Gunmaker Smith & Wesson to drop 19th-century founders from name

What's in a name?

Smith & Wesson Holding Corp., maker of handguns carried by Civil War soldiers and Clint Eastwood’s 1970s police character Dirty Harry, is looking to change its name.

The board already approved a new moniker for the 164-year-old company starting Jan. 1: American Outdoor Brands Corp. Investors will vote on the change at a Dec. 13 meeting, Smith & Wesson said in a statement Monday. The change only affects the holding company, not the brand name of its guns.

The iconic manufacturer, founded by Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson in 1852, won fame for producing one of the first successful revolver-style pistols popular in the West. While about 90 percent of its sales are generated from firearms, Smith & Wesson has expanded to four units that include non-weapon products such as flashlights and Hooyman tree saws.

“We intend to aggressively grow organically and through strategic acquisitions, focusing on brands and products that best meet the needs and lifestyle of our target consumers,” Chief Executive Officer James Debney said in the statement. The company said last week it will acquire the business of Ultimate Survival Technologies, a maker of all-weather fire starters and camp-kitchen gear, for $32.3 million in cash.

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The firearms unit will continue to operate as Smith & Wesson Corp. and sell under that brand name, the company said in a filing. The new name will help differentiate the holding company from the gun subsidiary, the Springfield, Massachusetts-based manufacturer said.

“Changing our name is not intended to diminish the importance of the Smith & Wesson brand in our portfolio,” the company said in a regulatory filing. “Rather, our new name will represent a broader and more inclusive platform from which to expand into the shooting, hunting, and rugged outdoor markets.”

While the company said the name change wasn’t related to politics, the announcement comes a day before the U.S. presidential election. Typically, any discussion of gun control by political leaders can cause weapons sales and shares of gunmakers to spike. Smith & Wesson jumped as much as 12 percent after a June massacre at an Orlando, Florida, nightclub that left 49 victims dead and sparked comments by President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Clinton calls for “commonsense approaches to reduce gun violence” on her campaign website and said she co-sponsored legislation as a senator that would close “the gun show loophole.”

Republican candidate Donald Trump says on his website that politicians are trying to chip away at the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment. “I won’t let them take away our guns!!” the website says.