One of the nation’s largest gun makers continued to see weak sales over the past quarter.
Sturm, Ruger & Co. posted net sales of $120.9 million in its 2023 third quarter, according to an earnings statement released on Thursday. That’s down $18.5 million, or 13 percent, from the same quarter in 2022. Diluted earnings per share fell by over half, from $1.03 to 42¢, as well. The company said the sluggish sales were the result of the entire industry seeing reduced demand.
“Our third quarter sales and profitability decreased from last year, as overall firearms demand declined, creating a challenging, promotion-rich marketplace,” Ruger CEO Christopher J. Killoy said in a statement. “We remained focused on the long-term, offering only modest promotions and adjusting the production rates on various product lines to better match demand, which reduced our overall production.”
Ruger’s continued slide comes as the entire gun industry is searching for a new sales floor after it reached record heights in the immediate aftermath of the Covid pandemic and 2020 riots. Gun sales have declined precipitously since then and have begun to approach pre-pandemic levels despite millions of Americans coming into the gun market for the first time in 2020. If Ruger and other companies can’t find a way to boost sales, they may waste the opportunity to grow the industry in the wake of an unprecedented surge in customer interest.
Killoy argued the company has positioned itself to absorb short-term losses in favor of long-term stability by taking a conservative approach to producing new guns.
“While our decreased production hindered current period profitability, it resulted in only a nominal increase in our inventories and essentially flat distributor inventories during this seasonally slow quarter,” he said. “Our debt-free balance sheet and diverse product offerings have us well positioned to capitalize when the firearms market rebounds.”
There are some signs the market may be rebounding. In September, the only other publicly traded American gun company reported a sales increase. Smith & Wesson said its last quarter was the first to see a net sales increase after eight consecutive decreases.
Additionally, an industry analysis of FBI background check data found October 2023 saw 8.3 percent more gun sales than the previous October. That makes October only the third month in 2023 to see a year-over-year increase, and it also saw the largest increase. In fact, October 2023 saw the third most gun checks of any October on record.
Killoy said Ruger is now focused on increasing long-term sales by developing new firearms and improving those already on the market to appeal to more consumers.
“Our strategy remains unchanged as we stay focused on long-term shareholder value,” he said. “To that end, new product development continues to be our priority. Earlier this week, we introduced the Ruger-made Marlin Dark Series lever-action rifles that will appeal to a broad variety of firearms enthusiasts interested in a more modern look and features to enhance the rifles’ classic design. In addition to our traditional new product introductions in 2023, including the Marlin 336 and 1894 Classic lever-action rifles and the Super Wrangler revolver, we continue to offer a variety of limited run distributor exclusive models across many of our product lines.”
He said the company is also starting to expand its offerings in the country’s largest market: California. In the wake of a federal judge ruling a number of its handgun restrictions unconstitutional in Boland v. Bonta, the state agreed to drop its “microstamping” requirement while appealing the decision. That allowed Ruger and other companies to start selling many of its modern pistols in the state.
“We are also capitalizing on the opportunity to offer new Ruger pistols in California for the first time in 10 years, brought about by some recent changes in the pistol requirements,” Killoy said. “To date, four Ruger pistols were added to the California roster of certified handguns, including a Mark IV pistol, SR22 pistol, LCP pistol, and MAX-9 pistol. We look forward to introducing exciting new firearms in both the Ruger and Marlin brands and offering additional pistols to the California market in the coming months.”
Ruger’s numbers for the year also look better than its numbers from last quarter alone. Sales from January through September 2023 were still down year-over-year, falling 7.4 percent from $446.6 million to $413.2 million, but the decline was less steep.