How big is the "builder market"?

Discussion in 'The Gun Builder's Bench' started by Col. Batguano, Jun 10, 2019.

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  1. Jun 10, 2019 #1

    Col. Batguano

    Col. Batguano

    Col. Batguano

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    Just based on my observations at my average "sunny day" gun club, in about 2 dozen days of RSO'ing there, I've only seen ONE build ever show up there (not counting the sand and assemble stuff). Most of the rest of the shooters are shooting those faddish plastic cartridge guns. Even guns with wooden stocks are getting to be a rarity.

    So based on my experiences at Track, and the assumption that they are maybe 50% of the builder market, and that pre-carves are about 80% of the builds being done, my best guess is that in the US, maybe 1200-1500 (completed) builds a year (including blank builds) is all the deeper the entire market is, and that counts in the very prolific professional builders, like Mike Brooks. And, we all know of folks that started a project, which may or may not ever get done.

    Anyone else want to speculate as to the true market size? I'd love to hear your perspectives and reasoning.
     
  2. Jun 10, 2019 #2

    S.Kenton

    S.Kenton

    S.Kenton

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    I'd say your not far off. If you really wanted to get a better ball park idea, you could call TOW and ask them, they may have an idea. then call Chambers, even call L&R. I know that sounds like a lot of work, but it may give a good ball park. Then one must consider wether the Kibler kits will be included, not the kit assembler, but Kibler himself who is the true creator of the rifles. I'd be intersted to know how many kits he has produced and sold.
     
  3. Jun 11, 2019 #3

    dave_person

    dave_person

    dave_person

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    Hi,
    I have no idea the size of the market. All I know is that Ian Pratt has a 5-year waiting list and has stopped taking orders, most of the other skilled muzzleloading gunsmiths I know have backlogs of work. Dave Price's swivel breech kits are selling like hot cakes even at a several thousand dollar price point. I have a 2.5 year backlog at the moment and if I did not turn down work that would be much longer but I consider myself a muzzleloading gunsmith not a builder. I don't have any clue how busy folks are who put together parts kits or precarves for customers. I do know that quite a few folks are building and selling Kibler kits. In two cases listed on Track of the Wolf, the builder (finisher really) and TOW advertised the guns as handmade rifles, which is tantamount to fraud.

    dave
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2019
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  4. Jun 11, 2019 #4

    WKD

    WKD

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    I think looking at how many barrels are manufactured and sold each year would give a pretty go idea of the market size. Rice, Coleraine and all the other smaller makers supply makers and all have wait times on some items. How many locks? Chamber,s L&R, Davis, Zorne etc.
    I just finished one and have five more in the que.
     
  5. Jun 11, 2019 #5

    SDSmlf

    SDSmlf

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    Just as a discussion point, what makes one a builder? Someone who builds guns to orders? Or someone who builds guns and then sells them (call it a spec gun)? Does an individual building guns for their own use or collection count? How about those that purchase a parts set and never complete the build? Kibler kits were mentioned. Who is the builder of record if the kit purchaser embellishes what Kibler’s CNC equipment produced with unique carving and engraving? Or is it a ‘production’ gun?

    I don’t consider myself a builder. I dabble. Currently have a TOW Jaeger parts set in the shop. Butt plate is inletted. Waiting for barrel from Rice to arrive. Also have a Percatonic full length stock for a TC barrel with and L&R lock nearly ready to finish. And a Lyman GPR with a L&R lock that needs final finishing. Are these builds or sand and assemble? Intended for personal use and not for sale. Does it matter?

    Interesting topic. Not necessarily clear cut in my opinion.
     
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  6. Jun 11, 2019 #6

    rich pierce

    rich pierce

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    Very interesting. If the market was 1500 builds per year and parts sets cost $800 then retail costs of parts would be $1.2 million. That would (rough guess) make net income from makers/suppliers of parts somewhere around $300,000. That’s not a lot to support the many suppliers of parts, who often wholesale much of their products.
     
  7. Jun 11, 2019 #7

    Col. Batguano

    Col. Batguano

    Col. Batguano

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    For discussion purposes let's assume a "builder" is the guy that creates / finishes a shootable gun that did not exist before. I doubt Track or the other bigger sellers out there would give you their numbers, but I've heard speculation (from Dave Keck) that the small barrel makers, like Charlie Burton Oregon Barrels & the like are about a barrel a week. Bigger operations, like Rice, Colerain, Green Mountain are about 2 dozen. I think GM sells most of their stuff to folks like Investarms, T/C, Traditions to go in their kits and finished products. If that's correct, then maybe the number is closer to 3000-4000. Still not a whole lot in a country of 350,000,000.

    Contrast that with what gets done in the suppository gun market, which I'm guessing is close to a couple million a year.
     
  8. Jun 11, 2019 #8

    Sidney Smith

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    I couldn't beg to guess at the number of actual builds per year nationwide, however from a local standpoint it's probably higher than most would think. Each time I go to Dixon's gun makers fair in Kempton PA, the place is mobbed and parts are walking away from the place in every direction. The hobby seems very healthy at least in my neck of the woods.
     
  9. Jun 11, 2019 #9

    Kansas Jake

    Kansas Jake

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    I would suspect every state has a few builders who only complete a few guns or maybe only one a year. I would classify them as a builder because they are not making a gun for themselves but to sell either as a spec or as a commission from someone. I'm not active enough in the sport here to know who those folks are in Kansas, but I'll bet others here know or have heard of them.

    To me a builder is someone who is making the gun to sell.
     
  10. Jun 11, 2019 #10

    hanshi

    hanshi

    hanshi

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    I personally know two builders and have acquaintance with a few more; and I don't even run in those circles much.
     
  11. Jun 11, 2019 #11

    BrownBear

    BrownBear

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    All the builders I know are getting old. Older than me for lots of them. And they're all slowing down. The best of the best is only building one a year now and hasn't added a name to his waiting list in over 10 years. There are some up and coming youngsters around, but I don't know a one of them.
     
  12. Jun 11, 2019 #12

    dave_person

    dave_person

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    Hi,
    There is an issue about what is meant by a "builder" All of the muzzleloading gunsmiths I know, folks who can make unique parts, build unique locks, engrave, and make guns that adhere to historical details regardless of what is available commercially are very busy. The others who rely on kits, part sets, and precarves to create their guns for sale, I have no idea. I do see quite a few guns for sale on TOW that are horrible but they sell.

    dave
     
  13. Jun 12, 2019 #13

    Kansas Jake

    Kansas Jake

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    I suppose there are builders, craftsmen, and artists. All are builders in one sense or another, but there are differences as one goes from one to the other. Dave, you are all three.
     
  14. Jun 12, 2019 #14

    nhmoose

    nhmoose

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    Gee less than 10% of GM barrels are for ML's The quit making them due to lack of demand!

    I remember bluing 3-400 drop in barrels in a week at their bluing contractors. Seems its been a decade or more since they blued a weeks worth in a year.

    However GM runs 2 shifts every week making and selling barrels , however the ML barrels are not being made as they do not sell. GM is most likely the biggest barrel maker in the USA at this time.

    2 -3 dozen a week of ML barrels would not make them make any.

    Anyone here who has bought a modern American made firearm more than likely the barrel was made by GM.
     
  15. Jun 12, 2019 #15

    FishDFly

    FishDFly

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    The majority of the barrels that I have on my line M/L's are Green Mountain.

    More records are held by GM barrels than all others.
     
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