Air Reload

Today’s Airgun/Airsoft Options
Not Just Fun And Games.

Today’s airguns are not your backyard BB guns of yesteryear. Yes, there still are basic BB guns — the first “firearms” owned by many of today’s adult consumers. These BB guns still introduce thousands to the shooting sports. However, there’s a lot more to the airgun market.

The budget-friendly pricing on many airgun models has created a fun and growing segment of the firearms market. Yet many dealers tend to overlook or under-value its potential. Dealers may understand the “youth” and “gateway” factors, but there’s more to consider.

For consumers drawn to more serious target shooting or hunting, there is an extensive array of airguns that offer impressive performance, enhanced by advances in technology. The first time a customer sees an air rifle pellet — one traveling in excess of 1,000 feet per second — create a sizable hole in a tin can, the usual reaction is, “Wow! I didn’t know they could do that!”

Add to this the ever-growing airsoft market, with its elevated “fun factor,” and this “air” segment of the market is ready-made for profit potential.

Bryan Hurst, Kittery Trading Post buyer, says the store promotes
the fun aspects of airsoft guns. He carries Crosman’s Marine Corps-
endorsed Target Kit, which includes two spring-powered airsoft
pistols, target and 1,000 rounds of ammunition.

Pinpoint Your Market

From airguns that will easily dispatch small varmints to those that can take down a coyote or hog, the impressive inventory carried by Kittery Trading Post (KTP) in Kittery, Maine, caters to this specialized segment of the market. The major retail operation also offers a lot of options for those who enjoy the realistic look, feel and performance of airsoft guns.

Bryan Hurst, KTP buyer, explains the store is primarily focused on the introductory or youth segment of the market. This past year, however, he has seen an increase in Kittery’s airgun and airsoft sales to a broader customer base.

“It’s great to bring kids in for their first experience with shooting, and then let them work their way up. Of course, we sell a lot of airguns for varmint control, although most of the serious hunting in our area is for larger game,” Hurst said.

Crosman, including the Benjamin and Jim Shockey-endorsed models, is KTP’s main brand in airgun and airsoft gun products. They also carry Umarex and Gamo offerings, in addition to popular Daisy models — yes, the Red Ryder and the Pink Fun Rifle Kits are among them.

Hurst reveals, among KTP’s serious airgun clientele, break-action rifles — especially Crosman’s PCPs or nitro piston models — receive the most attention.

“That $250-$300 price range seems to be the ‘sweet spot’ for us. You can definitely do some hunting in that price range. Once you get up to the $300-$500 range, those are the guys who are experienced and more aware of the high-tech features,” Hurst said.

Kittery also offers higher-end airguns, including Crosman’s premium big-bore rifle, the Benjamin Rogue .357 Compressed Air Hunting model. The rifle has a MSRP of $1,299. The Crosman 1701P Silhouette .177 PCP and the Benjamin Marauder .22 are KTP’s top-of-the line air pistols.

The store’s Gamo airguns include the Varmint Stalker air rifle, which features an all-weather stock, 4×32 riflescope and Bull Whisper barrel with integrated noise dampener.

As with actual firearms, the larger profit margins are in add-ons and accessories. In the airgun market, those include pellets, scopes, targets, air pumps, gas refill cartridges, safety equipment and maintenance products. Kittery Trading Post is well stocked in all these products, and many are displayed where customers are sure to see them.

“The Airsoft/BB/Pellet section is located in a transition area between our main gun floor and our archery department, specifically between gun cases and crossbows,” Hurst said.

Airguns have experienced popularity in part because of celebrity endorsement —
Michael Waddell and Travis “T-Bone” Turner of the “Bone Collector” television
series helped design the Gamo “Bone Collector” .177 and .22 caliber air rifles.

Serious Fun

Airsoft has gained a substantial following in recent years. Law enforcement and even some military units use airsoft guns for familiarity and training. At KTP, Hurst says his customers are focused on the sheer fun of tactical gaming, using stunningly realistic airsoft guns. Yes, KTP even offers zombie-fighting airsoft rifles and pistols.

“There’s a place not too far from us that used to be a paintball field, but now has a lot of airsoft team events. The kids’ game part of airsoft makes up about 85 percent of our offerings. We do have some of the high-end offerings, like the sniper rifles,” Hurst said.

While KTP emphasizes the “fun” aspect of airsoft, the store takes the “air” side of their business seriously. The store stocks branded airsoft guns licensed by Palco and Umarex, including those bearing the Beretta, Browning, Colt, HK, Ruger, Smith & Wesson and Walther names.

Many airsoft guns have a “blowback” feature that simulates the recoil of a real firearm. This provides customers a firearm training option, without the need to travel to an actual range. The Umarex HK USP Compact GBB (Gas Blowback) is an authentic HK replica, double-action airsoft pistol.

Stoeger Airguns offers numerous airgun accessories, including
Precision Pellets, Single and Triple Spinning Metal Targets
and paper targets for its Airgun Pellet Trap.

Umarex Berreta 92

Rising Popularity

KTP’s customers have likely seen an episode or two on various TV programs that feature hunts with high-powered air rifles and other airgun shooting sports.

Crosman Corp. recently announced a multi-year endorsement partnership with professional hunter Jim Shockey and his television show “Jim Shockey’s Hunting Adventures” on The Outdoor Channel. Upcoming shows will feature Shockey hunting with the first of the Jim Shockey Signature Series air rifles, the Benjamin Legacy, which delivers speeds up to 1,200 feet per second.

Crosman also announced a long-term partnership agreement with Eva Shockey, Jim Shockey’s daughter, hunting partner and co-host of “Jim Shockey’s Hunting Adventures.” She will be involved in a number of projects to promote Crosman’s brands and the shooting sports.

“We even have a couple of guys on our staff that Crosman uses for testing products and coming up with ideas to develop products for serious hunters and shooters. There is definitely more awareness and use of airguns now for full-fledged hunting,” Hurst said.

This year, “American Airgunner” debuted on the Pursuit Channel, with Pyramyd Air and Umarex as the title sponsors. The program aims to entertain and educate viewers about the many aspects of airguns in the shooting sports.

“We’ve got hunting, gear exclusives, and, for the first time ever on television, the Airgunner Challenge, where airgunners will test their air-powered shooting skills,” said Justin “JB” Biddle, the show’s executive producer.

American Airgunner shows the best of airgun shooting disciplines —
including airgun competition, recreational shooting, airgun
hunting and more. For more information,

Crosman has an ongoing partnership with Eva and Jim Shockey, co-hosts of
the television show, “Jim Shockey’s Hunting Adventures.” For more information,

Gaining Momentum

Is it worth the time and money to invest in the airgun/airsoft markets? Hurst thinks so, classifying the segment as a “consistent category” of business for KTP.

“You get a lot of return customers looking for the latest technology, the newest thing when it comes to power, improved feet per second capability and other enhancements. They stay abreast of what’s happening,” Hurst said.

This year’s high-volume of firearm and ammunition sales did slow airgun and airsoft sales at KTP, but that is changing, Hurst said.

“Both airguns and airsoft have been a little slow in growth for us this year. I believe that is a result of people redirecting their funds to the gun craze that was going on, and stockpiling of ammunition,” Hurst said. “We’re starting to see the momentum pick back up, especially on the airsoft portion of our business. I’ve seen our sales increase quite a bit [since August]. I think when it’s all said and done, we’ll catch up the little bit that category has been slipping.”

The airgun/airsoft business is growing, despite the recent slowdown. Modern, high-performance products are attracting consumers seeking a different shooting experience — and, simply, fun. This provides another opportunity for dealers to extend their product offerings and gain additional profits.
By Greg Staunton

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