| Guns sales in Oregon are up and gun companies are hiring.
STATEWIDE Bullets are flying in Bend, or at least they are flying through the production process at ammunition manufacturer Nosler, one of the few employers in Central Oregon to be adding jobs rather than subtracting them. The 50-year-old company has hired more than 20 people in 2009, boosting its employee total to an all-time high of 123 on the strength of soaring demand for anything having to do with guns.
"We aren't just running out of handgun bullets," says marketing manager Justin Moore. "We're running out of all types of bullets. People are buying in advance while they can."
Business is also booming (sorry) at Wilsonville-based Crimson Trace, which builds laser sight grips for firearms; at optics specialist Leupold of Beaverton, which builds shooting scopes; and at the Gun Room in Southeast Portland, which sells everything from single-action revolvers to modern assault rifles.
Much of the credit for recession-defying gun sales goes to President Obama, whom Gun Room owner Warren Lacasse describes as "salesman of the year." Rightly or wrongly, gun owners fear tighter restrictions. But Crimson Trace marketing manager Lane Tobiassen says that another, possibly larger factor has to do with the recession: "There is a perception that in a down economy violent crime will increase. People are taking steps to protect themselves and their families."
That trend has enabled Crimson Trace to expand its workforce to more than 100 employees and increase its orders from vendors R & D Plastics of Hillsboro and Hydro Graphics of Newberg. It has also spurred a sort of "domino effect," as Moore describes it: "People go into the stores and see they're all out of what they were looking for, so they rush off to find it somewhere else."
These are not Dollar Store purchases. Crimson Trace's laser grips sell for around $300. Nosler's Accubond bullets cost $44 for a box of 50. The Colt AR-15s that Gun Room customers are clamoring for run around $2,000. Unlike fickle commodities such as oil and wheat, gun prices have climbed steadily without crashing.
That doesn't surprise Lacasse, who has been selling firearms in Portland for 42 years. "You buy the cheap toilet paper and you buy cheap beer but when you buy firearms you buy the best," he says. "A gun is a better investment than gold. The stock market goes up and down but Winchester and Colt have done nothing for the past 100 years but go up."
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