It is Large and Has Its Fluctuations
"It will surprise you when I say that our records show that last year we sold over 2,000 revolvers and rifles, the sale of both of which firearms we are required by police regulation to keep a record of the name and address of the purchaser. There are several other places in the city where firearms are sold, so it would be impossible to estimate accurately the total number sold in Washington in a year, but it will not amount to over double the figure I have armed.
"Current events have an influence. For instance, when the colored population were making it lively for the Chinese laundry men and storekeepers the trade took a big sport, and we would sell twenty or thirty a day for a time while the excitement was acute. The Spanish war gave the revolver trade a big boom, and in the two years prior and succeeding it this house alone sold over 8,000 revolvers and rifles, mainly the former. We are not required to keep a record of the sale of shotguns. During the Spanish war the spurt in Washington was participated in all over the United States, especially in the east and along the eastern seaboard. This I learned from drummers and others in the trade. I assume that it was the instinct of self-preservation which prompted people to buy, for if any fighting were to be done here it wouldn't have been with hand firearms in the hands of citizens, except in the instance of mob violence and the attack of squads of roughs upon peaceful citizens, though the militia would probably have looked after that element.
"The hammerless revolver sells the best, as does the hammerless shotgun, and the standard caliber of the former is 38. This is the regulation caliber for target shooting also, and the distance is usually thirty feet, or, as the code duello required, ten paces. At thirty paces I can understand how one if two belligerents, or both, might miss, as duellists stand sideways. but at ten paces both men ought to drop at a simultaneous firing. The reason why more men are not killed in the many discharges of revolvers in street affrays or arrests is because very, very few men know how to shoot, as a mater of fact though every man thinks he does, and the shots go wild. The slightest deflection at the point of aiming will send the bullet several feet wide of the mark.
"Yes, sales are frequently made to ladies, though if a woman wants a revolver for her personal or house protection her husband, brother or some gentleman friend makes the purchase for her and her name not recorded. We are not permitted to sell to minors or to persons whom we believe to be of unsound mind. Ninety-nine per cent of the sales of revolvers is made are the purpose of protection and not aggression. For instance: A young man to whom I sold a revolver recently asked me what chance I thought he'd stand on a country road or lonely street against a burly footpad. I told him none, as he was delicate, and a strong man could rob him and break him in two afterward. Small or delicate men whose business requires them be out late, travel or ride alone in the country know that they stand no chance for their valuables or their lives in the presence of a strong ruflian, and a large contingent of our customers constitute this class. Many other men enjoy target shooting, as it is a sport which keeps them out in the open air with an occupied mind. In fact, gunning is one of the most healthful of sports if you don't fill yourself, or your fellow-sportsman or the dog, with shot."