Adding Value

Accessories Accent Handgun Market

Photo: Trijicon Inc. (RMRcc)

Accessories are major components in the handgun market, and red dot sights are popular, user-friendly additions.

Red dot optics constantly improve and evolve, translating to steady business and sustained consumer interest for outlets like Fort Thompson Sporting Goods of Sherwood, Ark., a popular independent store in central Arkansas.

Josh Hunter, a handgun sales specialist for Fort Thompson Sporting Goods, said customers have often predetermined their desired product. It’s a mistake, in his view. Instead, he believes customers should research the sight that best suits their physical attributes or limitations.

“Everybody’s eyes are a little different,” Hunter observed. “A lot of people come in with their mind set on a Leupold DeltaPoint, a SIG ROMEO or whatever, but when they pick it up and look at it, it’s sometimes not a good match for their eyes.”

Astigmatism is a major issue for anybody considering a red dot, Hunter advised, who suffers from intense astigmatism.

“What works best for me are the Trijicon dual-illuminated sights,” said Hunter. He mounts a Trijicon RMR 12.9 MOA to his Shadow Systems MR920. “They work really well for a lot of people who have astigmatism,” he continued.

Trijicon is Fort Thompson’s second top-selling red dot, with the RMR 12.9 triangle heading the class. Holosun is the most popular. Rounding out the top five, in order, are the Leupold DeltaPoint, Vortex Venom and Burris FastFire. Holosun is surprisingly dominant in Fort Thompson’s red dot business, thanks to a formidable combination of affordability, quality and marketing.

Before installing a red dot, Hunter contends a customer should master the intended firearm. It takes about 400–500 rounds for a user to establish the grip for a firearm and to instinctively develop instant iron sight alignment.

Hunter lends, “I tell everybody, ‘Look, I got no dog in this fight. I’m more than happy to sell you whatever it is you want. But, it’s better to get proficient with the gun because when you present the firearm, if you’re not looking straight down the sights, you’re going to be hunting for those red dots. If you don’t have to do any movement in your grip at all to see straight down your irons to the target, then it’s a great time to add a red dot.’”

Red dot sights are not a fad, Hunter said. They’re a trend with staying power.

“I was really resistant to red dots on pistols,” he admitted. “This whole concept of putting red dots on pistols seemed really stupid to me. I decided I was going to give this thing a legitimate shake and see how this goes, and I found I really like it. I carry it every day.”

“Red dot optics constantly improve and evolve, translating to steady business and sustained consumer interest.”

A large red dot reticle turned out to be a practical solution for Hunter’s astigmatism.

“If I shoot my irons with both eyes open, I’ve got two rear sights, two front sights and one target,” Hunter shared, who shoots competitively. “Well, now all of sudden I’ve got one red dot and one target. It made me faster, more confident and tremendously more accurate.”

Buyers should also be aware of a red dot’s shortcomings, the most significant being battery life.

“When you go to red dot, you’re talking about an LED. You’re talking about a battery that determines whether or not you’re going be able to hit your intended target,” Hunter explained. “It’s a very big thing, which is one reason why I gravitate toward dual- illuminated systems. It’s also why I strongly encourage people to set up a system that allows them to co-witness their iron sights.
It gives them a fallback option.”

Co-witness capability also compensates for a red dot’s tendency toward dimness if you are in the dark pointing your sight toward bright light.

As with all electronics, this year’s red dot might be outclassed by next year’s products — guaranteeing churn and rotation in the inventory.

“They’re coming out with different stuff all the time,” Hunter noted. “Two years ago, you would never see a red dot with a solar backup. Now it’s pretty commonplace. Holosuns with solar backup give a little better battery life, and it uses the panel to auto adjust the brightness so the dot’s not too bright. It’s always right there in that ‘Goldilocks’ zone. It’s new stuff, so I don’t have any idea where it’s going.”

Co-witness capability compensates for a potential shortcoming of electronic handgun optics.


Trigger Phrases

Along with red dots, handgunners around the country often upgrade their triggers with aftermarket brands. This is especially true for GLOCK owners, said Veerachart Murphy, owner of Ammo AZ in Phoenix. According to Murphy, his working-class and middle-class clientele demand a balance of quality and economy.

“Every month is the same, always the same three brands,” Murphy noted. “It’s GLOCK, SIG and Zeus Arms.”

Never heard of Zeus Arms? It’s like a micro-armory. It’s popular in Arizona, and Murphy owns the plant.

“But number-one is GLOCK 19 and 19X. It never changes,” he said.

GLOCK’s popularity is largely due to the ease of accessorizing, enabled by a vast selection of aftermarket triggers and barrels. It is to the do-it-yourself handgun community the Ruger 10/22 is to the DIY rifle community.

“I don’t know if anybody even makes a trigger for Ruger (handguns),” Murphy observed. “There might be one or two triggers for SIG.
With GLOCK, you’ve got 50 barrel companies and 50 trigger companies. There are three companies within a stone’s throw of my store that make upgraded GLOCK triggers. And, I can upgrade my GLOCK, and it won’t look like your GLOCK. Triggers are my number-one requested off-brand item.”

Murphy sells a lot of red dot sights, too. As in Arkansas, Holosun and Trijicon are very popular.

Holosun EPS Carry

With GLOCK, you’ve got 50 barrel companies and 50 trigger companies. I can upgrade my GLOCK, and it won’t look like your GLOCK.”

Veerachart Murphy, owner Ammo AZ

Josh Hunter of Fort Thompson Sporting Goods in Sherwood, Ark., educates a customer on the utility
of adding a red dot optic. Though Hunter wasn’t sure about red dots initially, he’s become an ardent
supporter of carrying with one — and does so himself daily.

Roll Out The Barrels

GLOCK is very popular in the Detroit area for the same reasons, shared Greg Fink, an associate at Oakland Tactical, located in Howell, Mich.

“People like to customize GLOCKs because it’s so easy to do,” Fink said. “It only has 34 parts. As long as you can manipulate three pins, you can do anything with them.”

GLOCK owners are especially fond of installing threaded aftermarket barrels, Fink noted. They might not ever buy a suppressor, but they like having the ability to do so. The sweet spot for aftermarket barrels is from $220–$300, and Oakland Tactical sells four to 12 per month.

“I sell more ZEV Technology barrels than anything,” Fink said. “People like the way they look. It gets rid of the polygonal rifling GLOCKs come with, and they’re really accurate. I have one on my personal gun.”

Murphy, of Ammo AZ, noted his customers also tend to replace their handgun barrels with threaded models.

“They always swap out for threaded barrels,” Murphy said. “I have a hard time selling an upgraded GLOCK barrel if it’s not threaded. It’s not necessarily because they have a suppressor, but they like the aesthetics, or they plan on getting a suppressor.”

“This whole concept of putting red dots on pistols seemed really stupid to me. I decided I was going to give this thing a legitimate shake and see how this goes, and I found I really like it. I carry it every day.”

Josh Hunter, handgun sales specialist Fort Thompson Sporting Goods

Got A Light?

Lights are another increasingly popular handgun accessory, and Fink sells about a dozen a month. Generally, customers insist on lights with at least 1,000 lumens. The SureFire X300UB weaponlight and Streamlight TLRs are equally the most popular.

“It’s literally one or the other,” Fink stated.

Magazine Feature

Demand for additional magazines is steady in his Phoenix location, Murphy said, and it doesn’t change unless something spooks handgunners.

“If there’s talk about banning high-capacity magazines because of a school shooting or a mass shooting, then we get a rush,” he shared. “Other than that, magazine sales are pretty steady.”

John Peeler, an associate at Doc’s Guns & Ammo in the St. Louis suburb of Eureka, Mo., said demand for magazines often depends on the platform.

“A lot of firearms come with two magazines, but a lot of people want a third magazine,” he said. “Some versions of the SIG P365 come with two 10-round magazines, but a lot of people like to opt for a 12- or 15-round one.”

Given the desire for customization and the availability of aftermarket upgrades, segments of the handgun industry have astutely targeted the do-it-yourself segment of the market. The result is sustained growth and additional profits for retailers.

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