In Historic First, Saturday Night Special Manufacturer Tops U.S. Domestic Pistol Manufacturers

For Release: September 14, 1993

In an historic first, a Saturday Night Special manufacturer is the leading domestic pistol manufacturer in America according to 1991 production figures (the most recent available) obtained from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). [Saturday Night Specials–banned from import–are inexpensive, short-barreled handguns with no sporting purpose made from inferior materials that are best suited for criminal use.]

In 1991 Bryco Arms of Irvine, California led all other U.S. manufacturers in pistol production. That year Bryco–which manufactures small-caliber pistols under the Jennings and Bryco name–produced 202,510 pistols, surpassing for the first time traditional industry leaders Sturm, Ruger & Co. with 170,384 pistols produced and Smith & Wesson with 169,087 pistols produced. (Sturm, Ruger and Smith & Wesson did outpace Bryco, however, in overall handgun –pistol and revolver–production). Rounding out the top five pistol manufacturers were two other Saturday Night Special manufacturers: Davis Industries (171,076) and Raven Arms (117,300). All of the Saturday Night Special companies are run by California’s Jennings family or their associates. Total handgun production for 1991 totaled 1,838,266 (1,381,325 pistols and 456,941 revolvers). [Tables of the top five U.S. pistol, revolver, and handgun manufacturers in 1991 are on back.]

Bryco’s rise to number one is the culmination of a trend that began in the late 1980s. By 1990 three of the top six pistol manufacturers in America were Saturday Night Special manufacturers. Its ascension reveals that not only has the market switched from six-shot revolvers to higher-capacity pistols, but is now dominated by inexpensive, low-quality Saturday Night Specials. Up until the early 1980s, the handgun of choice for law-abiding citizens, law enforcement, and criminals alike was the six-shot .38 revolver. In 1980 pistols accounted for 32 percent of the 2.3 million handguns produced in America. The majority were revolvers. By 1991 this number had reversed itself with pistols accounting for 75 percent of the 1.8 million handguns produced that year.

With an estimated manufacturing cost as low as $13 per unit and wholesale prices that start at $35, Jennings family pistols have become a favorite of criminal gun traffickers and gained a cache in the inner cities. In crime-gun traces Jennings-produced handguns have increasingly turned up in the hands of criminals and illegal gun traffickers.

With the increasing popularity of 9mm pistols, Bryco has begun manufacturing compact, inexpensive versions of these more powerful handguns. In 1993 the company began marketing a low-cost 13-shot 9mm pistol known as the Jennings Model 59. With a dealer cost of $80, it is expected that the Model 59 will herald a new generation of more deadly Saturday Night Specials.

Violence Policy Center Executive Director Josh Sugarmann states, “The success of Bryco–and other Saturday Night Special companies owned by the Jennings family–illustrate once again the risks presented by the virtually unregulated nature of America’s gun industry. As Congress looks at ways to reduce firearms crime in America, an important first step would be to refocus its attention on the Saturday Night Special.”


Top Five U.S. Pistol Manufacturers in 1991
Pistol Manufacturer Number of Pistols Produced
Bryco Arms 202,510
Davis Industries 171,076
Sturm, Ruger, & Co. 170,384
Smith & Wesson Corp. 169,087
Raven Arms 117,300


Top Five U.S. Revolver Manufacturers in 1991
Revolver Manufacturer Number of Revolvers Produced
Smith & Wesson Corporation 256,077
Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc. 85,257
Colt’s Manufacturing Co., Inc. 36,180
Quality Firearms, Inc. 28,323
The Talley Corporation 27,886


Top Five U.S. Handgun (Pistol & Revolver) Manufacturers in 1991
Hangun Manufacturer Number of Handguns Produced
Smith & Wesson Corporation 425,164
Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc. 255,641
Bryco Arms 202,510
Davis Industries 171,076
Raven Arms 117,300




About the Violence Policy Center
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