January 2004

Downrange: 01/04

GOOD ECONOMIC NEWS ON THE WAY?
Three different news bits supplied by the National Shooting Sports Foundation points to 2004 being a strong year for firearms activity. To wit:

• When the Justice Department audited National Instant Check System purchases during an 80-day period last year to ascertain how many potential firearm purchases were made by women, it found that roughly 12 percent of gun buyers are women. Translated into unit sales, that means females purchased about 1 million of the estimated 8 million long guns and handguns expected to be sold in 2003. That number comes directly from the question about the gender of the buyer on the BATF Form 4473.

• “Tom Gresham’s Gun Talk” radio show recently surveyed consumers and discovered that more than 90 percent of those responding say they plan to buy a firearm before the end of 2003. “That’s an astounding percentage,” said Gresham, “but it mirrors what I hear every week from callers on the radio show. They have been sitting on their wallets through the stock market decline ... and now they want to buy guns.” When asked, “Do you plan to buy a gun before the end of 2003?”, 61 percent of respondents said yes to a new gun, 21 percent planned to buy a used firearm, and 9 percent planned gifts of a firearm for someone else.

• In numbers released from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the 2002 hunting year (the latest figures available), there was an increase in the total value of hunting licenses, permits and stamps of 2.4 percent over 2001. While the total number of hunters remains near 115 million, hunters spent 2.6 percent more in the latest reporting year, a total of $658,993,798, in pursuit of their sport.

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GUN TESTS RATINGS
As new readers find out about Gun Tests, they often have questions about the nuances of our recommendations. Here’s a primer, starting with the most desirable rankings first:

Best Buy: This is our highest accolade. A gun with this rating functions well, shoots accurately, and costs less than others in its class.

Our Pick: In a given test, we may prefer one gun over others based on its unusual accuracy, superior performance, easy-to-use features, outstanding fit and finish, or eye-pleasing cosmetics. We recognize such a gun for these positives without regard to its cost.

Buy It: In a given test, we give this ranking to a gun that functions well in its category. But we may prefer another gun (Our Pick) in the same test for reasons we detail. Those reasons may have no bearing on your needs, so a Buy It rating still assures you that a given gun is accurate, handles well, and does the job for which it is designed.

Conditional Buy: In a given test, we may have reservations about some aspect of a gun’s performance or pricing. We express those reservations clearly so the reader can decide if he agrees with our concerns, and can buy or not buy the gun as a result.

Don’t Buy: In a given test, some aspect of a gun’s performance — in particular, safety, function, or accuracy — doesn’t meet our standards. As a result, we alert readers to these problems and recommend that they not purchase the product.


-Todd Woodard