Carry The Gun-Care Products Your Customers Are Looking For
When sales of MSRs and other semiautos increased, so did the need for gun-care and maintenance products. As many shooters have learned, if they don’t keep a semiauto clean, it won’t work properly.
Reed Payne, one of the owners of Ross Coin & Gun in Idaho Falls, Idaho, said shooters are taking better care of their guns than ever before.
“We had a boom where people were buying guns, and the younger group was just shooting them,” he said. “These younger shooters learned their semiautos weren’t cycling any more. I’ve seen a spike in our business because they now understand a gun has to be clean in order for it to work properly.”
When a customer purchases a gun, Payne said, a store staff member provides him or her a lesson on that particular firearm.
“We take the gun apart and provide a free one-time cleaning,” he said. This costs few dollars in staff time and cleaning products, Payne said, but it’s well worth it.
“A one-time cleaning has been very beneficial for us, because now the customer can do it and understands it, and he buys all the stuff we use right here in the store,” he said. “It costs me a couple dollars to do it, but I sell $30 worth of cleaning products as a result. That’s one of the ways I’ve increased my gun-care sales.”
The Tipton Ultra Cleaning Kit features the Premium 3-Piece Cleaning Rod and
a 26-piece Ultra Jag and Best Bore Brush sets. The Cleaning Rod is 0.205 inches
in diameter and can be used in .22-caliber barrels and larger. Best Bore Brushes
are ideal for breaking down copper, lead or powder fouling.
Although he stocks as many new products as he can, Payne relies on some of the more established, tried-and-true brands at the core of his gun-care and maintenance inventory.
“Birchwood Casey is our strongest line because they’ve been consistent for so long,” he said. “They produce good, solid products that always work well, and have been a mainstay for us.”
Another brand Payne has carried for a long time is Tetra.
“Tetra has one of the best cleaner lubricant oils,” he said. “It cleans and lubes at the same time.”
Many times, Payne said, the gun-care products customers ask for are those they’ve seen on TV or YouTube.
“FrogLube was one,” he said. “Ballistol was another, which we added and it always sells well. When there’s a lot of new stuff out, though, it’s hard for the retailer to stay on top of it.”
One trend Payne has seen in the past couple years is a move away from “fast” cleaning products.
“I’m selling more cleaning rods now, as shooters are going back to the traditional ways of cleaning a gun,” he said. “They’re getting one piece, more expensive cleaning rods and starting to clean their barrels better.”
Payne sees a little segmentation in the market, depending on whether the customer is a new shooter or someone who’s been around the block a few times.
“Some of the new shooters are buying products such as the BoreSnake from Hoppe’s,” he said. “These are shooters who want to do a quick ‘clean and go’. The customers who are buying precision rifles are older and more experienced. They’re buying the higher-end guns — and also brushes and cleaning rods and doing a full scour. The younger group is all about how quickly they can get the cleaning done, whereas the older group is about how well they can clean the gun.”
According to Payne, his customers purchase more individual gun-care items than they do kits.
“My kit market has never been strong,” he noted. “We sell far more components than we do kits. The person that’s buying the one-piece rod and the higher-end product is getting more specific about what he wants.”
The product Payne sells best is Gun Scrubber from Birchwood Casey.
“It’s the easiest product to clean with, and is an easy presentation,” he said. “I tell people to use as much as they want when they clean their gun, because it’s a revolving door; people keep coming back for it.”
The Lucas Oil Outdoor Line offers a cross section of gun-care products that
will appeal to a variety of customers. Released in 2014, the Lucas Extreme
Duty Gun Oil is a special blend of oil and petroleum-extracted additives
that’s designed to lubricate high volume, high heat and friction firearms.
More Gun Owners, More Guns To Clean
Lee Brandkamp is one of the owners of Powder Horn Guns & Sporting in Columbia, Mo. He’s observed his gun-care market is continuing to expand.
“When we got started in this business in 1983, people didn’t own guns for protection; we didn’t have to protect ourselves then,” he said. “But as firearms ownership has grown due to crime, we’ve started selling a lot more handgun care products.”
The cleaning products purchased by customers have changed quite a bit, according to Brandkamp.
“People used to come in looking for a brush of one specific caliber. Now they come in and say, ‘I have a .45, .357, 9mm and a .22.’ Instead of buying just a couple different calibers, they pick up a lot more stuff,” he said.
Contrary to what Payne has experienced in this market, Brandkamp sells a lot of gun-care kits.
“When a customer buys a kit, he or she then replaces stuff as they wear out or use up,” he said. “We stock Hoppe’s and Pro-Shot; those are the two we sell the best. We also keep some Battenfeld Technology products, which includes Caldwell and Tipton. There’s no doubt we’re going through a lot more cleaning equipment, with a higher number of gun owners.”
Quite a few new customers who visit Powder Horn purchase their first gun there, which leads to add-on sales, Brandkamp noted.
“When you get a new firearms owner, you have to help them with everything,” he said. “We do everything we can to help those folks out. If you’re a good sales person, when you sell a handgun, you’re going to try to sell a case, ammo and cleaning gear for that handgun. A lot of people say, ‘Well, I don’t really need a case and I have ammo at home, but yeah, I do need a brush and a jag to fit that.’ And if it’s a new gun owner, they need the whole rig.”
Unlike Payne, Brandkamp doesn’t see any segmentation in the gun-care market.
“The younger and newer shooters pretty much buy what we recommend. The person behind the counter makes a difference in what people buy, as long as they know what they’re talking about. The people who work for me, even the younger ones, are experienced,” he added.
Products from Ballistol USA are strong sellers at Ross Coin & Gun. Ballistol’s
Multi-Purpose Aerosol cans have a variety of uses that go beyond cleaning firearms —
an added selling point for active sportsmen and women.
According to Brandkamp, the future state of the gun-care market is difficult for dealers to forecast.
“We’re not doing the sales we were in 2013 and early 2014,” he said. “We’re going to see up and cycles with these politically-motivated sales, so I think we’re in for a little bit of a slow time, but then again, 2016 is an election year. If it looks like Hillary might get in, so I think we may see a lot of sales. Hunter numbers are dropping every year; but the two things that drive gun and gun-care sales are politics and crime.”
Payne thinks the gun-care market will stay strong, regardless of politics.
“I think gun-care products should be sold just like holsters and any other accessory. We assume people have gun-cleaning kits, but someone is always going to be out of something. If you take the extra minute and ask the customer if he has the proper gun-cleaning stuff, you may make a good add-on sale,” he noted.
By Carolee Anita Boyles