By Massad Ayoob
Pallets of ammo, sold by the case at reasonable prices, earn their considerable footprint
at Point Blank Range training center and gun shop in Matthews, N.C.
To say guns and ammunition go together like soup and a sandwich would be a gross understatement. By themselves, a sandwich or a bowl of soup can do a perfectly satisfactory standalone job of performing their intended purpose. But a gun without ammo is a decoration (or perhaps an investment) — not useful for much else. For this basic reason, every firearms retailer stocks ammunition. But the question is: how to sell more of it? Let’s look at some different approaches.
In my younger days, the only ammo I ever saw piled in cases in the sales/display area of a gun shop was trap and skeet loads for claybird shooters. Today, however, cases of rifle and handgun ammo are much more common on firearms retailers’ showroom floors. What has spurred the change? Several factors.
Stockpiling for emergencies is a huge driver of large-scale ammunition sales. A few things drive this need in turn.
Natural disasters: Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes and nor’easter storms have always been with us. Only in recent decades have we seen the phenomenon of post-natural disaster looting — often accompanied by violent crime. Just last year, when hurricanes devastated Florida and Texas, authorities came out and essentially stated: “Citizens, you’re on your own. We can’t protect you under these circumstances.” It’s pretty much the same in times of man-made disasters, like riots.
Ammo droughts: The oldest living shooters recall how scarce ammunition was on the home front during WWII, when small arms ammo production had to be dedicated for the war effort. The next “drought” didn’t occur until the Y2K phenomenon, when the media led the public to believe that when the clock ticked to the year 2000 society would break down and turn into something close to a Mad Max movie. We saw it again with both elections of President Obama and the run-up to the 2016 election. This also happened following the anti-gun fervor in 2013.
More demand from training: Private firearms training beyond basic gun safety didn’t really exist in the U.S. before the mid-1970s, but today, we have schools all over the country for ordinary gun owners. A serious class is likely to consume 500 to 3,000 rounds per class. Naturally, these students need to buy in bulk.
Case In Point
At Point Blank Range training center, gun shop and “guntry club” in Matthews, N.C., a significant part of the facility’s 22,000 square feet is taken up with cases of factory ammo for sale. The reason? Point Blank caters to shooters. It is, after all, a destination shooting range and firearms training academy.
It’s a similar story at Pro Arms Gun Shop in Live Oak, Fla. General Manager Allen Davis estimates ammo by the case accounts for about 10 percent of sales in his store. What is the customer profile? Some are competitors who don’t have time to load their own ammo, which they shoot in volume in practice and at matches. Some are avid shooters but very busy people: One customer says, “It’s all I can do to find time to shoot; I don’t have time to reload, too.” Another orders 12,000 rounds every December (10,000 9mm and 2,000 .45 ACP), and jokingly calls the purchase “bringing on my winter ammo supply.”
But, Davis lends, “Most who buy in that sort of volume are stockpiling against shortages or emergencies.” While this may be true in most cases, there are enthusiasts who buy ammo for the joys of the shooting sports.
Aguila Ammunition .380 Auto JHP
Commercial Handloading Profits
Many dealers have invested in high-volume reloading gear and made commercial reloads a sideline to their gun shop. Tommy Tysall has been a gun dealer since 1978, and owns Daddy’s Gun Shop in Mayo, Fla. He has taken a different approach, and has reaped the benefits.
In commercial reloading, the profit goal is maximum round output in minimum time — for utmost profit. I’d categorize Tysall’s approach to commercial handloading of painstakingly crafting every cartridge similar to creating a piece of fine jewelry.
“We load for performance, not cost. The clientele for our loads are primarily hobbyists interested in maximum accuracy, and secondary hunters and competitive shooters,” Tysall shared.
A gunsmith of long standing, Tysall finds gun repairs constitute the major part of his business, with substantial retail sales coming in second; he told SI the commercial handloading represents some 24 percent of his gross profits. He has his loading equipment set up at a facility separate from the gun shop itself, and has trained and qualified three of his nine employees for custom reloading.
A reloader himself since 1971, Tysall’s knowledge of the topic has made Daddy’s Gun Shop a destination location for both new and experienced reloaders. His reloading gear and components section at the gun shop is larger than in most such stores, and those sales also contribute to overall profits.
Creative thinking of the kind detailed above adds to the bottom line, and serves the customer better. That’s a win-win in any application of “ethical business” concepts.