The past five years haven't just been good for Smith & Wesson — they've been great. Sales are booming, and so too is the company's stock, which jumped a whopping 210 percent from August 2010 to August 2011. And for the first quarter of 2012, the arms maker reported a 48-percent increase in sales and a backlog of orders valued at approximately $392 million — for a time, Smith & Wesson actually couldn't make guns quickly enough to meet demand.
How has the company managed to so greatly exceed expectations? America's increased interest in guns for concealed carry and home defense has certainly helped. Ditto for recent sales spikes fueled by gun-control fears. The 2008 election of Barack Obama drove a firearms and ammo boom, and Obama's November 2012 reelection is credited with literally boosting Smith & Wesson's stock (Ruger's too) and setting a Black Friday gun sales record.
However, while firearms sales are up across the board, S&W has done disproportionately well among arms makers. Why? Arguably because the company pulled out an old-fashioned trick: offering consumers products they want. From M&P pistols and semi-auto rifles to classic revolver models, S&W firearms have sold well.
Not everyone thinks the trend will continue, though. In August, KeyBanc Capital Markets downgraded Smith & Wesson's stock by 9 percent to $8.90. KeyBanc argued that the firearms market can't maintain the current rate of sales and therefore, according to KeyBanc, S&W's stock was artificially high. But given that Smith & Wesson's stock has since rebounded to $10.48 and overall gun sales are projected to remain high through at least early 2013, was KeyBanc misguided in that assessment? Will Smith & Wesson see continued growth in the coming year? Much of that depends on the success of its new introductions. Here's what's new from Smith & Wesson:
M&P Pro Series C.O.R.E.
If there's one new product in the S&W line that's been generating buzz, it's the M&P C.O.R.E. (Competition Optics Ready Equipment) models
. If you've ever installed an optic on a handgun or, heaven forbid, changed optic brands, you know what a headache it can be. But the C.O.R.E. guns make it easy. A mounting platform on the slide can be changed to match your chosen optic by removing a bracket and installing the appropriate mounting screws. The mounting screws are then used to achieve a solid fit and appropriate height. The system is designed for use with six popular competition optics: Trijicon RMR
, C-More STS
, Leupold DeltaPoint
, Insight MRDS
. Initial models will be available in 9mm and .40 S&W, with either a 4.25- or 5-inch barrel. The M&P C.O.R.E. guns will retain the same features as the original M&Ps, plus a more textured back strap, three palmswell sizes to customize fit, a Performance Center sear for improved trigger pull, crowned muzzle and higher sights for use in conjunction with the mounted optics. The 9mm version has a 17+1 round standard magazine capacity, while the .40 S&W is 15+1. Before optics, both calibers have an unloaded weight of 24 or 26 ounces, depending on barrel length.
Performance Center Custom SW1911
S&W's latest take on John Browning's handgun, the Performance Center Custom SW1911
includes such fine-tunings as a hand-cut chamber, hand-polished feed ramp, hand-tuned action, and a hand-lapped frame and slide rails. This is a competition-ready gun, as evidenced by a match-grade trigger with over travel stop, match-grade throated barrel, hammer with speed adjustment, and 3.5- to 4-pound trigger pull. G10 grips with 30 line-per-inch checkering, coupled with a 'glass bead ' finish, add distinction to the gun's aesthetics. Overall length is 8.7 inches, and weight is 40.5 ounces unloaded.
Price: [imo-slideshow gallery=266],539
Performance Center Model 41
Fifty years after the introduction of the Smith & Wesson Model 41, a tricked-out version by Performance Center
is available. The new version of the venerable .22 semi-auto will sport a 'Performance Center tuned-action ' and improved trigger pull. Perhaps most notably, the gun is optics ready, featuring an integral Picatinny-style rail. Standard dimensions include 10+1 capacity, an external thumb safety on the left side of the frame, wood target grips and a blued finish.
Price: [imo-slideshow gallery=266],579
Performance Center Round Butt SW1911
On the concealed-carry front, S&W now offers this commander-size 1911, the Performance Center Round Butt SW1911
. Overall length is 7.95 inches, while unloaded weight is shaved down to 29.6 ounces. It shares many of the hand fittings and other features available on the full-size Custom SW1911, but with a 4.25-inch match-grade barrel rather than 5 inches. Other design aspects you may not expect on a gun small enough for daily carry include a Performance Center action, match-grade trigger, throated barrel, polished feed ramp and Briley spherical barrel bushing. The slide is stainless steel, while the frame is a proprietary scandium alloy.
Price: [imo-slideshow gallery=266],539