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The Death, and life of S&W
Many gun owners are unaware that a major battle was waged against the American citizenry, around the turn of the century. Surprisingly, the American citizenry prevailed. Involved in this conflict were a disgraced American President, unscrupulous lawyers and politicians, the British government, British and American businessmen, and much of the British and American ruling class. What was at stake was the future of American gun rights (and by definition, many other freedoms), the continued existence of one of America's oldest companies, and any possibility of the future restoration, to the British population, of the hard earned rights which their own ruling class has stolen from them. Eventually, these forces were defeated by a rebellion, of sorts, staged by American gun owners.
S&W (Smith and Wesson) is America's second oldest (after Colt), and largest maker of handguns, and one of the oldest companies in the country. The company was founded in 1852, during the black powder days, and presently has about 700 employees. The company had been larger, having had well over a thousand employees at one time; but it had fallen on hard times for a while, and seemed poised to go out of business. It now appears to be making a comeback. This page is not meant to be a history of S&W, merely a comment on how the company has changed, how gun rights may be attacked in many different ways, and how firearms owners helped to force a happy ending to this situation.
There were actually two S&W companies, in the early nineteenth century. The first made lever action pistols, changed this to production of lever action rifles, and was eventually bought by Oliver Winchester, and renamed the Winchester company. The second S&W was started in 1856, and is the company which still bears that name today. Smith retired in 1873, and had nothing more to do with the business. Though the company still called itself Smith and Wesson, it was now entirely owned and run by the Wesson family. For the rest of the nineteenth century, and the first half of the twentieth century, S&W grew, developed their product line, and became known as America's premier revolver maker. This was particularly true after their turn of the century development of what came to be known as their hand ejector model. This became the stereotypical revolver, even as the Colt 1911 was latter to become the stereotypical semi automatic.
The basic design of the S&W hand ejector is still being produced today. S&W introduced this frame in a variety of sizes, from the large N frame (44 frame), down to the diminutive J frame (32 frame). Even smaller versions were made; but these smaller frames are no longer produced. On this series of frames, S&W produced its entire revolver line. More details on the N frame are given on its own dedicated page. With these frames, S&W created and developed its line of magnum cartridges, and armed the majority of American police forces. In addition, S&W participated in wartime firearms production, and developed a healthy civilian market.
Though considered by most to be a very tradition bound company, S&W was the first American company to produce a 9mm handgun, and was also the first to begin producing firearms in stainless steel. Its new Sigma series of pistols is a blatant copy of the Glock; but still qualifies as a new direction in the gunmakers' art. This should come as no surprise - the company has always been an innovator, even from its beginning. Its new X-frame revolver, is proof that you can not make something too large or too powerful to sell in the American market (this is a lesson that car manufacturers learned decades ago).
The main problem that began to plague S&W, for much of the last fifty years of its existence, is one which has destroyed many American businesses. This is the takeover of American business by businessmen. We see this happening everywhere, and the effect is gross inefficiency, overmanagement, and loss of identity, and of perspective. Once upon a time, the accountants used to work for the production people, now it is the other way around. It is common, these days, for company presidents, and chairmen, to have little concept of what it is that their companies are actually doing. I recall some years ago, when John Scully took over Apple Computers. He had previously run the Pepsi corporation. American business labors under the delusion, similar to that of the American educational community (and for that matter, most of American government), that with a few basic principles, you can competently run something for which you have no enthusiasm, aptitude, or experience, and of which you have little understanding.
The best way to create, sustain, and grow a business is to provide customers with the products, and services they want, and to make them happy. Entrepreneurs know this, as do most locally owned companies, and self employed professionals. Businessmen think that this basic rule can be circumvented by the clever use of marketing, and advertising. This line of reasoning is what diminished the American dominance in automobile manufacturing, and destroyed much of our production of consumer goods. There were other reasons as well; but without the unwitting cooperation of the American business community, it could never have occurred. Indeed, many so called American businessmen are so marketing and bottom line focused, that they start companies without any manufacturing facilities at all. Many large American companies outsource everything. If you buy a computer, from most American computer companies, you will find that it is manufactured in Taiwan, Malaysia, Japan, or China. The only thing provided by the so called company here, is user support (which may be a call center in India), and repair services, often of doubtful utility. This mindset was what ran S&W for decades, and gave Ruger the opportunity to, for a time, eclipse the veteran gun-maker as the nation's larges handgun manufacturer. Ruger was, at the time, run by a single man, who happened to be a gun enthusiast. This made all the difference.
This unfortunate chain of events began in 1965, when S&W was sold to Bangor Punta. This large conglomerate was also to own Taurus in 1970. Though Bangor was not a particularly bad company, they were not gunmakers, and to them S&W, like their other acquisitions, was meant to be a cash machine. Under Bangor, S&W began to introduce a whole line of police, sporting, and civilian gear. Bangor had bought their name, for marketing purposes, a typical businessman type of strategy. The gun line was also greatly expanded, often for marketing purposes, rather than any sort of customer demand. From this time, until 2001, S&W entered the period that I like to think of as the era of the business manager. S&W was no longer run by gun makers. Instead, it was managed by businessmen. The takeover was bad news for firearms enthusiasts, as it is when any old line company is taken over by a holding company; but worse was to come.
In 1984, Lear Siegler Corporation took over Bangor Punta. In common with Bangor Punta, Lear Siegler Corporation had no connection with the firearms, or even the sporting goods, industry. They didn't have a clue. Still, as businessmen, they figured they could run anything. Three years latter, in 1987, they decided that they couldn't. S&W was put up for sale. One of the bidders for the company was Ruger; but the company ended up going to Tomkins - a British manufacturer of plumbing supplies, steel, and lawnmowers, with a presence in the British automotive industry, and a number of wholly owned subsidiaries.
Actually, despite the derision in which most gun enthusiasts hold them, I can not completely condemn Tomkins. They did do some good for S&W, and partially reversed much of the neglect that the company had suffered, under its Lear Siegler Corporation limbo. Under Tomkins, the S&W plant was modernized, and a number of new models were introduced - perhaps too many. For a while there, gun enthusiasts joked about the gun of the month from S&W. Two of the very smart things that Tomkins did do, were the introduction of the Ladysmith series of smaller form fitting handguns, designed to attempt to capture the burgeoning market of woman shooters, and the introduction of the Glock inspired (some say stolen) Sigma series. There was also a notable increase in quality. Under Tomkins, S&W broadened out its product line, with the goal of reducing the firearms component of the company to about half of their sales. This change of emphasis did not bode well for firearms enthusiasts.
Big problems were in store for the British owned, American gun maker. Americans and British have very different ideas about private gun ownership, and the proper place of firearms in society. In about 80 years, Britain went from a relatively free country of citizens, back to one of serfs and subjects. Hundreds of years of blood, toil, and progress have been thrown away, for the dubious advantages of a socialist welfare state, which is what not so great Britain is today. The clock and calendar have been turned back, and the British subject has been returned, to what too many in British government consider to be his normal and proper place. In such a society, firearms have no place in the hands of subjects. As in old England, weapons are a prized possession of the ruling class, and a trip to a wealthy Briton's home will often reveal a collection of fine guns. The military too, has a long tradition in England/Britain, and it has always been an honorable thing to produce the arms with which they go to war. So while there is nothing necessarily shameful about owning a gun company, there is something rather awkward about owning one the presumes to sell firearms to mere citizens, even if they are of another country.
Britain is rife with problems, and the government there regularly tramples on the traditional rights of its subjects. There is presently a 90% tax rate in that country, higher than any old English king would ever have dared impose. Crime is at epidemic proportions, largely because the labor party gets a large share of its votes from criminals (as does the democratic party in the U.S.). The health care system, formerly one of the better ones in the world, has been vastly degraded by the national health care system. The ruinous tax system, and government oversight of what business has managed to survive, guarantees that both prices, and unemployment will be high. The latest scandal, in the ruling class abuses of British subjects, is the discovery that members of the labor party have been regularly bribed by mid east princes, to favor the interests of the large Muslim population which is emigrating to Britain, over those of the native population. These outrages, among others, are making the subjects of the country very restive, and more than a bit resentful of their rulers. Such conditions can not be maintained against an armed population. Thus, British subjects must be disarmed, and must remain so.
The British have banned the ownership of firearms to their subjects for years; but the freedom of most Americans to own arms, and the sharp reduction in crime (particularly violent crime) which has followed the passage of every state bill to permit concealed carry, has made the British guns laws a bit of an embarrassment. It is nearly imposable, in the light of the evidence from the United States, to continue extolling gun controls, and gun bans as anti crime measures, particularly while pandering to the criminal element at the same time. Two things are obvious to anyone with eyes. The first is that with increasing gun control, and gun bans in Britain, violent crime has skyrocketed. The second is that with the increased availability of permits to carry, in the United States, and the general relaxation of gun laws and increase in the number of guns owned, violent crime has decreased. For the sake of the continued existence of British gun control, something had to be done about American freedoms, and the successes that they enjoyed. Still, the British government could not really bring any pressure to bear, in a matter that was essentially an American domestic issue.
In 1994, following the British model (not to mention, Nazi, Soviet, and fascist models), the democrats pushed through a gun bill disguised as a crime bill. It was an incredibly close vote, and even this would not have occurred, had the law not had both a grandfather clause, and an expiration date. The fallout was swift, and terrible, for the democrats. The party lost both houses of Congress, something which had not occurred in living memory. The message was pretty clear - voting for any sort of strong anti gun measure is political suicide. With the democratic party the minority in both houses, the clinton administration had no chance to overtly advance its anti gun agenda - at least not by legislative means.
For some years afterwards, the clinton administration fought the gun industry by bringing lawsuits, and encouraging municipalities to do the same. This seemed like a good strategy at first; but only had a few early successes, and was soon countered by legislation, and by higher court precedents. Ultimately, the tactic failed, and made gun owners, and firearms companies very sensitive to the idea that they were under attack. Because of this, a second front, of sorts, was opened. Bill clinton, the British Prime Minister, and Tomkins PLC, entered into a conspiracy to destroy the civilian American firearms industry. Though it may not seem to be to the advantage of Tomkins to enter into such a conspiracy, S&W was only one of its many holdings, and other considerations were offered. In effect Tomkins was pressured by its own government, and bribed by the clinton administration.
For its collusion in advancing the cause of the disarming of the American public, the Tomkins owned S&W would receive preferential treatment in bids for government contracts. In addition, the Federal government would bring pressure to bear upon municipalities to show similar favoritism. This is the kind of thing that makes you think twice about foreign ownership of American companies. S&W signed the agreement, at the direction of Tomkins. Tomkins, for its part, would bask in the favor of both the clinton, and blair administrations. Both blair and clinton had (have) similar goals, and both the labor party (blair) of Britain, and the democratic party (clinton) of the United States favor the basic socialist agenda of high taxation, disarmament, government micromanagement, increase of the poorer class, and reduction of the middle class to impotence.
Most of its supporters describe the S&W/HUD/clinton agreement as a gun safety compact, this follows the usual dishonest pattern of the left, in regards to gun restrictions and gun bans. They are generally called something other than what they are, usually either crime bills, or safety/security bills. A look at the details of the agreement, at the bottom of the page, shows just how much of an effect its complete enforcement would have had. It is interesting to note that soon after clinton left office, Tomkins sold S&W at a bargain price, and left it for dead. Had their agreement produced the desired result, this would have been the case. Instead, the incoming Bush administration let it be known that it had no desire or intention of holding S&W to this agreement. The details of the agreement make it obvious that it is designed to not only put S&W out of business, but to take as many dealers as possible down as well. It would also increase costs (due to insurance, regulatory, funding, and research requirements) set up a de-facto system of gun registration, permanently extend the now expired magazine ban, end sales of new firearms at gun shows, permanently ban the sale of semi auto rifles, restrict sales to approved purchasers only (even if the potential buyer is not legally prohibited from purchasing), and set up a bureaucracy to oversee everything. These are just the most obvious issues. There is also a certain ambiguity about much of the language, that gives wide scope for even worse restrictions in the future.
Had this worked, the way that the clinton administration hoped, the S&W clout as America's major gun manufacturer would have forced other gunmakers to join the agreement, forever changing the landscape of American firearms ownership without a single vote being cast, or bill being introduced. Instead, the plot backfired. Gun enthusiasts, hunters, sportsmen, and people who still knew the meaning of the word "citizen", and the fragile nature of the duties and freedoms associated with that word, rebelled. S&W was boycotted. dealers dropped the line, guns sat unsold in display cases. Many gun owners sold their personal S&W firearms, partially in protest, but also to help depress the market for new guns. This has been called the most effective boycott in the history of American business. Sales dropped 40% in one year. S&W had to lay off a portion of its workforce, and began to lose (along with its parent, tomkins) considerable amounts of money. Within a year, the threat was over. Clinton was out of office, to be replaced by a Republican, S&W was sold to an American holding company, and the agreement was ignored.
In April of 2001, S&W was sold to the Saf -T-Hammer company, in the gun friendly state of Arizona. One very good sign, besides the fact that S&W was, for the first time in decades, owned by gun enthusiasts again, was the nomination of Robert L. Scott as president. Scott had been a S&W vice president for ten years, before leaving, due to differences with the tomkins company. The price paid in 2001 for S&W was a paltry 15 million. When tomkins bought the company in 1997, it had paid over 112 million. Saf-T-Hammer is a much smaller company than S&W, and it was only the beating that S&W was taking in the gun market, and the tomkins desperation to sell, that made the purchase possible. In recognition of this fact, the company renamed itself as the Smith and Wesson Holding Company.
The agreement is technically still in force; but has never been honored. The Bush administration has basically indicated that it considers the agreement to be nullified. Still, this does leave open the possibility that a gun hostile administration at some future date may wish to hold S&W to the agreement. This is not as big a problem as it might seem. The agreement was for S&W to be exempted from certain types of lawsuits, by certain parties, and for them to be given a somewhat favored status in possible arms sales with certain parties. Presumably, with S&W reneging on the deal, they would be subject to lawsuits, and have to bid fairly for contracts. Neither of these is a particular hardship, for the company. The types of frivolous lawsuits once directed at gun manufacturers are now almost unheard of, and the few that still appear are almost immediately dismissed. As for the sweetheart deals and contracts that the deal was supposed to garner for S&W, these never really materialized, and at any rate, with its civilian gun market back on track, S&W really doesn't need them. The whole thing was a bad deal for S&W, and a silly idea, by any reasonable business standards. Had there not been pressure from tomkins, no one in his right mind would have signed such a one sided disadvantageous agreement.
So S&W is back, and I am glad
to see it. The British will now have to refrain from robbing Americans
of their rights, and will have to amuse themselves with the continued
reduction, harassment, and degradation of their own people. The middle
class is nearly finished in Britain, as in most of Europe. A look at the
crushing burdens, and diminished rights of the average working man in
Britain, brings the question to mind - Why bother? And this is whole
point of the exercise. By the time the increasingly disenfranchised
British population discovers the answer, it will be too late; but I will
try to sum it up, because the same thing threatens us here in America,
though we have more safeguards in place with which to slow it down.
Leading citizens is much more difficult than ruling subjects. The best
way to make subjects out of citizens is to disarm them, make them
ignorant, and make them poor. This is the beginning of the destruction
of the middle class, and the middle class must be destroyed. The reason
for this is simple - the poor submit, while the rich are part of the
club; but the middle class fights back. Failures are merely a drain on
the system, and who really cares? After all, it is just the tax payers
who will have to foot the bill, pay that much more, and work that much
harder. Success is a different story. Success is a threat because it
confers power. An entire class of people, such as the middle class,
which is permitted and encouraged to find success, is a power which can
not be easily controlled. Impoverishment takes away a persons choices,
and disarmament renders a person unable to resist or fight back in any
meaningful way. Both are desirable conditions for a subject people.
AGREEMENT BETWEEN SMITH & WESSON AND
THE DEPARTMENTS OF THE TREASURY AND HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT,
LOCAL GOVERNMENTS AND STATES
SUMMARY OF TERMS
Preamble: The city, state, county and federal parties agree to dismiss the parties from the pending suits and refrain from filing suits against the manufacturer parties based on an equivalent cause of action.
SAFETY AND DESIGN
All handguns must meet the following safety and design standards:
All pistols must meet the following additional requirements:
Law enforcement and military exception. If law enforcement agencies or the military certify the need, exceptions to these requirements may be made. Manufacturers will ask that these guns not be resold to the civilian market.
Warnings about safe storage and handling included with all firearms within six months.
Illegal firearms. Manufacturers will not sell firearms that can readily be converted into fully automatic weapons or that are resistant to fingerprints.
SALES AND DISTRIBUTION
Code of Conduct. The manufacturers will sell only to authorized dealers and distributors and allow their authorized distributors to sell only to authorized dealers. Authorized dealers and distributors will agree to a code of conduct. If manufacturers receive notice of a violation by an authorized dealer or distributor, they will take action against the dealer or distributor, including termination of sales to the dealer or distributor. The Oversight Commission will review such actions and have authority to require termination or suspension if warranted.
The code of conduct will require authorized dealers and distributors to:
Manufacturer commitments. Manufacturers will:
Corporate responsibility for crime gun traces. If an authorized dealer or distributor has a disproportionate number of crime guns traced to it within three years of sale, the manufacturers will take action, including possible termination or suspension, against the dealer or distributor. The Oversight Commission will review such actions and have authority to require termination or suspension if warranted.
Oversight Commission will be established and empowered to oversee implementation of the Agreement. The Commission will have five members selected as follows: one by manufacturers; two by city and county parties; one by state parties; one by ATF. The Commissions powers will include the authority to review compliance with the design and safety requirements, review the safety and training program for dealer and distributor employees, review manufacturer actions against dealers or distributors that violate the Agreement or have a disproportionate number of crime gun traces, and require suspension or termination if warranted.
Role of ATF. To the extent consistent with law, ATF will work with manufacturers and the Oversight Commission to assist them in meeting obligations under the Agreement. ATF will notify the Oversight Commission of certain violations of the Agreement by distributors and dealers if it uncovers such violations.
Ballistics Imaging. Within six months, if technologically available, manufacturers will fire all firearms before sale and will enter the digital image of the casings in a system compatible with the National Integrated Ballistics Identification Network and accessible to ATF. This will enable law enforcement to trace crime guns when only the bullets or casings are recovered.
Access 2000. Manufacturers shall participate in ATF's Access 2000 program, which establishes electronic links with ATF and enables high-speed tracing of crime guns.
Legislation. The parties will work together to support legislative efforts to reduce firearm misuse and the development of authorized user technology.
Education trust fund. Upon resolution of all current city, state, and county lawsuits, manufacturers will dedicate 1% of overall firearms revenues to an education trust fund.
Most favored entity. If other manufacturers enter agreements with more expansive design and distribution reforms, and those manufacturers, along with the manufacturer parties to this Agreement, account for fifty percent or more of United States handgun sales, the manufacturer parties to this Agreement will agree to abide by the same reforms.
Enforcement. The Agreement will be entered into and enforceable as a court order and as a contract.