Gun maker Smith & Wesson (SWHC) will have a new name come 2017 after shareholders overwhelmingly voted to change it to American Outdoor Brands Corp. The name, which comes with a new ticker “AOBC” goes into effect on Jan. 1. In a statement, Smith & Wesson President and Chief Executive James Debney said the gun maker is excited about the name change and its reflection on the company’s business today.
"We believe that American Outdoor Brands Corp. is a name that truly represents our broad and growing array of brands and businesses in the shooting, hunting and rugged outdoor enthusiast markets," Debney said.
Early last month Smith & Wesson announced on its website that its board of directors came up with the new name to reflect the fact that the company has a broad array of products. The iconic Smith & Wesson name will stay on the company’s guns and other firearms products and will operate as a subsidiary of American Outdoor Brands Corp. "Looking ahead, and operating as American Outdoor Brands Corp., we intend to continue building upon our portfolio, focusing on brands and products that best meet the needs and lifestyle of our target consumers," Debney said in the statement.
The Smith & Wesson name has been around since 1852 when Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson developed revolvers and slapped their names on it. Together they developed the Volcanic rifle and Volcanic cartridges, and then three years later changed the business' name to Volcanic Repeating Arms. Later, it was bought by Oliver Winchester, another storied firearms manufacturer, who had created the Winchester repeating rifle. It was the expiration of the patent on Samuel Colt's revolver that saw Smith and Wesson get back together and form a new Smith & Wesson company that went on to develop the Model 1 revolver, which became one of the most popular firearms at the time. (Read more: Smith & Wesson Is Poised to Shoot Itself in the Foot.
Smith & Wesson Is More Than Just Guns
The move on the part of Smith & Wesson isn’t in any means a repudiation of guns and the right in America to carry firearms but it does come at a time when firearms are facing a lot of backlash due to the sheer number of gun violence in America. While gun sales usually tick up when there is uncertainty, the surprise victory of Trump to become the nation’s 45th president isn’t expected to drive a boost in sales. After all most gun lovers were squarely in the Trump camp to begin with.
In order for Smith & Wesson to continue its growth trajectory it has to sell more products outside firearms and thus the new name. According to the Outdoor Industry Association $646 billion is spent on outdoor recreation each year. While the Smith & Wesson company of today is still very much involved in the manufacture of firearms and handguns -- they make up more than 90% of the company's total net sales and represent some 40% of its gross profits -- management has sought to diversify its operations into sporting goods and outdoor gear to protect itself against the vagaries of the gun business.