Across the country, worries that President Obama wants to "take our guns" continue to drive sales of firearms.
Obama doesn't want your guns. Regardless, fear springs eternal -- fear of government regulation and fear of bad guys alike. And nowhere are these fears more evident than in the market for "compact" handguns, whose small size makes them ideal for gun owners to "conceal-carry." According to CNN, sales of handguns designed for concealed carry are growing at twice the pace of those of larger, full-size handguns.
And now, Glock wants in on that action.
Introducing the new Glock 43
Last month, Austrian arms maker Glock unveiled its latest handgun for the civilian market, and it's tailor-made for concealed carry. Dubbed the "43," Glock describes its new polymer pistol as a "subcompact slimline" and a "single-stack 9mm" -- meaning rounds are loaded into the magazine straight up and down, permitting a narrower grip.
Mind you, Glock has done compact pistols before. Its most recent effort was the .380 (the Glock 42), but that one arrived to less than universal acclaim. So now, Glock is taking the path blazed by Sturm, Ruger (NYSE:RGR), whose well-received .380 LCP pocket pistol was followed in 2011 by the LC9, pleasing gun owners who prefer the more common 9mm caliber, but in an easily concealable package.
Now, Glock, too, is giving customers what they want. Its new gun "Glocks" in with these svelte dimensions:
- 1.02 inches wide
- 4.24 inches tall
- 6.26 inches long
- A 6.06-inch slide
The Glock 43 weighs just 17.95 ounces unloaded. Fully loaded, the gun can carry six 9mm rounds in the magazine, and one in the chamber (making it a "6 + 1"). That's an ammunition load equivalent to what a Beretta Nano can carry, and one round less than a Smith & Wesson (NASDAQ:AOBC) Shield or Ruger LC9. Relative to these two competitors, the Glock 43 is both longer and wider, but not as tall. Its weight slots right in between the lighter Ruger and the heavier S&W.
What it means to investors
Why focus on how the Glock 43 compares with Smith & Wesson's and Ruger's offerings? Honestly, the chief reason is that here at the Fool, we focus on investing -- and we want to give you "news you can use" for your stocks. Because Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger are both publicly traded, they're the two Glock rivals that interest us most.
We also focus on S&W and Ruger because currently, those two companies own the top-selling handgun brands in America. Their Shield and LC9 offerings, respectively, are also among the cheapest name-brand concealed-carry 9mm pistols on the market today, at $449 each. As a result, it's these guns that will be Glock's toughest competition.
The toughest competition of all
Speaking of price, Glock hasn't yet quoted an "official" MSRP on the Glock 43. Rumor has it that the gun will probably set you back $529 or more -- close to 20% over competing offerings. If that's the case, will gun owners ante up?
Owners of full-size Glocks who want to conceal-carry a familiar-feeling 9mm very well might pay up. After all, Glock advertises that the trigger reach on the Glock 43 and the dimensions of the pistol grip are both identical to full-size 9mm Glocks. And there's something to be said for familiarity.
Meanwhile, even gun buyers who are agnostic on brand may decide that minor deficiencies in length and width are offset by the Glock 43's significantly lower profile -- 6% more compact than the LC9, and 8% shorter than the Shield. This, combined with pent-up demand by consumers who've clamored for a true 9mm concealed-carry Glock, suggests the Glock 43 could be a contender.
Whom will this new entry hurt the most? Honestly, I think Smith & Wesson is the company most at risk, and for two reasons: First, according to its SEC filings, S&W gets more than two-thirds of its sales (67.5%, to be exact) from handguns, versus Ruger's depending on handgun sales for only 57.3% of its revenues. For another, gunowners wanting a true "pocket pistol" may be turned off by the Glock 43's pound-plus weight. After all, Ruger's .380 LCP is feather-light at just 9.4 ounces unloaded -- barely half the new Glock's weight.
I expect this fact to insulate Ruger from the Glock 43 threat. Sure, it's a Glock. Sure, it's a 9mm. But for anyone willing to sacrifice those two attributes in favor of carrying the lightest pocket pistol possible, Ruger's LCP remains tough to beat.