Should You Reload On Smith & Wesson?

Those who doubt Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation (NASDAQ: SWHC  ) may want to run for cover as this company continues to deliver bulletproof results. While reports from Sturm, Ruger & Company (NYSE: RGR  ) and Taser (NASDAQ: TASR  ) also confirm that the weapons market continues to hit the bull's eye, there's one segment in particular that is performing particularly well.

Smith & Wesson results
Smith & Wesson reported its fiscal second-quarter results on Dec. 10. Net sales discharged a 2% gain to $139.3 million. Excluding a noncurrent distribution agreement from last year, net sales shot up 9.2%. Earnings per share from continuing operations jumped 16.7% to $0.28 this round. All of these sales included a two-week "annual factory shutdown."

While this growth alone is impressive, it was the hand gun sales that really hit their mark. Handgun sales fired up 27.4%.

CEO James Debney credited Smith & Wesson's success with its strategy of focusing on the "M&P polymer pistol family of products" which is a popular line of the company's handguns that is taking market share from competitors. Evidence of this was presented in the company's conference call. While background checks for gun owners were flat, Smith & Wesson was able to grow handgun sales significantly.

The company is so pleased with the results and optimistic about the future that it not only finished off its $100 million stock buyback program, but its board of directors also authorized an additional $15 million program. To put this in perspective, Smith & Wesson ended the quarter with $52.9 million in cash. This means that the buyback program equals over 28% of the company's cash reserves. Smith & Wesson must be very confident to risk so much of its money.

In the conference call, Debney noted that November had the second highest number of background checks for that month, and Black Friday in particular had its sixth best day on record. This suggests self-defense weapons for the public are becoming mainstream consumer goods as popular holiday presents. Debney said, "We continue to believe that our industry is in the midst of an underlying long-term growth trend, and our objective is to grow faster than the market."

How Sturn, Ruger & Company sees it
Sturm, Ruger & Company sees a similar situation. In the last quarter its firearm sales leaped 43.8% to $167.2 million. Fully diluted earnings per share exploded 63.6% to $1.44. The company credited in part the success to new product introductions including two new pistols. Sturn, Ruger & Company believes the industrywide growth is due to "new shooters" becoming gun owners for the first time.

CEO Michael Fifer stated that no matter how fast the company increases production, end-user demand from sell through has been increasing greater than the company can keep up with. He hopes this "problem" continues. He said the orders outstanding are so large it's "ridiculous."

Shocking growth
Handguns aren't the only buzz these days. Taser sales reached a new record in the most recent quarter, growing 22.3% to $35.2 million. It was the seventh quarter in a row of double-digit sales growth. Income from operations stunned with a 30.4% increase to $6.9 million. Taser credits the success in part "due to the continued upgrade cycle" to more expensive weapons as well as first-time buyers coming onboard which is not dissimilar to what Smith & Wesson is seeing. While Taser's weapons are designed to not be lethal as firearms can be, the market is growing for both types of weapons.

Foolish final thoughts
Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation is operating and succeeding during unprecedented times, and its shareholders are being rewarded through aggressive company buybacks. Follow the background check data; as long as it continues to climb, Fools might want to consider setting their sights at Smith & Wesson.

Shoot to kill
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