While the country engages in a heated debate about gun control legislation, ancillaries to weapons manufacturers have been asking whether stricter gun legislation will have a negative impact on innovations in weapons technology. Some speculate that a restricted civilian market will hurt the military and law enforcement market because demand will be restricted by tighter laws. Others say that demand for goods from military and police tend to drive innovation, therefore innovation will be unaffected.
One Virginia-based gun maker told U.S. News World Report that tighter restrictions on civilian weapons could result in a “brain drain or talent walk-out” in the industry. Another expert called that idea “screwball” and pointed out that gun manufacturers use advances in military weapons to market to civilians.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) estimates that the firearms industry provides 220,130 jobs in the U.S., including 43,960 from suppliers. It has a $33 billion impact on the economy, including $10.5 million in wages. The organization issued a statement opposing Connecticut’s gun control legislation, which could be the strictest in nation, saying the state’s manufacturers will be held to a double standard: You can build it here, but you can’t sell it here.
A decrease in weapons manufacturing could have a trickle-down effect among small weapons manufacturers. Supply companies that provide parts as small as o-rings from Apple Rubber, could experience decreases in demand, especially if they are one-industry companies (Apple Rubber employs 130 people and has diverse products for medical, aerospace, machining and other industries).
One small weapons manufacturer that specializes in customizing AR15 weapons told Military.com that an assault weapon ban would have a devastating impact on the U.S. economy and, no doubt, his own. “The gun industry is one of the driving forces of the economy,” Paul Leithner-Wise of Leithner-Wise Manufacturing was quoted as saying.
The M9 Pistol
Take Beretta’s M-9 pistol, which was created for military and law enforcement in the late 1980s. Civilian models of the M9 have been marketed under the Model 92 series until Beretta recently released a 25-year anniversary edition of the firearm, which includes the M9 serial prefix and military-style markings. An expert at Military Arms Channel (militaryarms.blogspot.com) explains the special 25-year edition is nearly identical to the military version. The military version has sand-resistant magazines designed for desert combat and increased magazine capacity; the civilian model does not. The M9 is one of the most widely used pistols in the military because of its combat-readiness, rapid-fire performance, and reversible magazine release, which works for left- and right-handed shooters and allows for rapid reloads.
It is a perfect example of military demand that drove innovation.
photo The California National Guard
NSSF issued a report called “Modern Sporting Rifle (MSR): Comprehensive Consumer Report 2010,” which surveyed more than 7,000 MSR owners and found that those who own them are likely to own multiple MSRs. Forty-four percent of the respondents who own modern sporting rifles are current or former members of the military and/or law enforcement. Recreational target shooting is the No. 1 reason the respondents cited for owning the guns.
The allure of these rifles is the ease with which they can be customized, which drives the demand for accessories and replacement parts and creates a lucrative after market. Eighty-four percent of the NSSF’s respondents indicated that they added at least one accessory to their rifles, and 95 percent indicate they have used theirs recreationally within 12 months.
Clearly, both civilian and military users have strong impacts on innovation in weapons technology, and restricted gun laws will no doubt have an impact there and economically. To follow gun control news, subscribe to MilitarySpot’s e-newsletter and NSSF’s “Bullet Points,” a weekly news roundup of industry, governmental, retail and recreational news.