Smith & Wesson unveils new M&P Shield Plus amid surge in first-time gun ownership

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Gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson unveiled its new M&P Shield Plus firearm during a special virtual event Monday evening.

US HANDGUN, LONG GUN IMPORTS SURGE 60% IN 2020: ANALYSTS

The announcement comes as the Springfield, Massachusetts-based company has seen a surge in first-time gun ownership, with 10 million Americans exercising their Second Amendment rights for the first time over the last year.

"Today we are manufacturing and delivering more pistols, revolvers and rifles than at any time in our 169-year history," Smith & Wesson CEO Mark Smith said. "While our employees and our company have tremendous pride in this accomplishment, we're also humbled to be helping so many of our fellow Americans empower themselves by finding a new measure of independence and self-protection and begin on their lifelong journey enjoying the shooting sports."

SMITH & WESSON'S FIRST TIME GUN BUYERS DRIVE & WESSON'S FIRST TIME GUN BUYERS DRIVE 102% SALES JUMP

According to Smith & Wesson Brand Manager Vince Perrault, the M&P Shield Plus is the highest-capacity micro-compact pistol the company has ever made.

The Shield Plus features a capacity of up to 14 rounds, with 13 rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber. It comes with a standard, flush-fit 10-round, 9-millimeter magazine and an extended magazine that holds 13 rounds.

The Shield Plus also has an 18-degree grip angle for natural point of aim and a balanced stippling texture, which offers firm gripping and better recoil management without skin irritation while carrying concealed, the company said. In addition, the firearm has a tactile and audible trigger reset and a flat face trigger for accurate and repeatable shooting.

The M&P Shield Plus lineup includes a Performance model with optics-ready slides and Crimson Trace red dot sights, as well as a ported barrel and slide to reduce recoil allowing for quicker follow-up shots.

The M&P Shield Plus Standard model has a price tag of $553 while the Performance model has a $896 price tag.

The company first unveiled the M&P Shield in 2012. Within its first three years of introduction, 1 million M&P Shields were manufactured and sold.

In 2017, the company launched the M&P M2.0, with an enhanced trigger, more aggressive grip texture and factory-added features including lights and lasers. In 2018, the company unveiled its easy to rack, easy-to-load, and easy-to-shoot M&P Shield EZ.

By the end of 2019, the company shipped more than 3 million M&P Shields since its initial production.

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U.S. imports of handguns and long guns surged by 60% in 2020 compared to the previous year and supplied more than a quarter of the nation’s demand for firearms, according to an analyst group’s Monday report.

The U.S. imported 6.4 million handguns and long-guns in 2020, compared to the 4 million in 2019, Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting announced. The plurality of these types of firearms came from Turkey – which exported 1,478,464 – as well as Austria with 1,284,785 and Brazil with 1,016,630, the SAAF said. Other top countries include Croatia, Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic and China.

The SAAF data excludes muzzleloaders and military weapons.

Meanwhile, 3.455 million munitions were imported in 2020, and largely came from Russia – which tops the charts with 765,487,845 units – Mexico, Italy, the Czech Republic, Brazil, Serbia, South Korea and Hungary, among others, the SAAF found.

The SAAF said the surge in gun imports “is in line with last year’s demand surge.” Around 23 million guns were sold in 2020, with U.S. imports supplying 28% of the firearm demand, gun groups said.

Meanwhile, the National Shooting Sports Foundation estimated that there were more than 8.4 million legal first-time gun buyers in 2020.

In its most recent quarter, Smith & Wesson reported a 102% sales jump to $257.6 million, compared with $127.4 million during the same period a year ago. The company reported net income of $62.4 million, or $1.12 per diluted share, compared with $7.8 million, or $0.14 per diluted share, for the comparable quarter last year.

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Smith & Wesson changed its name to American Outdoor Brands in 2016 as part of a diversification push that generated mixed reviews and mixed stock performance. In 2019, Smith & Wesson was spun off and the firearm business went back to the public market under its famous name.

FOX Business' Stephanie Pagones contributed to this report

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