Gun Sales Surging in Election Year

Cabela's gun display FBN

Cabela’s (NYSE:CAB) reported strong demand for guns and shooting accessories during the third quarter, reflecting an industry-wide surge during a presidential election year.

The outdoor retailer, which recently agreed to a takeover by rival Bass Pro Shops, said Wednesday sales at Cabela’s stores open at least a year fell 2.3% in the quarter. But Cabela’s saw positive sales trends for firearms and shooting-related categories, such as ammunition. Optics, like rifle scopes, also flew off the shelves.

Cabela’s added that shooting categories, along with fishing, camping and powersports, lifted Internet and catalog sales by 3.6%. After flattening in 2014, gun sales began to heat back up at the conclusion of 2015 and easily set new records this year, just as the race for the White House kicked into high gear.

Smith & Wesson (NASDAQ:SWHC) said last month its quarterly net sales climbed 40% versus the same period a year ago, citing strong consumer demand. The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System processed 1.99 million checks in September, a 10.9% year-over-year increase to mark a new record for the month. The FBI has recorded all-time highs in every month of 2016, and background checks are on pace to surpass the annual record of 23.1 million set in 2015.

Read: Ruger CEO Says Clinton a Threat to Gun Rights

The FBI’s background checks are not an exact tally of gun sales. Adjusted figures, which exclude non-purchasing activity like permit applications, are used by the firearms industry to measure sales.

Smith & Wesson rifles, guns, firearms, FBN

On an adjusted basis, NICS checks edged lower by an estimated 51,000 from August to September, according to data cited by However, the National Shooting Sports Foundation hasn’t released its usual monthly report because of irregularities tied to the FBI’s new computer system. Kentucky background checks weren’t included in full for the month of August, leading to a large underreporting of checks.

Even with some data missing, the FBI set a new record for August background checks at 1.85 million, up 6.1% year-over-year.

At Cabela’s, softer demand for apparel hampered overall third-quarter results. The Sidney, Neb.-based retailer booked earnings that fell 35.4% to $28.2 million, or 41 cents a share. Adjusted earnings slipped to 53 cents a share, compared to Wall Street’s estimate of 81 cents.

Revenue grew 7.6% to $996.5 million. Analysts expected a slightly higher number of $1.02 billion.