By Carolee Anita Boyles
Gun-care products should be a part of every firearm sale. When your customer purchases gun-care products, the transaction is as good for him as it is for you — it helps him take care of his new gun, and in turn boosts your bottom line.
Steven King is the owner of Metro Shooting Supply in Bridgeton, Mo. With guns sales trending downward, he’s noticed customers are putting more effort into caring for the guns they purchase or already own.
“We sell a lot of pistols, and we also have a shooting range,” he said. “People come in and shoot their guns and get them dirty so we encourage them to take care of their firearms; we sell a lot of cleaning supplies.”
Many customers purchase a Hoppe’s cleaning kit at the same time they purchase a gun, King shared. If someone comes in to shoot on the range who didn’t purchase his gun at Metro Shooting Supply, the range officer encourages him to purchase cleaning supplies appropriate for his particular firearm.
“Hoppe’s is our number-one go-to brand,” King affirmed. “We have products from all the major manufacturers on display, in two dedicated aisles, so customers can pick anything from Hoppe’s and Remington to CLP or Kleen Bore. We have all of them, but think Hoppe’s is the go-to product because of its reputation and age.”
Customers who are shooting ARs/MSRs generally use CLP, King said.
“Those customers don’t use Hoppe’s as much,” he shared. “The handgunners use bore snakes with different oils and solvents, and the shotgun guys usually use Remington cleaning products.”
King thinks this division in what customers use is a result of advertising.
“Remington is known for shotguns, and customers see the Remington brand and Remington bore cleaner, and they’re going to use it,” he said. “The military guys used CLP in the military, so they get it for their personal ARs. And Grandpa always used Hoppe’s to clean his guns, so ‘that’s good enough for me.’”
The bore snake makes using any of these products very easy, King relayed. In fact, he sells a lot of bore snakes, most of them 9mm or .40.
“We also sell a lot of 9mm brushes to go along with cleaning kits,” he noted. “I’d say 9mm is by far the most popular; we probably sell 20 9mm brushes a week.”
King sees some seasonality to his gun-care sales.
“During deer and turkey season, we see shotgun bore snakes going out the door,” he observed.
Metro Shooting Supply recently began carrying the Real Avid brand of gun-care products.
“They’re high-end cleaning supplies,” King opined. “They don’t have solvents or chemicals yet, but they have equipment. They have a lot of tools for AR guys.”
The most popular tools, according to King, are a little wrench and hammer, a hammer and punch set and some new pistol and rifle cleaning kits.
“Real Avid also has a complete armorer’s station,” he informed. “If you’re going to build an AR, everything you need is in this kit. The company is only a couple of years old, but they have very high-end products. We carry their entire line, which is a lot of pieces, and have dedicated about 8 feet of shelf space for their products. They have quality products and display really nicely. We think Real Avid is going to be the next up-and-coming cleaning supply/tool company for the handgunner and the rifle shooter. If there’s any company out there that’s going to beat Hoppe’s, it’s them.”
Trusting The Tried-And-True
At Autrey’s Armory in Fayetteville, Ga., firearms instructor Brian Galante shared long-time shooters tend to stick with tried-and-true gun-care products.
“They use a lot of Hoppe’s No. 9 and CLP,” he said. “Some of the younger shooters are more inclined to try newer things.”
One of the newer things those customers like is Pro-Shot.
“We have a lot of Pro-Shot,” Galante informed. “We carry their Fouling Blaster, as well as Remington oil wipes and their other cleaners. The most popular thing we sell, though, is CLP.”
Quite a few of Autrey’s Armory customers like cleaning kits.
“They’ll buy an entire cleaning kit and a bore brush and they’re happy,” Galante said. “The cleaning kits they like are from Hoppe’s, Outers and Pro-Shot. The Pro-Shot kit is a bigger set and comes in a hard plastic box.”
While this may vary at other stores, Autrey’s customers generally don’t come in asking for a lot of new cleaning products.
“They pretty much like what we sell,” he suggested. “Most of our customers like the traditional stuff.”
When it comes to equipment, customers seek out bore snakes.
The staff at Autrey’s Armory makes a point of encouraging customers to purchase cleaning kits when they buy guns.
“We try to make them add-on sales,” Galante said. “We tell them they don’t have to spend a fortune, but they do need to buy a cleaning kit. They need to get what it takes to keep the gun clean and lubricated. It’s what we consider a common-sense aspect of the sale.”
Adapting To Today’s Market
In today’s market, King has made some changes to how he presents gun-care products to his customers.
“We moved cleaning products from the last aisle of the store to the front,” he shared. “Now when customers come through the door, as they walk to the range, they have to walk down the aisle of cleaning supplies.” (The aisle is 32 feet long, giving customers ample opportunity to see those products.)
“It’s kind of a subliminal message we send them,” King revealed. “We also put a cleaning supplies section on our range wall behind the counter. If there’s a problem in the range with a gun, the customer can come out and do a quick cleaning right there.”
In addition, tables serving as “cleaning stations” are available for customers who want to do a full cleaning of their guns.
“We have all the supplies there, in case they didn’t bring theirs,” King said. “They can mess up our tables instead of going home and messing up their own.”
Many customers don’t know how to clean their own guns properly — a problem a little education can solve.
“Once we show them how easy it is, they buy equipment and supplies and clean their guns,” King reported. “In this economy, you’ve got to work at selling the accessories.”
In contrast, with a well-established clientele, Autrey’s Armory hasn’t changed the way it approaches gun-cleaning sales.
“Our cleaning section hasn’t changed much in 20 years,” Galante observed. “One thing we do is a five-hour basic handgun course geared to a zero-knowledge customer. One part of this course is on cleaning. As I go over the basics, I tell people we’re living in the age of YouTube, so if they have a Smith & Wesson or GLOCK, look for a video on their specific gun — how to disassemble it, clean it and reassemble it. It’s a blessing for new people.”
Autrey’s staff also spend individual time with customers to be sure they know how to take their new guns apart and clean them, as well as helping customers with firearms they already have.
As a dealer, your advice and knowledge is invaluable — particularly to new customers. When they’re encouraged to protect their investment, and provided with the right tools, products and instruction, you’ll reap the benefits in how showing a little “care” can go a long way to building profits.