UPDATE 1-Sturm Ruger 4th-qtr sales jump 52 pct

Wed Feb 27, 2013 6:15pm EST

* Fourth-quarter sales $141.8 mln

* Shares up 3 pct after market

Feb 27 (Reuters) - Gun maker Sturm Ruger Inc reported a 52 percent jump in quarterly sales as people rushed to stock up on firearms amid debates over implementing stricter gun laws, sending its shares up 3 percent after market.

Recent concerns over possible changes to gun laws following mass shootings, unease over the economic backdrop and the increased acceptance of gun ownership among women and older people have driven up sales over the last few months.

Data from the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) -- commonly used to gauge the industry's performance -- show background checks for firearm sales rose nearly 50 percent in December.

The company, which competes with Smith & Wesson Holding Corp and privately held Glock Inc and Taurus, said revenue rose to $141.8 million in the quarter ended Dec. 31.

Rival Smith & Wesson will report third-quarter results next week.

On Tuesday, Big 5 Sporting Goods Corp posted fourth-quarter results that beat analysts' estimates, helped by an increase in demand for firearms and ammunition products in the United States.

The sporting goods retailer also forecast a first-quarter profit far above Wall Street estimates, citing increased demand for firearms and favorable winter weather.

Southport, Connecticut-based Sturm Ruger's shares, which have gained about a fifth in value in the past year, closed at $53.51 on Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.

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