As the ancient Chinese dictum says, “May you live in interesting times”. From time to time, On Target likes to take a snapshot of industry trends in these truly interesting times. The best way we know how to do this is to speak to leaders on the front lines.We spoke to Robin Sharpless, the Executive VP at Redding Reloading Equipment. Sharpless is a veteran firearms industry insider. Redding is an iconic company, known for its high quality, American-made equipment and equally good customer service. Founded in in 1946 by WWII vet Burr Bement in Virgil, NY, the company’s first digs was a chicken coop.
How humble a beginning can there be?
Mr. Bement’s sole product was a calibrated balance beam instrument for the reloading market. Other early products included a scale, a powder measure, peep sights, live pigeon holders and a shot shell reloading press.
By the mid 1960’s Redding began producing dies for rifle and pistols and as late as 1974, all dies were make on a hand operated turret lathe. Today Redding sells more dies in one week than they did in all of 1974 and, they are distributed world wide. Current management has owned the company since 1974.
Q: How are things going for Redding? Is there such a thing as too much demand?
A: Busy at a record pace. Yes there can be too much demand but we have again responded by purchasing more new CNC machinery and hiring more workers. Additionally we have increased or production week to 54 hours for those willing to do the OT.
Q: Are you able to ship products to your customers in a reasonable amount of time?
A: Yes we have fallen to about 12 weeks but through our efforts we have been ableto maintain this level.
Q: Are we going to see a point where supply catches up with demand and prices actually go down?
A: With us prices are fixed as most businesses are. Gun shows are a different story but using 22 LR ammo as a guide the prices have fallen hard. We saw bricks hit $125.00 and have retreated to about $45.00
Q: From my recollection, there was a shakeout in the industry back in ’08. A lot of firearms associated companies went under. Do you see the same thing happening again?
A: Yes especially in the AR market. So many are just doing assembly and buying parts kits elsewhere. These will go first but believe we are approaching market saturation. not so much from desire but from an economic standpoint.
Q: Any ideas where the national political process might be going and how that might impact the industry?
A: I believe it will always impact the market at some level. Biden is still ,pushing but we have seen interesting reactions in Colorado with the recall movement on so many who voted against the gun owners. The main issue continues to be real education on how existing laws do not work through lack of enforcement and the simple fact that some people are simply evil or damaged. These people will always commit crimes but with whatever implement they can get their hands on.
I think back to Colombine and remember that they we not able to ignite their propane tanks. Those as bombs would have decimated the building but I’ll bet we would not be shouting for a ban on gas grills.
Q: The AR platform is flexible, and can be used to host a variety of different cartridges.Based on what you’re selling in terms of dies and loading equipment, what “alternate” calibers do you see as being most popular for the AR platform, and why?
A: I believe we are seeing a growth in the Varmint /Predator calibers. The system works well here due to the quick follow-up shot coupled with the ruggedness of the platform.
Q: Do you see sales of the AR platform staying robust over the next few years?
A: No. I believe accessories and new uppers will but much as choke tubes changed the shotgun market forever in the 1980’s , the ability to swap uppers will change the “gun” buying dynamic. Especially in states where regulation is high. Remember an upper is not a gun and need no paperwork at this point.
Q: What kinds of new innovations is Redding developing for the AR space? Are you expanding into any areas outside of the loading arena such as accessories?
A: We responded with our National Match Die Sets and have increased the offerings as calibers become more well accepted in the platform. We will likely introduce a micrometer topped adjustable taper crimp die for the 223 at SHOT as well. Look for this product to follow the direction of the National Match offerings.
Q: What future do you see for your company and the industry in general over the short term? Are more people getting into reloading as the price for ammo spikes?
A: We will see good growth continue as the people who tried reloading as a result of the lack of ammo begin to grasp the ideas that handlaoding broadens their shooting horizons and increases their accuracy potential. They will also enjoy the cost saving associated. This bump has dramatically increased the numbers of shooters who load and I believe the market will sustain for the reasons that make the hobby great.
Q: Is this a good time for entrepreneurs, say people who design or build products start a business?
A: Yes although I believe we are on the back side of the slope investment wise. Folks have spent a good deal of money lately But that said a real innovation that solves a problem or eases a difficulty for the shooter or handloader will sell.
And I mean a real problem like we did with our top adjusting micrometer taler crimp dies this year. Not simply another geegaw to hang from a rail.
Q: Are there areas in the industry that you feel are under served and would be good opportunities?
A: In reloading there are a few so look for us at SHOT Show to have some added innovations.
Q: Mahalo Robin!
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