Dealers, Range Operators: The Industry’s Champions

By Russ Thurman

It’s rare for a day to go by when a new anti-gun initiative isn’t launched. Most of them are not of the big-reach variety — those designed to crush the industry with a devastating, business-killing blow. Yes, it’s the endgame, but given the lack of success at the national level, the ever-creative anti-gun lobby has a different tactic. Today’s anti-gun flavors of the day are calculated to thwart industry businesses a jab at a time.

Most notable are the actions of national financial institutions such as Bank of America and Citigroup that placed tough restrictions on manufacturers and dealers. These harsh punches are reinforced by states like New York — pressuring companies to stop doing business with the industry. Add to the list the additional restrictions on guns sales by Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Then there is the full catalog of anti-gun/industry legislation throughout the nation. To all this, throw in the ever-shifting policies from social media platforms, such as Facebook, YouTube and most recently Shopify. This is just a light brushstroke of anti-gun/industry actions this year.

Feel a bit beat up?

Every business in the industry is impacted by these constant punches — from the largest manufacturers to the smallest dealers. In Shooting Industry, we devote a lot of narrative to the impact the anti-gun movement has on the industry. However, this isn’t our main focus. The majority of our pages are dedicated to “helping independent gun dealers and range operators stay in business and be profitable.” It’s part of our mission statement.

On The Front Lines

“It makes it clear how important our dealers are to the industry,” said David Blenker, Taurus USA president, CEO, during the NRA show in May. Blenker’s remarks came after the actions of major retail chains negatively impacted the industry.

Blenker’s observation hits the X-Ring. The independent firearm retailers and range operators are vital to the success of this industry. They are on the frontlines, the boots on the ground, the point of contact with consumers. Indeed, for most consumers, they are the face of the industry. They are our ambassadors. Without these independent business owners this industry would grind to a halt. Overstated? Not at all.

Many companies fully recognize the value of dealers and range owners and have crafted programs that truly reward these business owners. With the constant anti-gun pounding and the concern major retail chains may abruptly change their gun policies, more companies would do well to really examine their support of this vital segment of the industry.

If you really want independent dealers and range operators to sell more of your products, institute MAP, increase profit margins (especially on firearms) and ask them what they need from you to help them succeed. If it helps them sell more of your product, everyone wins.

Special Status

After 24-plus years at Shooting Industry, I consider dealers and range operators to be the industry’s champions. Yes, I admire many of those in manufacturing, distributing, importing, exporting and hundreds of associated businesses. But, when reviewing the industry as a whole, dealers and range operators have long earned a special status. One that deserves to be honored.

They deserve gold medals.

Marlin Rides Again!

Marlin Modern Lever Hunter

A clear indication Remington Outdoor Co. (ROC) really is moving forward is the revival of brands previously placed on life support. One of those is Marlin.

ROC announces the classic Marlin 1894C in .357 Mag./.38 Spl. is once again available for retail sales. In addition, new-for-2019 Marlins include the 1895 chambered in .444 Marlin, and the classic Model 336 featuring a Curly Maple stock. Marlin Custom is offering enhanced custom lever-actions — including the Modern Lever Hunter, with Cerakote finishes, scout scope mounts, enhanced sights and more.

“Marlin is on the upside for us. We plan on filling out the brand with several new products; we have SKUs people want to see and will continue developing them,” said Anthony Acitelli, ROC chairman and CEO in an interview with SI last month. “The lever-action market, for us, is very strong — but we’re going to miss sales this year simply because we can’t make enough Marlins.”

(For more on ROC, see SI’s October Industry News: “Remington Chairman: ‘Our focus is squarely on the independent.’” [p. 10])

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