September estimated gun sales down, a little

In this file photo, Randy Crocker , left, with USA Pawn, shows Hal Finch of Madison a pistol in the store on I-55 at McDowell Road in Jackson. Mississippi has removed the 7 percent state sales tax on guns, ammunition, archery equipment and some hunting supplies for the first weekend each September. (File photo/The Clarion-Ledger)

In this file photo, Randy Crocker , left, with USA Pawn, shows Hal Finch of Madison a pistol in the store on I-55 at McDowell Road in Jackson, Mississippi. Gun sales fell marginally in September — the same month Mississippi hosts a reduced sales tax holiday on guns and ammo.  (Photo: The Clarion-Ledger)

Estimated gun sales dipped marginally in September, according to federal data.

Dealers processed more than 1.8 million applications through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System last month. NICS checks serve as an industry proxy for firearm sales. Guns.com removes permit applications and rechecks from the monthly total to more accurately pinpoint sales, though the measurement isn’t exact.

Estimated sales fell just short of 940,000 last month — a 13 percent decrease over 2016, the biggest on record for gun sales. Month over month, however, sales appear relatively flat, with September trailing August by just over 10,000 transfers.

Dealers processed checks for more 478,000 handguns and 417,000 long guns, according to federal data.

Its been a “difficult” summer for gun makers and retailers still standing in the shadow of 2016. Since the November election, stocks for Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger and Co. fell 50 percent and 26 percent, respectively. Both companies blame weak demand, with Smith & Wesson’s CEO predicting as much as a 17 percent decline in annual profits through 2018. Ruger’s second quarter net sales dropped 22 percent and its quarterly earnings fell by almost half compared to 2016.

Top industry executives say firearms promotions make it difficult to determine what the “new normal” for sales will look under a gun-friendly presidential administration, though several predict a return to historical norms: a slow summer followed by a gradual uptick in fall as hunting seasons begin across the country. Sales typically peak in the winter months, beginning during the holiday shopping season and lasting through February.

“While these conditions may be challenging in the short-term they are not new to us,” said James Debney, CEO of American Outdoor Brands, the holding company for Smith & Wesson. “It’s a very dynamic environment right now. You do not know what a competitor is about to do next in terms of their promotional activity. You walk into an independent retailer or some of the bigger box stores right now and sometimes it’s tough to see the top-of-the-glass counter because of the so many promotion cards out there.”