Early Brand Development in the U.S. Firearms Industry

  • Terrence H. Witkowski Department of Marketing, California State University, Long Beach, USA


Purpose – This paper traces the development of four major U.S. firearms brands – Colt, Remington,
Smith & Wesson, and Winchester – from their origins in the mid 19th century until 1914. These are
some of the longest lived and most iconic brand names in U.S. business history. Although American
guns and the companies that made them have garnered a sizeable literature, their history from the
marketing perspective of brand development has not been adequately researched and written.

Design/methodology/approach – Primary data sources include product markings, newspaper and
magazine advertisements, flyers and posters, and a variety of other promotional materials produced by
manufacturers and distributors. These data were obtained from the secondary literature on U.S.
firearms history, via Internet searches using Google Images, and from an analysis of Sears Roebuck
and Montgomery Ward catalogs.

Research limitation/implications – The primary data set is still being assembled and findings are tentative. Most evidence was examined in the form of images reproduced in books and on the Internet,
not as original artifacts. This research adds to marketing management knowledge of brand longevity and iconography. The study also contributes to advertising history, the literature on U.S. firearms, and marketing and public policy understanding of the U.S. gun culture.


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