Colt first began marketing the semi-auto AR-15 Sporter to consumers in 1963 and continued to sell the SP-1 (R6000) series with few changes until 1984, since moving on to other AR-style rifles.
So last week, Colt signaled they were getting out of the consumer rifle market, at least for now, which basically means they weren’t going to sell AR-15s to the public. This set about much hand-wringing by some pro-gun advocates who called the company all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons and some high-fiving from anti-gun groups who all thought it fit their agenda of fewer guns in fewer places until that number is 0/0.
Sure, it was a big move. But it was one that you could see coming from a mile away.
Long the only game in the AR-15 market, Colt had exclusive rights to the platform for a generation after they bought the program from the Armalite Division of Fairchild Aircraft in 1961. However, once the basic design passed into the public domain, dozens of AR-specific companies such as Bushmaster, Daniel Defense, Eagle, and Olympic sprouted up, nibbling away at Colt’s dominance of the market.
More recently, traditional gun makers such as Remington, Ruger, Sig Sauer, Savage, and Smith & Wesson all jumped on the ever-growing domestic AR train, effectively crowding Colt out of its own niche. This has seen the company switch gears and return to popular offerings it long ago put to pasture, such as revolvers.
Then, on Wednesday, the other shoe dropped with the Pentagon saying that Colt had just won a $42 million M4 contract in the form of Foreign Military Sales to several U.S. overseas allies.
“Our warfighters and law enforcement personnel continue to demand Colt rifles and we are fortunate enough to have been awarded significant military and law enforcement contracts,” said Dennis Veilleux, Colt’s president and Chief Executive Officer, in a statement Thursday. “Currently, these high-volume contracts are absorbing all of Colt’s manufacturing capacity for rifles.”
So will Colt return to the consumer market once their military orders are filled? As long as they can be competitive, you can bet your sweet bippy they will.
And the beat goes on…