Steve Ruark for The New York Times
At the Pasadena Pawn and Gun Shop in Maryland, customers can join a waiting list to buy an AR-15-style rifle. It's kind of fashionable, Frank Loane Sr., the shop's proprietor, said of the gun.
By Natasha Singer
Enlarge This Image
Gretchen Ertl for The New York Times
Tammy Hadley of Waterford, Me., a quality manager at Windham Weaponry, checked parts during the manufacturing of an AR-15-style rifle.
THE phone rings again at Pasadena Pawn and Gun, and a familiar question comes down the line: Got any ARs??
The answer is no. Pasadena Pawn and Gun, a gun retailer and pawnshop 15 miles south of Baltimore, is pretty much sold out of America?s most wanted gun, the AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle. Since the massacre in Newtown, Conn., in December, the AR-15, the military-style weapon that the police say was used in the shootings, has been selling fast here and across the nation.
Before Newtown, the rifles sold for about $1,100, on average. Now some retailers charge twice that. At Pasadena Pawn, on the wall behind glass counters of handguns, are three dozen or so AR-15-style rifles. Dangling from nearly every one is a tag that says Sold.
The AR-15, it?s kind of fashionable, says Frank Loane Sr., the proprietor. His shop has a revolving waiting list for the rifles, and a handful of people are now on it. The young generation likes them, the assault-looking guns.
On one level, what is happening here and elsewhere simply reflects supply and demand. The gun industry has spent decades stoking demand for the AR-15 and rifles like it. Now, after the mass killings in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, President Obama wants to reduce the supply. He has asked Congress for tougher controls, including a ban on what are commonly called military-style assault weapons; the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on gun violence last Wednesday. Many enthusiasts are rushing to buy one of the rifles now, in case the president prevails.
But how did gun makers stir up the demand for these particular guns in the first place? The answer is a story of shrewd advertising, aggressive marketing and savvy manufacturing a virtual recasting of the place of guns in American life. With speed and skill, firearms manufacturers transformed a niche market for the AR-15 and similar rifles into a fast-growing profit center.
When certain rifles and features were banned under federal law from 1994 to 2004, gun makers tweaked their manufacturing specifications and introduced more AR-15-style rifles than ever. With ads celebrating the rifle's military connections, they lured a new and eager audience to weapons that, not long ago, few serious gun enthusiasts would buy.
It might seem remarkable, given the national conversation about gun control, but guns are a relatively small business in the United States. Sales of commercial guns and ammunition as opposed to those sold to the military and police amounted to about $5 billion in 2012. That?s less than half of the profits that Apple earned in the final 13 weeks of last year. But despite the headlines, and partly because of them, commercial gun sales are growing. Last year, they were up 16 percent industrywide, according to estimates from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, an industry trade association. Semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15 are responsible for a significant share of that growth.
By now, many Americans probably recognize the AR-15, whether or not they recognize the term. Unlike its military counterpart, the M-16, the civilian AR-15 cannot spray a continuous stream of ammunition with one pull of the trigger. But, as a semiautomatic, it can fire individual bullets as fast as the trigger can be squeezed. By design, it looks and feels like something commandos might carry. That is part of its appeal, and of manufacturers pitch.
On one level, marketing military-style weapons to civilians is not so different from pitching professional sports equipment to high-school athletes. Garry James, the senior field editor at Guns & Ammo, says a military pedigree inspires consumer confidence in a gun?s reliability.
Credibility of performance is what appeals to the firearms enthusiast, Mr. James wrote in an e-mail.
Yet marketing combat-derived weapons to civilians is a risky business, particularly now. The industry itself has promoted the guns by using battle imagery and words like assault and combat. Bushmaster Firearms, a leading maker of AR-15-style guns, and whose rifles have been used in several mass shootings, features the Bushmaster ACR, short for adaptive combat rifle, on its Web site. ?Forces of opposition, bow down, part of the site says. All the same, gun makers say customers buy these weapons with peaceable intentions.
The AR-15 isn't the first military-style weapon to gain a consumer following. After World War II, some people bought surplus German service rifles made by Mauser and repurposed them for hunting and competitive shooting. But the selling of the AR-15 represents the first mass marketing of a military-style semiautomatic rifle made by a number of different gun makers. Its success has led to an increasing militarization of the entire consumer firearms market, says Tom Diaz, a gun industry researcher and gun control advocate.
It speaks to the fact that there are a lot of young men in the U.S. who will never be in the military but feel that male compulsion to warriorhood,? says Mr. Diaz, the author of The Last Gun, a forthcoming book on the industry. Owning an assault weapon is a passport to that.
A REMINGTON MODEL 870, a classic pump-action shotgun with an all-steel receiver and walnut stock, sits on a brown gingham tablecloth along with a slice of apple pie, a mug of coffee and an issue of the Old Farmer?s Almanac.
This is how guns were marketed in 1981. That year, the Remington 870 was featured on the back cover of the July issue of Guns & Ammo, in an ad that emphasized quality and durability. The 870, the ad read. Still as American as apple pie.
The front cover of the same issue showed something very different: a photograph of two gleaming black rifles, with the cover line: The New Breed of Assault Rifle.
Last edited by Bowden; 02-03-2013 at 12:54 PM.
PrunaGrow.com, the only Myostatin inhibiting geriatric Follistatin peptides that I trust 100%!!!
NOW 10% OFF ON ALL YOUR SUPPLIES!!! Promo Code: Oldfartrep#1
PRUNAGROW BODYBUILDING NUTRITION
Discipline, patience, commitment and perseverance = Bodybuilding success.