Fast on the heels of their floparoo NRA Carry Guard expo in Milwaukee, the boys from Fairfax are now ramping up their promotion and huckstering of the insurance and training products that are aimed (pardon the pun) at what they believe to be the “armed citizen” market whose potential will somehow make up for the fact that gun sales continue to go down.
The latest FBI-NICS numbers confirm that it ain’t that rosy in Gun-nut Land, with handgun and long gun background checks for August down 10 percent from August 2016 and dealer sales of handguns for the first eight months of this year down more than 10 percent from the year before. Meanwhile, the stock price for Smith & Wesson (oops, sorry, it’s now something called American Outdoor Brands) has now dropped to $13 bucks a share, having been up to more than $28 the day that You Know Who shocked the world by finishing in first place.
On an earnings call last week, S&W President Jim Debney announced some more bad news, saying that shipments of both long guns and handguns were way down in the last quarter and that quarterly revenue was off by 40 percent from the same quarter last year. Our friend John Feinblatt told The Guardian that the Springfield gun maker acquired Gemtech, an outfit which produces silencers, in order to bolster overall revenues. Let me break it to both John and Jim gently: When consumers stop buying guns, they also stop buying all the accessory crap and paraphernalia which goes along with guns.
So what do you do to boost revenues when your product market is saturated? You sell services which enhance the value or the utility of the products that are already owned. And here is where the NRA seems to be leading the pack by rolling out their new brand, Carry Guard, which so far consists of insurance protection and training for folks who want to walk around carrying a gun.
The Carry Guard insurance is advertised as “America’s Most Complete Self-Defense Insurance Program,” but if you believe that hype, you probably also believe that Martians keep landing at Area 51. Recently a writer for a concealed-carry blog posted a comparison between the Carry Guard insurance and the insurance offered by the United States Concealed Carry Association, and if the comparison is accurate, I can only say that the NRA product basically offers a lot less and costs more. The Carry Guard program also gives you “access” to the training program but anyone can sign up for the “gold standard” training courses whether you buy the insurance or not.
And what exactly are these new training courses? Here’s what they say: “The mission of the NRA Carry Guard instructors is to provide the skills, education and training necessary for today’s changing conflict space.” Would someone please explain the phrase “today’s changing conflict space?” Are they talking about all those antifa people who are going to assault you while you’re strolling down the street?
You can sign up for a three-day, live-fire course which costs $850 but you must bring 1,500 rounds of ammo which will run another $300 or more. First you learn the “fundamentals,” such as stance, grip, holster draw, sight alignment, blah, blah, blah. Then after shooting your 1,500 rounds (that’s 100 hi-cap magazines over three days) you get to play some “real world” training scenarios with Airsoft guns (those are toys, by the way.) In other words, over a long weekend you’ll progress from a complete novice to an expert at protecting yourself with a gun, right? See how well your hands hold up.
The NRA started as a training organization and, as a trainer certified in six different NRA specialties, I can tell you that when it comes to defining how to shoot a gun safely, America’s “oldest civil rights organization” has it down pat. But Carry Guard isn’t training, it’s video gaming with live guns. What do you expect, now that the video-game generation has grown come of age?