In December 2005, five groups of Wall Street investors flew in private jets to Portland, Me., where they took waiting limousines to a warren of metal buildings that resembled a midsize lumberyard. They had come to Bushmaster Firearms in pursuit of a highly profitable product whose market was growing faster than any other in the nation's stagnant gun industry. The product was the AR-15, and red-hot Bushmaster, the nation’s leading manufacturer of the rifle, had decided to auction itself to the highest bidder, write Cameron McWhirter and Zusha Elinson of the Wall Street Journal in their new book, “American Gun: The True Story of the AR-15.”
Bushmaster owner Dick Dyke had once feared that he could never sell the company because so many people had a negative view of the gun. By 2005, Dyke’s concerns had evaporated. Sales of the AR-15 were growing faster than any other rifle or shotgun. When Dyke let it be known that he might be interested in selling, potential private-equity buyers rushed up to Maine to see his operations and make a bid for the AR-15 maker. Dyke’s firm was, in many respects, a classic business success story: Product sells well, investors come in to expand production and marketing, and sales soar. This business success story, which led to a massive increase in AR-15 production and civilian ownership in subsequent years, would have profound consequences for the U.S., affecting how we vote, how we go to social events and how our children attend school.