An Interview with Weatherby

With new shooters and hunters joining the ranks in droves, Weatherby has experienced record growth like other firearm companies. What can we expect for the rest of 2021?

An Interview with Weatherby

In the middle of the hottest firearms market in years, Weatherby has been thriving — but the company isn’t sitting on its laurels and riding the wave. We checked in with Adam Weatherby, CEO of Weatherby, to find out what’s in store for the rest of this year and beyond.


HR: What can we expect out of Weatherby in the second half of 2021? 

AW: The first part of 2021 was focused on catching up on production in order to meet the unprecedented demand in the marketplace. We are adding a new 20-gauge Orion over-and-under shotgun to our lineup that shoulders really well! We have some awesome things in store already for 2022 that I am very excited about.

HR: What specific product category or model have you seen the most growth in recently? 

AW: Honestly, the record-breaking market conditions have resulted in incredible growth across all categories. Our shotguns have been amazingly popular, and we believe that a lot of newer shooters have picked up a Weatherby shotgun this past year. Our ammunition has experienced all-time high demand as well. We don’t make pistol or AR ammunition, but even our Weatherby cartridges have been nearly impossible to keep in stock.


HR: Is there developing technology in the rifle world that might change the way hunters buy or use hunting rifles in the future? 

AW: That’s a great question. It always astonishes me how old most of the popular rifle designs are that we still produce and use today around the world. I do believe that there is technology that will result in innovation over the next several years across our industry. I mean, my grandfather would have never expected a Weatherby rifle with a carbon fiber stock and barrel fixed to a titanium action with a 3D-printed recoil pad. In fact, due to his classic taste, he probably wouldn’t like the Mark V Backcountry very much — that is, until he saw customer demand and the sales that followed.


HR: We know there’s been an unprecedented level of firearm sales in late 2020 and early 2021. AW: Because you are so focused on hunting-specific firearms, has the demand hit Weatherby as hard as the rest of the industry? 

I am not sure if it has hit us as hard as many others in the industry, but the demand is unlike anything we have seen since my grandfather started the business in 1945. Many of the other spikes we have seen in the past couple decades have been shorter-lived and often focused around one main thing (i.e., an election). However, what we are seeing now is a result of many different things. From a major political election to a worldwide pandemic and even racial tensions that resulted in violence, it really has been a storm of events leading to what we have seen this past year.

For instance, for the first time in many years, we saw an uptick in hunting license and tag sales across the country. There were more people getting outside and an increase of people longing to fill their freezers with meat the old-fashioned way. Some of the meat shortages encouraged people to pick up a firearm and hunt for perhaps the first time ever. All of this has resulted in an increase in firearms and ammunition across the board, not only in self-defense products.


HR: Do you have any predictions on what we can expect out of the firearms industry in the next year? The next five years? 

AW: I really believe the focus of many manufacturers this next year is filling the demand that exists. Frankly, it doesn’t make sense to launch a lot of new products when you can’t deliver the ones that are already on order. I know that many other brands are doing what we have done in expanding manufacturing, acquiring more equipment, hiring more people, and expanding the supply chain. Even with this, we are unable to come close to meeting the demand we have. However, we all know it will slow down at some point. It is at these “slowdowns” where we see brands really start to innovate. After a couple strong years, I believe we will see manufacturers with an increase in capital that can be used to bring forth new product development. Additionally, I believe the political rhetoric that exists and constant threat of increased regulations will also help dictate where things go in the next few years.


HR: Where does Weatherby see potential for growth? How about non-growth? Is there part of the industry that’s shrinking? 

AW: With the amount of new gun owners this past year, there is certainly a lot of growth potential to see those new shooters and hunters get more involved and progress in the shooting sports. As newer shooters begin to adopt new technologies, it may help speed up innovation across the industry. Take carbon fiber barrels for example — the percentage of higher-end bolt-action rifles sold with a carbon fiber barrel in the last five years has gone up tremendously. Many people saw it as a fad, but the reception from shooters has been overwhelming, and the increase in accuracy for a lighter-weight rifle has proven to be worth the extra money. These newer shooters may just end up being more receptive to trying new things, and I think that will be good for our industry. As these new trends and technologies continue to grow, it also means that there will be more traditional materials and processes that shrink. For instance, Weatherby was long known for its high-end wood rifle stocks. Although we still offer these in our line, the percentage of overall sales continues to decrease in these old beauties year after year.


HR: COVID-19 is all anyone can talk about these days. How has it affected Weatherby in the last year? 

AW: Like many other manufacturers in our industry, we went through times of fear, times of frustration and times of record sales. One of the most difficult things is the inability to accurately forecast. Many of the shortages you are seeing in the industry were a result of what we have called a “broken crystal ball.” When COVID hit the economy hard in the spring of 2020, many companies were predicting doom and gloom as businesses were fearful they wouldn’t be deemed essential or that the factory would have to shut down due to an outbreak. Then the demand went through the roof, and most firearm and ammunition makers still haven’t been able to keep up. To say it has been a rollercoaster is an understatement. I will tell you one thing — we were very fortunate to have been operating in the state of Wyoming during this time. After 74 years in California, we made the move to this great state in 2019 and are so glad we did. It would have been much harder to navigate these crazy times while trying to manage the sea of regulations that California put in place this past year. Our team in Sheridan, Wyoming, did an outstanding job during these uncertain and unstable times.


HR: How does Weatherby support its dealers? 

AW: I would hope that all Weatherby dealers know that we have a great team in place to help whenever they need it. Whether it be one of our field sales reps or the team in Sheridan, we are still small enough to give the time and attention when it’s needed. One of the primary ways we can support our dealers right now is just to get them product. They can’t make money unless we ship them guns and ammo. We take every order seriously and long to put products on retailers’ shelves so that when the customer comes in looking for that product, they can find it. Whether they buy directly from Weatherby or through one of our distributors, our team prides themselves in helping, however needed.


HR: Do you have any advice for retailers about selling hunting long guns in general and Weatherby products specifically? 

AW: I don’t know if I have too much great advice here. Our Mark V Action is unique in that it has the shortest bolt lift in the industry. A 700 platform rifle has a 90-degree bolt lift, our Mark has a 54-degree bolt lift. Describing how and why that matters is important. Scope clearance, less distance in the heat of the moment, and ease of use are important and something that is better to compare in the hands of the consumer. Also, I do know that our dealers who 1) stock the right products and 2) train their associates on those products tend to do best. I don’t think that is anything that most store owners, or even associates, don’t know. I do know one thing though: When you choose to go after a line and are intentional about it, it can really grow sales. Those Weatherby dealers of ours who can sell our products well have really bought into Weatherby from the top down.


HR: As the total number of hunters fluctuates across the country, how has that impacted your growth strategy? 

AW: As I mentioned above, we were delighted to finally see an uptick in hunting license sales this past year. Although the majority of our customers hunt, we do recognize that there are some who prefer range time over time in the field. For instance, plinking steel at 1,000 yards with a 6.5-300 Wby Mag with our Accumark Elite is a ton of fun. Our vision statement communicates that we exist to inspire the dreams of hunters and shooters. We will continue to develop, manufacture and sell products that fit both shooters and hunters.


HR: What’s your personal favorite Weatherby product, and why?  AW: That always changes. However, this past year it was the Mark V Backcountry Ti in 6.5 Wby RPM. I love a good lightweight hunting rifle, as I tend to do a lot of DIY backcountry hunting in some steep terrain. However, prior to this rifle, I felt like customers often had to sacrifice ballistic performance if they wanted to shed weight. The premise of this rifle and cartridge combination was to provide magnum performance in a sub-5-pound rifle in a production rifle. I am proud to say that my team was able to accomplish this, and I carried this rifle with pride on many hunts this past year through some pretty challenging terrain.


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