Double Whammy


We got hit with a one-two punch late Friday afternoon. The Freedom Group announced that it would be closing the Bushmaster manufacturing plant in Wyndham, Maine, and Smith & Wesson announced that it would be closing the Thompson/Center plant in Rochester, N.H. Apparently the tough economy has caught up with the firearms’ industry.

For the Freedom Group the move is not all that unexpected. With the DPMS acquisition the group had two AR-type rifle companies under its umbrella. The panic-buying firearms and ammunition bubble of 2008 and 2009 allowed the Freedom Group to make the most of the AR platform’s desirability, but everybody knew that the market would become saturated. Now that it has occurred and with an economy that continues to swirl toward the septic tank, it makes good business sense to streamline the product line. But I hate to see another firearms’ brand disappear.

The T/C closure is a bit more puzzling, though with hunting rifle sales flagging for a longer period of time look for more closures, consolidations and trimming of product lines. Smith & Wesson bought T/C just three years ago when its sales and profits were at its peak. The AR panic bubble certainly stole market share from T/C, but there’s more here. A recent AP story states that hunting license sales have dropped 8.5 percent since 1990. The story attributes the decline to increasing suburbanism (and a corresponding decrease in the rural population and its agrarian values), aging-out the hunting population and the younger generation’s fixation with electronic entertainment instead of guns and bows.

This news, while troubling, does not mean that the world is about to end. The entire country—from reclusive rural rednecks like me to worldly sophisticates, from the family farmer to the Wall Street hedge fund manager—is undergoing a transformation. Into exactly what I do not know. In the broad, globalist view, Bushmaster and Thompson/Center are expendable collateral. But the hundreds of people and their families in Rochester and Wyndham, as well as the thousands of people beyond those small American towns, affected by these decisions do not see themselves as expendable collateral. For these Americans, the decisions made by the Freedom Group and Smith & Wesson are very, very personal.

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