Walter Frederick has been in the gun business for 40 years. He is president of Sports South in Shreveport, La., one of the largest distributors of guns and gun accessories in the country. Recently, he attended the Summer Expo at the H&H Shooting Sports Complex in Oklahoma City and sat down for question and answer session with The Oklahoman.
What is the current state of the gun industry? “It’s been very good for the last five years. It’s been at an all-time high. The big question right now is will it keep going at the pace that it’s been going.”
Do you think it will? “I think it will. The surge in gun sales and shooting accessories, nothing that has caused that has changed, the possibilities for (gun) restrictions and the desire for self-protection, so everything that has brought it on is still in place. I don’t see why it won’t keep going.”
Where is the area of the most growth in gun sales? “The surge has come from handguns, mainly, and the modern sporting rifles. The hunting side of it as has grown some but not near the pace of handguns. Hunting has grown some the last couple of years, but not much. The hunting side has a different set of problems. Access and the time it takes to do it, the urbanization of the country. I don’t know if we have a solution for the hunting part of it. That’s been a long-running problem and I think will continue to be. It’s gotten to be a fairly rich man’s sport.
Another large segment that has been growing is (gun) ranges across the country. Thirty years ago, you probably had about 20 percent of the ranges that we have now. There has been a huge increase of indoor ranges and ranges in metropolitan areas so there is more access for people to shoot than there was.”
Who is buying all of these guns? Traditionally, and this is more gut feeling than anything, our market was selling guns to people who already had guns. We’ve had a large influx of women and young people (buying guns) over the last five years. Right now all the manufacturers are trying to make as many guns as they can to fill the demand that they have. They don’t need anymore demand.
Has the ammo shortage improved? “It’s getting a little bit better but it’s still pretty bad. The big three manufacturers have been running three shifts, making as much as they can make.”
Will supply ever catch up with demand? “Some day it will.”
What is the biggest change in the industry you have seen in the last 40 years? “Probably the MSR, the modern sporting rifles, the black guns. In the last 20 years that has come from a fringe gun, a border-line fanatic’s gun, to (being) fairly accepted. A decent percentage of people who own guns own one (MSR). It’s the biggest increase in the market size of any gun today.”
Why is that, you think? “They are fun as hell to shoot.”
What is the biggest challenge the gun industry faces in the near future? “The (regulatory) pressure from people that don’t see the value of self-protection or the sport of shooting. It has its highs and lows. That’s probably it.”