For 200 years, Remington has been one of the most famous names in guns, supplying arms to soldiers in the civil war, both world wars and to generations of gun enthusiasts. Now it has met its match: the gun-friendly presidency of Donald Trump.
After a golden era of sales under Barack Obama, America’s gun manufacturers are in trouble. Sales have tumbled, leaving the companies with too much stock on their hands and falling revenues. The crunch claimed its biggest victim this week when Remington filed for bankruptcy.
The move does not mean the end. Remington is using the US’s chapter 11 bankruptcy law to offload $700m of its $950m in debt, and to restructure the company. But it does underscore the level of distress in the industry.
In December, American Outdoor Brands, the owner of Smith & Wesson, reported that its profits had fallen 90% year over year, from $32m to just $3.2m. Sales fell 36%. Last October, Sturm Ruger, the US’s largest firearm manufacturer, announced its quarterly revenues had fallen 35%. Both companies will report their latest results shortly but neither is expected to announce a dramatic increase in sales.
“They call it the Trump slump,” said Robert Spitzer, a professor at the State University of New York at Cortland and the author of five books on guns.
“Gun sales have become politicized to a great degree,” he said. “Gun purchases recently have been made not just because someone wants a new product but to make a statement; not just because of fears that there might be tighter regulation but also to make a statement against Obama.”
With Trump in the White House, said Spitzer, gun sales had sharply defaulted to their long-term trend of declining ownership rates.
“Gun ownership has been declining since the 1970s and there are now fewer gun owners than ever,” said Spitzer. Fewer people are hunting, younger people are less interested in gun ownership and the gun industry has had little success in its attempts to appeal to women and minorities.