Sales of some firearms slow, but concealable handguns remain popular

Long, black rifles hang on racks against the walls at Discount Firearms + Ammo. Varying sizes of handguns rest in glass cases that double as the store’s counter.

Soon, the shop at 3084 S. Highland Drive will double in size, growing from 6,000 square feet to 13,000 square feet in late January or early February.

Although sales in general were slow during the summer, General Manager Joey Wyson said the store’s sales increased in the first part of the year, with many of the buyers being newbies to the firearms world. Classes required for concealed carry permits, too, have been popular this year.

But sales of the ever-popular AR-15 and AK47 have slowed recently at Discount Firearms, with concealable handguns taking over as the most popular choice for local buyers. Wyson said he’s having a hard time selling his AR-15s.

“The market is flooded by them,” he said. “We go after the locals more than any other shop in town.”

At The Gun Store, owner Bob Irwin isn’t seeing the same slowdown in rifle sales, a firearm that appeals to a variety of demographics. But his handguns also are selling briskly.

Overall firearms sales, as usual, slowed a bit during the summer, Wyson said. He added that this summer was particularly slow because his customers rushed out and purchased in the beginning of the year. He said he expects sales to pick back up this month and continue to do well until March, a traditionally strong season for retail in general. Tax returns and the holidays are contributors to the strong fall-winter shopping season.

Sales at The Gun Store are tracking about the same as last year, with little upticks during the holidays and after a highly publicized shooting.

Firearms prices this year are generally up 10 percent to 15 percent over 2012, Irwin said. The reason? Retailers are passing on price increases from the manufacturers.

The number of active federal firearm licensed dealers in Nevada as of Oct. 10 was 1,359, according to numbers from the ATF’s Federal Firearms Licensing Center.

Nationally, firearm sales seem to be strong this year.

When it reported its first-quarter financial reports last month for fiscal year 2014, firearm manufacturer Smith &Wesson’s net sales were up 25.8 percent year-over-year, to $171 million.

At the end of July, Sturm, Ruger &Co. reported net sales of $179.5 million for its second quarter of 2013, up from $119.6 million in second quarter 2012. For the first six months of 2013, Ruger’s net sales are up to $335.4 million from $231.9 million for the same time period in 2012. The company cited new product releases as the primary driver for the sales growth.

“The market’s back to normal (in terms of firearms),” Wyson said.

Alamo Shooting Supplies and Range President Herb Munger agreed with Wyson and said he’s noticed an uptick in first-time buyers, too, and an increase in requests for carrying concealed weapons classes. The Gun Store’s concealed weapons class, held three times a week, too, is mostly sold out with a capacity of 40 people.

“If you want to go next week, it’s difficult to get in,” Irwin said.

Although handgun sales are up, local ammunition sales have slowed in recent months because supply has dwindled – 9 mm and .22 caliber are hard to come by these days.

“There’s still a shortage of (ammunition),” Wyson said. “This year has destroyed everybody.”

A lot of customers, too, have been looking for .223-caliber rounds for the highly popular AR-15 semi-automatic rifles.

“It’s going to be more until they stop talking about gun control on Capitol Hill,” Wyson said.

As for prices, he said some retailers have been raising them on ammo, but not Discount Firearms: “People will remember if you price gouge.”

Ammunition sales at Alamo have been mostly on par with other shops acoss the country: Most of their 9 mm is gone, as is .40 caliber is gone and .380 is gone.

“People are looking for anything that’s inexpensive,” Munger said.

He added that people will pay a high price for home defense ammo, but target shooters, because they’re using more product, favor cheaper bullets. The most common caliber for target shooters is a .22 caliber, while 9 mm and 40 mm are the most common for semi-automatic handguns.

Irwin said the price for ammunition in general is up 5 percent this year, unless a retailer is obtaining from someone at a gun show, where the cost can rise from 10 percent to 15 percent.

In August, Remington Arms Co. broke ground on a $32 million expansion of its operations at the Remington Ammunition Plant in Lonoke, Ark., expected to be complete by second-quarter 2014. The company has said the expansion will help meet consumer demand for quality ammunition products at a time when many sportsmen and gun owners are struggling to find supply.

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at lcarroll@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4588. Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.

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