advocates arguing that Massachusetts cannot rely on the federal government to set rules for firearms.

“If Congress is not moved to act in the wake of events like Newtown or Las Vegas, we cannot continue to sit around and be shocked or wring our hands at their inaction. States must become the agents of their own protection,” said Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, D-Jamaica Plain.

Methinks that Decker has too elevated an opinion of herself.  “Animal Farm” suddenly came to mind, or perhaps Nazi Germany, or the Soviet Union or Communist China.  And the American revolution as the repair for all of this.

The very purpose for weapons to begin with.  Perhaps Decker knows that and fears it.

Why would anyone remain in that awful state anyway?  Say, isn’t Smith & Wesson still ensconced there?  Why, pray tell?

Smith & Wesson To Buy Survival Equipment Maker UST

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 7 months ago

Market Watch:

Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. SWHC, +2.06% said Friday that it was buying survival and camping equipment maker Ulitmate Survival Technologies Inc. for $32.3 million in cash. The gun maker expects the acquisition, which will be made through its Battenfeld Technologies subsidiary, to close later this month. UST’s trailing 12-month revenue was about $24 million. “With its complete offering of survival gear, UST Brands is our first acquisition that is entirely focused on the outdoor market, which is a key part of our vision to become the leading provider of quality products for the shooting, hunting, and rugged outdoor enthusiast,” said Smith & Wesson Chief Executive James Debney.

Hey, I have a better idea, and I’ve told you about this before.  Get out of that communist state you’re in and relocate South where all the other gun manufacturers are coming.

Massachusetts Gun Owners Protest

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 7 months ago

Masslive.com:

BOSTON — A Massachusetts gun rights group is protesting Gov. Charlie Baker’s nomination of First Assistant Attorney General Christopher Barry-Smith to serve as an Associate Justice on the Massachusetts Superior Court. The gun owners oppose Barry-Smith because he was a high-ranking attorney in Attorney General Maura Healey’s office when she expanded the state’s ban on assault weapons.

“He works for the attorney general’s office that operates in the shadows above the law,” said Jake Graham, a Norwood gun owner who said he purchased guns legally in Massachusetts that are now subject to the ban.

Here is a photo of the event.

Mass_Protest

Oh dear.  Massachusetts isn’t worth saving, folks.  There aren’t enough of you.  It’s best just to leave the state and set up home in another state, preferably a freer state than Massachusetts.

Who is it that still does business up there?  Oh yea.  Calling Smith & Wesson.  Why the hell are you still there?  Why haven’t you moved?  I think we’re all beginning to get a little pissed about this.

Less Than Complimentary Article On Smith & Wesson

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 11 months ago

The author of this article at The Boston Globe, Akilah Johnson, is obviously trying to show the human side of gunsmiths and mechanics at Smith & Wesson as opposed to the ugly, boogeyman portrait the progressives paint.  But it reminds us (1) that Smith & Wesson has no business whatsoever still being ensconced in Springfield, and (2) this would never have to be done in most other locations in America (can you imagine a journalist having to show the human side of gunsmithing in, say, Charlotte, N.C., or Greenville, S.C.?).

Furthermore, this article isn’t really very friendly to Smith & Wesson or the place they live for the discerning gun owner.  Consider.

… to many, including US Representative Richard Neal of Springfield, who participated in that demonstration on the House floor, it is the hometown company.

“My own position has always been: Be helpful in that every police officer or patrolman in America ought to use a Smith & Wesson, and I think the American military ought to use a Smith & Wesson,” Neal said in an interview. “At the same time, there will be disagreements as it relates to guns.”

Their own member of the House participated in that juvenile sit-in, and would presume to mention firearms ownership within the context of LEO and the military, but noticeably didn’t mention anyone else.  What a horrible place for Smith & Wesson to do business.  Just horrible.

“It’s a good job,” co-worker Marc Holland called out from across the bar at the neighborhood watering hole early one morning last month.

Holland, 54, retired after 25 years at a paper mill and was looking for a way to stay busy. Six years ago, a friend at Smith & Wesson told him about an opening. Now, he works the machines that make triggers among other things.

“I can do like 3,600 triggers in a shift, over 10,000 in a week,” he said.

Excuse me, but I wouldn’t be bragging about how many triggers I could push out to the next mechanic if I were you.  Instead, I would be bragging about how I focused my time and effort on quality and craftsmanship.  Listen to me, Smith & Wesson gunsmiths and mechanics.  There are so many pistols, revolvers and rifles out there that competition will run you into the ground if you begin to work the line in order to maximize production instead of quality.  Gun owners will notice.  You’ll be shut down not because you can’t produce enough, but because we’ll be calling your stuff shit, and we’ll do it over forums, in blogs, and at the range.

Refocus on quality.  Tell me something about how you wake up in the morning and can’t wait to work that trigger to ensure its smooth action for that working-man buyer who is just like you, earning a living by the sweat of his brow.  Don’t tell me how fast you can do it.  I suppose that’s why I buy from the S&W performance shop if I buy S&W.  I know somebody has put some knowledge, skill, effort and craftsmanship into it.  I want to know that somebody left part of his soul in that machine when I pay that kind of money for it.  I leave my soul at work many a night when I leave.  It’s all I’ve got, and I’ve given it to a job I consider a blessing, with professionalism and excellence.  I want you to do the same thing, and if you can’t do it I want to know because I’ll never send another penny your way.

Neal said House Democrats were left with little recourse besides the sit-in to get the attention of US House Republicans, which after mass shootings in Orlando and San Bernardino, Calif., and Aurora, Colo., he figured would be easier to do.

“This highlights how difficult it is in America today to have a conversation about these sorts of things,” he said. “The majority in the House makes no effort to accommodate the concerns of the minority. That was true when we were in the majority, and it’s true now.”

Neal said he supports background mental health checks, closing gun show loopholes, and keeping those on the government’s no-fly list from being able to purchase firearms.

“I think those are reasonable positions by any standard,” he said.

The barber shop owners’ late father once worked for Smith & Wesson. Ralph Ricciardi, 45, said when his father first emigrated from Italy, he needed steady work before he could become a citizen. At the time, authorities did not consider being a barber secure employment.

“So my father actually made guns, from ’70 to ’74,” he said while cutting a client’s hair. “He opened up his shop in ‘74.”

“It’s just like a business. It’s just like a store or something,” said David Tancrati, 58, as he waited to sit in Ralph’s chair.

“We don’t even think about it. It employs a lot of people.” Ciro Ricciardi, 47, Ralph’s brother said.

Well, you should think about it, about the Puritan work ethic that brought you this kind of industry to begin with, and about the good weapons do for mankind.  If the only thing you can be proud of is a paycheck, and you have to ignore the product you’re making, you’re unworthy of the industry that calls Springfield home.

And to Congressman Neal, it’s easy to have conversations about guns.  We do it every day here.  And not one more law.  And I’ll converse with you about that until your eyes turn red and your heart stops, but conversing won’t change my mind.  Just as Springfield is unworthy of S&W, you are unworthy of the trust the people of your state have placed in you.  You should be ashamed, and I only hope that in the future, you get to look at the shuttered doors of the Springfield S&W plants as they have shut down and moved.  May your precinct turn into a ghost town.

Somebody’s Got A Screw Loose, And It Ain’t Smith & Wesson

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 5 months ago

Guns.com:

A lawsuit filed against Smith & Wesson in federal court last Thursday alleges that the plaintiff lost a finger due to a defective part on an unaltered .380 Bodyguard firearm.

Randy and Vicki McNeal, of Trimble, Tennessee, are seeking $75,000 in compensation – as well as legal fees – from the Massachusetts-based firearms manufacturer as a result of injuries received when Randy McNeal attempted to operate the firearm, which the plaintiffs alleged was “damaged, defective and unreasonably dangerous” when first manufactured, according to the complaint.

According to the complaint, McNeal purchased the firearm for his wife from a dealer in Jonesborough, Tennessee, in August of 2011, and no alterations were made to the firearm since its purchase.

The injury occurred approximately two years later, in December 2013, when he was attempting to make the gun safe to show a friend at On Target Guns and Indoor Range in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

According to the complaint, McNeal attempted to lock the slide back to ensure the chamber was empty, but due to an obstruction the slide wouldn’t come back all the way and lock into place. In an attempt to correct the problem, McNeal “briskly drew back the slide several times,” while following instructions from the gun’s safety manual.

However, the gun slipped from his grip, and when McNeal caught it, the firearm accidentally discharged, hitting his left small finger, ultimately leading to a need to amputate, the complaint says.

The plaintiffs, who reportedly had a firearms expert inspect the weapon, allege that the reason the gun could not be made safe – and ultimately the cause of the injury – was because of a loose screw on the built-in laser sight, which they say is “a defect/quality control issue.”

I’ve been hard on Remington for failure to come clean on their Walker fire control system.  But this is a loose screw.  I and every one of my readers has been at the range, or cleaning your weapons, or dry firing them, and found parts that needed to be tightened, refurbished, reformed, replaced, cleaned, or jettisoned for some other reason.

If you don’t want a screw to back out, check it periodically, or put Loctite on it [Be warned, this comes at a cost too.  AR aficionados don’t like the fact that Rock River Arms secures the Castle Nut on their rifles with red Loctite – it makes it virtually impossible to get off without a torch if you want to replace the buffer tube].

And above all else, when you drop a gun, do not try to catch it.  There are enough safety features on modern guns that catching it won’t prevent anything from happening except a little scratching when it hits, and may expose you to pulling the trigger of your weapon.  For instance, Ruger’s revolvers have their transfer bar, other makers have their features.

Again, do not try to catch a falling gun.  Ever.  My apologies for the awful music.  And for heaven’s sake, drop the gun, and drop the lawsuit.

Letitia James Attacks Smith & Wesson

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 6 months ago

NYT:

The New York City public advocate on Monday asked federal regulators to investigate whether the gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson had made adequate disclosures in its financial statements.

In an eight-page letter, the public advocate, Letitia James, said the Securities and Exchange Commission should examine whether Smith & Wesson misrepresented or omitted information about how often its products are involved in crimes and what it has done to keep its guns out of the hands of criminals.

Shareholders would want to know whether Smith & Wesson faced heightened regulatory scrutiny or significant litigation risk, Ms. James said in the letter.

Nearly two weeks ago, a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., left 14 people dead and provoked a fresh outcry about gun violence in America. It also is the third anniversary of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults.

“With the increase in mass shootings, public concern about the proliferation of firearms has animated a national dialogue about gun control measures, interstate gun trafficking, and whether gun manufacturers should take additional steps to ensure that their products do not end up in the hands of criminals,” the letter says. “Smith & Wesson knows that it is at risk of grave reputational harm.”

Ms. James is opening a new avenue in her fight against gun sellers and makers. Earlier this month, she called on TD Bank, a big lender, to stop financing Smith & Wesson. This summer, she convinced the New York City Employee Retirement System, the city’s largest pension fund, to explore divesting itself of its holdings of gun retailers like Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Here is the letter, sponsored by the City of New York because it is hosted on a New York City web site.  Ms. James, who makes $165,000 per year at the expense of city taxpayers, and who is almost never on the job to do her job of public advocate, is using her salary, time and staff to fight legitimate, law abiding gun manufacturers by – you guessed it – regulating them to death at the hands of the *.us.gov.  What regulation, what law, what knickers-in-a-wad fabricated problem of the day, it matters not.  This is what community organizers do.  Regulators are the philosopher-kings, and we are the subjects.

No, she isn’t another Bloomberg apparatchik.  She is much more progressive than Bloomberg, and gave an anti-Bloomberg speech upon de Blasio’s inaguration so caustic that that even The New York Times berated it.  She is next-gen progressive.  And like the current administration, she doesn’t mind spending money she didn’t earn from the public coffers to battle what she perceives to be social justice warrior battles.

And we can all say with one voice, “Get a real job and mind your own damn business.  We don’t care what you think.”  I hope Smith & Wesson buries you.

Is The M&P The Frontrunner To Become The Army’s New Pistol?

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 5 months ago

CNN:

Smith & Wesson fired up investors on Tuesday by saying it sees “recent, positive trends” in the consumer firearm market, and that’s likely to translate directly into higher profits for the gun maker.

The firearm company feels so confident that it raised its sales and earnings targets for 2015 above what Wall Street had been banking on.

The stock surged nearly 20% as investors cheered the news.

Rival Sturm, Ruger & Co. also saw its shares pop about 4% on the upbeat sentiment.

All of this marks a 180 turn for gun makers. Only a few weeks ago Smith & Wesson and other firearm manufacturers warned that Americans didn’t seem to be buying guns anymore. They pointed to sluggish rifle sales and a supply glut caused by retailers placing unrealistically high orders for guns.

Smith & Wesson predicted it will generate sales of around $125 million in the quarter that ends January 31. That would easily exceed expectations from analysts for revenue of less than $118 million.

“They are really showing improving fundamentals and continue to work off a lot of their retail inventory,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities.

He said the “wild card” with Smith & Wesson is the bidding war that’s underway to become the new handgun manufacturer for the U.S. Army. Hogan said the company is the “frontrunner” for the new contract, which would trigger an initial revenue gain of roughly $500 million.

Does Mr. Hogan know something we don’t?  Is the M&P the real “frontrunner” in the competition to replaced the Beretta, or this just wishful thinking or fabrication?  If Smith & Wesson wins the contract, in my opinion while this may be an initial infusion of welcome cash, it will ultimately cause S&W to be less responsive to customers.

On another issue related to S&W, I received an e-mail notification today from S&W on new products for 2015.  It mainly looks like more variants of the M&P.  The e-mail said, and I quote, “Smith & Wesson Corp. announced today that the company has expanded its award-winning line of professionally engineered M&P Series firearms with new offerings for 2015.”  S&W may want to rethink this language.

When you use the words “professional engineer,” “engineer,” “engineering” or “professionally engineered,” you invoke all sorts of legal stipulations that the service or product was designed and specified by a registered professional engineer.  In the past, companies who have done this without having a registered professional engineer on staff with the work being performed under his responsible charge were fined and issued cease and desist letters from the attorney general’s office of the state in which the company does business.  Perhaps they don’t know this, but you can’t just throw around the words professional engineer, any more than you can throw around the words doctor or lawyer.  Moreover, the legal burden such language places on the product manufacturer (for product liability) is rather onerous.

Is Smith & Wesson Going Under?

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 6 months ago

CNBC:

Smith & Wesson faces a double-barreled threat: Weak weapon sales and leverage.

The gun manufacturer said Thursday night that sales fell 22 percent in the quarter through October because of weaker sales of a variety of firearms. In turn, the company cut its full-year sales target to a range of $504 million to $508 million, down from $530 million to $540 million.

Why the sales swing? After concerns that President Barack Obama or other politicians would impose strict gun controls, many firearms lovers stocked up. Now that those fears have subsided, demand is returning to normal. That has left inventories elevated, prompting gun companies to offer discounts to clear their stocks.

But Smith & Wesson’s worries don’t end there. The company announced in late November it was buying hunting and shooting accessories company Battenfeld Technologies for $130.5 million. As part of the deal, the company will take on an additional $100 million of debt and fund the rest with cash. Adding that to Smith & Wesson’s $175 million in existing debt, the company will have $275 million in debt.

That’s a potential concern because Smith & Wesson has a covenant on its existing bonds requiring that its debt be no more than 3.25 times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA). For now, Smith & Wesson might appear comfortably below its leverage limit. Before Thursday’s statement, analysts expected the company to generate $114 million in EBITDA in the year through April. That would suggest a leverage ratio of about 2.4 times, or even lower, assuming some additional earnings from the acquisition.

But if sales and profits continue to fall, leverage could creep higher fast. Indeed, the company had EBITDA of just $68 million in fiscal 2012 before the big surge in gun demand. That would be low enough to violate the debt covenant. A spokesperson for Smith & Wesson told CNBC that the company took its “expected future financial situation and the covenants into account” when it borrowed more money.

There are signs that Smith & Wesson’s profits will remain under pressure. With demand soft, the company’s inventory has continued to rise. At the end of October, it held $99 million in inventory, up from $76 million at the same time a year earlier.

The company also said it plans to offer “aggressive promotions” in coming months to protect market share. It acknowledged that gross margins could take a hit as a result.

I haven’t seen any of those “aggressive promotions” in my area.  The S&W revolvers, M&Ps and other guns are the same as they’ve always been.  And anything from the performance shop at S&W will be very pricey.  I have a E series 1911 and S&W .357 magnum R8 revolver, both from the performance shop, both very nice, but both very expensive.

For some reason S&W feels that they need to expand their product line to include whatever is produced by Battenfeld Technologies rather than either (a) become more competitive with the prices of those they already produce, or (b) move to another location where they don’t have the high cost of union labor.

Since Colt dropped out of eyesight and off of the consumer map by focusing all of their energies on military contracts for the M4 (which has now dried up) and letting their revolver program perish, the reputation is that if you want a good revolver, you buy S&W.  My two S&W revolvers are very good.  But Ruger has laid the smack down and taunted S&W with its Ruger GP100.  I have held this weapon, although not shot it, and it balances nicely and its trigger action is smooth.  It will prove to be a worthy competitor to any .357 magnum / .38 Smith wheel gun.

S&W is probably relying on becoming the supplier of choice for the new U.S. military pistol.

For gun manufacturers, no customer rivals the Pentagon for prestige and revenue potential. That’s why, after years of anticipation, firearm makers are mobilizing for the U.S. Army’s imminent competition to replace the Beretta M9 pistol, the American soldier’s standard sidearm since 1985.

The procurement process for several hundred thousand new pistols formally begins in January and is expected to last about two years. Based on more than 15 years of reporting on the gun business, I’d identify the early favorites as a much-improved Smith & Wesson (SWHC), which enjoys a made-in-the-USA marketing edge, and the formidable Glock of Austria.

For a second opinion, I asked longtime industry consultant and former National Rifle Association organizer Richard Feldman for some snap handicapping. “Beretta starts with a 30-year history of supplying the Army, and that counts for something,” said Feldman, now the president of the Independent Firearm Owners Association, an advocacy group based in Rindge, N.H. “S&W, which lost a lot of police and civilian business to Glock in the 1980s and 1990s, has transformed itself into a modern firearm manufacturing enterprise with much better quality than in the past. Glock, barely in existence the last time this contract was up, is undeniably a powerful contender.”

S&W is fielding a ported version of their M&P .45 (if I am not mistaken), and it would suit me just fine if they won the contract.  My son Daniel (a SAW gunner) thought his Beretta was a piece of crap and the 9mm an underpowered cartridge.  He never used it, and even in combat he avoided actually needing it.  I have never liked the boxy design of the Glock or the slant of it’s frame.  But oh, my friends at S&W, watch it.

As I have said before, “To S&W, I say again like I have to every gun manufacturer.  Don’t even start down the path of relying on government contracts to keep your company solvent.  It’s like shooting heroin once.  Just say no.  Just don’t do it.”  It never works out quite like you intend.  The Marines want a version of the Colt 1911, Cerakote flat dark earth with a tactical rail, if sold on the open market to the civilian population, worth less than what the Marines are paying for it (it has night sights, a tactical rail and Cerakote finish – my S&W E Series 1911 has Melonite coating, a tactical rail, and Trijicon night sights, and sells for less than what the Colt 1911 sells for to the public).  The Army will prove to be finicky and fussy, and the orders won’t stack up to as many as you had bargained for.  The phase-in will be slower than you wanted, and the demand that it does place on your production capabilities will change forever your attention, programs and dedication to QA for other customers.

I’ve had my run-ins with S&W before, but I’ve been kind and understanding to a company that – I admit – I really love.  But S&W’s commitment to stay in labor union territory and a badly anti-gun state, flirt with law enforcement contracts to the exclusion of custumer rights, and now to chase after military contracts and buy out companies in strange moves that I cannot discern or understand, makes this all very troublesome for me.

It’s probably an exaggeration to say at the present that Smith & Wesson is going to go under.  I say this thankfully because I would regret a world without S&W.  But it doesn’t speak well of the current state of the company strategy to buy out other manufacturers to expand your line from your core business, to do so while sustaining higher debt, and to continue to ensconce themselves in an anti-gun, pro-union state.

The way to make money is to be a proud craftsman at your work for a competitive price, be loyal to your base, and respect their rights and their choices.  Why is this so hard to understand, and why do some U.S. gun manufacturers have so much trouble stepping up to the plate to show themselves worthy of the title?


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