By Lars Dalseide | October 18 2012 11:43

Forbes Financial calls Ruger a Great American Comeback

Now this was a cool conversation.

Earlier this morning, a 212 area code phone call came into the office. Sure enough, it was a reporter. Well, a Managing Editor, but that usually means there's a reporting background in there some where.

Anywho, Dan was calling from Forbes Magazine. Seems Forbes is running a piece in their November issue about Sturm, Ruger & Company. He wanted to know if I'd like to run a portion of it. Would I!

So, without any further adieu, here's Abram Brown on the resurgence of Ruger.


Behind America's Gun Boom: Inside The Comeback At Sturm, Ruger

Leaning forward, Mike Fifer squeezes off a round from a small-caliber, double-action revolver, piercing the quiet, autumnal New Hampshire countryside. Thin and compact, the CEO of Sturm, Ruger & Co. is at home on the firing range, where he routinely tests new guns prior to mass production. “These new products are why we’ve left the basement of this industry,” says Fifer, 55. “Any executive should be intimately familiar with their products. Fortunately for us, it’s easy and quite a bit of fun to use ours.” Two of Ruger’s top lieutenants are, like Fifer himself, ex-military guys.

Intimacy with the product–and the customer–has been key to Ruger’s turnaround. That, plus embracing industry trends like compact guns and military-style weaponry, has vaulted the company to the No. 4 spot on our list of the Best Small Companies in America. Since Fifer took over in late 2006 Ruger’s share price has jumped sixfold to a recent $49. Over the last 12 months it has netted $55 million on $406 million in revenue; half a dozen years ago it barely managed $1 million on $168 million in sales.

It’s a good time to stoke firearms fever. Gun ownership is at a near 20-year high, generating $4 billion in commercial gun and ammunition sales. Sparked in part by the shootings like the ones in Aurora, Colo. and Oak Creek, Wis. and fears about President Obama’s position on gun control, “the country is arming itself,” says CL King analyst Jim Barrett. With an estimated 300 million guns, America is, by far, the most heavily armed nation in the world.

Cover of Forbes Magazine for November

Ruger’s results are all the more striking since Fifer had no previous experience making firearms. Before coming to Ruger he’d made his mark at two plumbing supply companies, Mueller Industries and Watts Industries. Those jobs had taught him about manufacturing efficiencies and what the end user liked–and didn’t like. “I thought Fifer understood the big picture and that he would get involved in operations,” says former Ruger director John Kingsley, who notes that Fifer beat out a company executive for the job.

Fifer at least knew guns. Growing up an Army brat–he lived in Vietnam as well as the Middle East–he finally settled in Spain. He graduated from the Naval Academy (“That was my act of rebellion, going into the Navy, not the Army”), serving on the rifle squad, then became a junior submarine officer. He likes to brag that he’s fired larger objects than anyone in the business: two intercontinental ballistic missiles, launched in a Caribbean Sea test during the Cold War.

Read the rest of Abram's coverage of Sturm, Ruger & Co. on Forbes.com.

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