Five Observations and Predictions: NRA AM Post-Mortem

We had a great weekend in Nashville and enjoyed seeing the 2015 National Rifle Association's Annual Meeting at the brand new convention center they built downtown. While hotels were an issue in Nashville (I met several people staying 30-45 minutes away) I suppose it's better to see overwhelming support for the NRA than not enough.

Nashville's "The Stage"
The Stage, an iconic venue/honky tonk in Downtown Nashville.
Still, I came away with a somewhat cynical outlook on things. not necessarily because of the NRA but just because of the world's cyclical nature. After all, what goes up... must come down. At least to some degree, right?

So, without further adieu, here are my top ten predictions and observations from this year's NRA AM. Feel free to disagree with me, as I stated - these aren't meant to be criticisms of the NRA or gun owners but rather where I see things headed as an uneducated fan-boy of the 2nd Amendment.

1.) The NRA is Inflating Their Annual Meeting Attendance Figures
Don't get me wrong, the Music City Center was packed but everything we heard before this year's event was that it was a small venue. "Wait until next year, Louisville's convention center is huge..." was what a lot of vendors who couldn't get booth space were told.

Still, the NRA claimed 78,000+ were in attendance this year, the second highest attendance mark on record. To me, that doesn't add up.

Outside, the parking lots were wide open on Sunday. While the $25 parking spots weren't exactly economy-priced, it seems those spots across the street would have been gobbled up if we were really pushing 80,000 in attendance for the weekend.

Oh, and there's no shame in whatever the real number was. Let's say that 55,000 people attended this year's Annual Meetings. That's still damn impressive to me. 2nd Amendment supporters, traveling on their own buck to support a grassroots cause. Look at the Moms Demand group... they had to bus people in and could only muster about 150 for their "Anti-gun" rally.

I'm not sure who they were trying to reach... fish in the Cumberland River? (Photo courtesy: BearingArms.com)

2.) Glock Will Sell About a Billion Glock 43's. But Not For Good Reason.
I had the chance to fire three magazines worth of the Glock 43 at a media event they held just prior to the start of the annual meetings. It was about what you'd expect from a single stack 9mm pistol at a price point that's higher than many other solid single stacks. (~$540 MSRP to start).

For the money, I think you're better off with a Walther PPS or a S&W Shield.

The Glock 43 I fired at the NRA AM
Behold! The Glock 43 You Waited For!
With that in mind, Glock is going to sell the heck out of the Glock 43. People have waited so long and the Glock fanbase is intensely loyal. There's nothing wrong with this pistol. I just think it's expensive for what you're getting.

3.) The NRA Is A Solution That Is Somewhat Needing a Problem.
Don't get a me wrong. Moms Demand and "Everytown" and all that jazz is certainly a threat but they really aren't organized enough to pose a significant challenge to the power, experience and passion that the NRA and its members exhibit.

"H", for "hell no" or "hilarious"?

It took Wayne LaPierre about 10 minutes to mention Hillary Clinton's name in his address to members on Friday of the convention. I was surprised it took him that long. Federally, politicians are the enemy at this point but that's largely not the case at the local level where the base of the NRA lives, breathes, and goes to the range.

Several states had legitimate conversations this past legislative session about constitutional carry, open carry and in some cases, even firearms sales tax holidays for their constituents. It's not the end of the fight at the local level as several states (California, I'm looking at you) are still breeding grounds for gun grabbers but a lot of states are rolling back restrictions and that's a good thing for gun owners but a bad thing for the NRA as they look to raise money and membership.

Kenny rogers has a tactical beard?
You want to talk beards? Kenny Rogers, now there is a beard.
4.) Tactical Beards Are No Longer En Vogue
Maybe it's spring. Maybe it's the part of the country we were in. Maybe it's a smaller military presence in Nashville than on the west coast. No matter what the cause, there were far fewer tactical beards at the NRA Annual Meeting than I observed at SHOT. This is important. :)

5.) We're Going To See The Industry Get Smaller
There are a lot of folks thinking the next year or so could get very interesting for gun owners, with election season and all. I don't see it happening. Hillary (and all Democrats) know that they need the moderate vote to win in 2016 and in a lot of moderate states, that means guns and the topic of gun control is off the table.

You can't win in the swing states if you talk about taking guns. Colorado, Wisconsin, North Carolina, etc. These aren't states with the independent, gun-loving persona of say, Texas --- but Gun Culture 2.0 and young freedom-minded folks aren't opposed to voting democrat. That is, unless the democrats come out with a platform that hints at restricting freedom and personal liberty. If that's the case, the swing states will go red.

Because of this, you won't see gun control discussed for the next 18 months. It simply won't be a topic that gets talked about. Like it or not, we live in a gun world where fear drives a lot of sales. Fear of a self-defense scenario drives us to carry firearms, fear of an "ammo ban" drives us to pay double the price for M855 and fear of regulation led to the biggest firearms market ever following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary.

After Sandy Hook, every veteran and their constable brother who fired a gun once got into the industry and decided to make AR parts. Now, they're hurting financially. If there isn't a panic or cause for demand to continue, they're going to disappear --- plain and simple.

It's not a good thing but it's the logical thing and ultimately, it's capitalism. You're going to see businesses disappear as they can't compete with the big players who have economies of scale, national and international distribution and brands that have been trusted for generations.

Need an example? You're a perspective AR-15 buyer and you can pick up a low-end AR-15 from a local builder in the $700-$800 range or you can buy one from Smith & Wesson for $600. There's a trickle down as well. If you're in the business of manufacturing AR-15 stocks and you're a small player, you likely don't have a distributing deal with a huge manufacturer. What happens to your business when the smaller AR building market dries up? That's right, your business dries up too.

Conclusion
I really enjoyed the weekend and had a blast meeting a bunch of really cool people that I wish I could spend more time with. If there was a way to buy the land and start a real world Galt's Gulch, a lot of the folks I met this weekend would definitely get a plane ticket to join me.

That said, we have to be realistic about where things are going for us as an industry. It's not that the beliefs are any less correct than they were 3 years ago, it's just that the business end of the firearms world is about to be in a significantly different place than it is currently. That money and all the influence it can buy will be sorely missed.


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