There’s no question that black rifles, especially ARs, are dominating the gun scene these days. I was at the first SHOT Show in 1979, and I wouldn’t be confident in saying there were any ARs shown there. In those days, they were almost exclusively offered by Colt, which sold maybe 7,500 a year.
I would estimate that at this year’s show, there were at least 100 makers of whole guns and another 200 or more suppliers of AR parts. Throw in AKs, FALs and other examples of what the NSSF calls “modern sporting rifles,” and probably 25% or more of the show was black rifle-related.
And there was no question where the action was in Vegas. You had to elbow your way through the aisles of the Law Enforcement section, while things were open and mellow in the traditional hunting part of the show.
This all means that while black guns were once ghettoized into SGN, now everyone’s getting into the act. Magazines that once spurned “assault rifles” are now touting them as ideal hunting guns. That’s pretty funny if you’ve been around a while, but all to the good, nonetheless.
Meanwhile, consolidation is narrowing the field of traditional gunmakers. Harrington & Richardson, Marlin and Remington all were prominent and separate brands when I started in the trade. Now they’re all just components of the Freedom Group, along with black gun purveyors Bushmaster and DPMS. Freedom Group just added Para USA to its stable.
When a big holding company combines formerly free-standing brands, it never advertises as much as did the individual companies. The pages formerly bought by a company like Marlin have to be replaced somewhere, and these days, that somewhere is likely to be an AR manufacturer.
So if you’re bored with ARs on magazine covers, I regret to tell you you’re probably going to have to be bored for a while. I don’t apologize for it in SGN, as ARs have been a vital part of our advertiser base for 25 or 30 years. Your complaints should logically be directed to the Johnny-come-lately types who’ve only recently discovered that “assault rifles” aren’t so bad.