Last week the gun industry put on the SHOT show, a trade show where manufacturers and vendors can show their wares to industry buyers and the press. New products typically make their debut here, especially firearms from the larger manufacturers. If you look carefully at the product debuts and marketing efforts happening at SHOT you can get a read on trends within the industry and what manufacturers are seeing.
The talk of SHOT show this year hasn’t been long guns…it has been small handguns like the Glock 42 (Glock is going to sell those by the boatload) or the Remington R51. Manufacturers see that orders for black rifles are dwindling from the Obama-panic highs and they’re looking at what products they can get in consumer hands to keep the revenue flowing. Glock, who is rolling in money anyway, is betting big on a small .380 handgun. Remington is hopping back into the handgun market with their first original offering in almost a century…and it’s a compact (sort of) single-stack 9mm. S&W still seems to be selling every Shield they produce to the point where it’s nigh unto impossible to find 8 round magazines for the darn things in the wild.
An instructor friend of mine, Claude Werner, wrote a nice article on the trends he saw at SHOT and cited production statistics from the BATFE showing that Ruger has sold over a million of their little LCP pistols.
Why all this emphasis on little handguns?
When I first went to get my concealed carry permit in Virginia the local court clerk’s office had absolutely no idea what the devil I was talking about. I showed up with all my paperwork in proper order and the it took the office the better part of two hours to figure out that this was an actual thing they were supposed to handle and then how to handle it. The next couple of times I renewed my permit the story was much the same…but then the last time I renewed in person everything had changed. They had signs printed up giving directions, and even a special desk with a dedicated person just to handle permit applications. I asked her what led to this change. “We have been absolutely swamped with permit applications for the last few months. We had to completely reorganize the office just to deal with the demand.” Now renewals just require sending in the forms and the processing time has gone down to as little as a week and a half.
Whether it’s a direct response to an administration hostile to firearms rights or is the organic result of a lot of grass-roots work and changed minds I cannot say, but it seems clear that more people are interested in packing a pistol for self defense than at any time in modern history. The manufacturers have obviously been making moves to meet the demand for smaller, more conveniently carried firearms to fill this niche for some time…although they have been interrupted by the unexpected surges in demand that resulted from the administration’s crass politicization of tragedy.
When you realize that more and more people are wanting to carry, the small gun trend seen at SHOT this year makes sense.
I’m not going to get into a big deal on terminal ballistics because we’ve covered that ground before in this space and the information hasn’t changed. “Mouse gun” cartridges like the .380 ACP, .32 ACP, .25 ACP, or .22 LR simply do not deliver consistently good results in real life shootings, making them a poorer choice for the purpose of stopping bad guys than service calibers like the 9mm or .45 ACP. Still, rare is the person who can pack a Glock 21 and a couple of spare magazines every day of their lives.
I’m one of the apparently one million Ruger LCP owners out there. I bought my little Ruger because there are times (like when I’m at the gym lifting or on the treadmill) that a larger gun simply isn’t practical for what I’m doing. The Ruger fills a gap in my carry that allows me to have a gun on my person when I probably wouldn’t otherwise. The small gun trend at SHOT this year tells me that more people are doing the same thing, looking to carry guns more of the time.
Boiled down, this means that more good people will be armed when facing the threat of criminal violence. That means more bad guys are going to be staring down the wrong end of a gun. That is ultimately a very good thing. It would certainly be better if everyone could pack the equivalent of a Glock 19 loaded with quality ammunition, but the person packing the Glock 42 or the Ruger LCP isn’t usually packing that because it’s being chosen over the Glock 19. It’s usually being carried because the alternative is to carry nothing. My little LCP isn’t the greatest option available, but it’s better than fingernails. When I’m packing it as a primary fingernails are my other option.
The manufacturers are betting on small and I think it’s going to pay off. I expect Glock to move a lot of G42’s. Heck…I’ve thought about getting one myself. Would I prefer a 9mm version of that pistol? You betcha…but I can see it being easier to shoot and a bit less last-ditch than my LCP and perhaps worthy of replacing it as a backup or on those infrequent occasions where the LCP is my primary. More importantly, some people who don’t currently carry are going to handle a Glock 42, like it, and then start carrying it. I wouldn’t encourage people to settle for a Rule 1 gun (Rule 1 of a gunfight: Have. A. Gun.) in every circumstance, but there’s certainly a time and place for them.
In terms of practicality all my long guns put together aren’t as practical as my little LCP or a S&W J frame. I like my long guns as much as the next guy but I can’t go through my daily life with an AR strapped across my chest. People are starting to figure out that a .380 in the pocket is better than the best MK-18 build available sitting in the gunsafe.
If you have a Rule 1 gun or if you’re considering one and you haven’t trained with one before, consider contacting Claude Werner about that. I’ve done a block of instruction with him focused on small guns before and he’s good at teaching you how to get the most out of one. Something you carry and can use well, even if it’s in a sub-optimal caliber, is always going to trump something you can’t carry or don’t know how to use.
If you don’t already have a Rule 1 gun, maybe it’s time to give it some consideration. If you don’t carry regularly now because you think it’s too inconvenient or unworkable, take a hard look at some of the new small offerings on the market and see if you can’t find a way to carry one. Sure, I’d like to see you pack a pistol in a service caliber if possible, but I’m also a realist: I know that for some of you it’s either one of these little guys or no gun, and I’d much rather see you armed with something more effective than harsh language.