In 2019, firearm manufacturer Mossberg is celebrating its 100th year in operation. As part of that celebration, the North Haven, Connecticut, company is returning to its roots and doing something that it has not done in decades: it is making a handgun. Though the company’s first product was a four-shot trapper pistol known as the Brownie, Mossberg has not produced a handgun since production of that model ceased in 1932. As America’s sixth largest gunmaker, the company decided it was time for that to change.
“The Brownie was an instant hit, and because of its reliability, sleek lines, and the fact that it had double the capacity of the Derringer, it was regarded as the ultimate concealed carry handgun of its time,” Richard Kirk, Mossberg’s senior director of marketing, said. “100 years later we figured what better way to celebrate our centennial than by going back to our roots and once again offering, what we believe to be, the ultimate concealed carry handgun.”
Why would a company that has been a leader in the long-gun market for decades suddenly jump into the crowded handgun space? Sure, the nostalgia of the firm’s 100th anniversary is part of the equation, but there are undoubtedly other factors at play. The business of firearms is shifting. For several years, buoyed by the fear of Obama-era restrictions, market growth was primarily driven by the sale of semi-automatic rifles. Like many gunmakers, Mossberg met that demand with its own auto-loading carbine, the MMR. There is a finite market for any product and, after a decade of strong sales, growth in the semi-automatic rifle market has softened. Overall gun sales have slowed as well. According to data from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), overall background checks, which represent an imperfect but nonetheless good indicator of firearm sales, are down slightly from their 2016 peak.
One area of continued opportunity for manufacturers is the compact handgun market: products designed to be carried concealed. Changes in state law have made it easier for most Americans to legally carry a firearm, with 42 states either issuing concealed carry permits to anyone who meets the statutory requirements or allowing citizens to carry with no permit whatsoever. As recently as 1986, there were only nine states with such statutes on the books. According to a 2017 Pew Research survey, 67% of gun owners purchased their firearm for self-protection. That same survey revealed that in addition to the 30% of respondents who already own a gun, an additional 36% were open to owning a gun in the future. Assuming that the majority of those potential gun owners would follow the self-protection route, there is clearly a market opportunity.
Industry data backs up that presumption. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s (NSSF) 2017 Firearms Retailer Survey, 52% of firearms sold in 2016 were handguns, up from 45.2% in 2015. Mark Oliva, NSSF’s manager of public affairs, attributes that shift to the evolving demographic of gun buyers. “The most popular selling firearm is small self-defense use handguns,” Oliva said. “Today’s buyers are increasingly female, younger, [and] more urban than traditional firearm purchasers. Women are feeling empowered to take responsibility for their own safety, and manufacturers are tailoring their products to what their potential customers want.”
The handgun that Mossberg is counting on to fill that niche is the MC1sc 9mm. The MC1sc is a compact 9mm semi-automatic designed for everyday concealed carry. With an unloaded weight of 19 ounces, a length of just over six inches and a magazine capacity of seven rounds, it compares very favorably to other firearms in this popular category. The frame is made from glass reinforced polymer to cut weight and the stainless steel slide is finished in what is known as the Diamond Like Coating process, which is resistant to both abrasion and corrosion. Available with sight options that include tritium night sights and a Viridian visible laser, the MC1sc has all of the hallmarks of an excellent concealed carry pistol.
Mossberg is counting on the MC1sc to be a fruitful venture into the handgun market, one that will move the company beyond the rifle and shotgun space that it has successfully occupied for decades.