Equipping Today’s
Long-Range Customer

Well Versed In Long-Range Shooting


Among the key things to know about the long-range shooting segment is the fact it’s not cheap — neither for the customers or the dealers catering to this small, but growing, niche.

Those shooters who get serious about the sport can spend $10,000 or more on a rifle/optic combo. This is before adding accessories like bipods, Kestrel meters and rangefinders. Even an “entry level” setup can set a customer back $2,000–$3,000.

So, while your average shopper might balk at the idea of spending as much on an optic as they do the rifle, things are different with this crowd. As with many things in the age of Google, they’ve already done their research before walking in your shop’s door.

“When people decide to step into the sport, they know they’re going to spend money. They don’t want to buy cheap,” said A.J. Hoffman, an owner of SoDak Sports in Aberdeen and Mitchell, S.D.

“ When people decide to step into the sport, they know they’re going to spend money. They don’t want to buy cheap.”

A.J. Hoffman, Owner SoDak Sports Aberdeen and Mitchell, S.D.

And those who do are likely to end up regretting the decision — after gaining a better understanding of what it takes to hit targets at 1,000 yards and beyond.

“You could get in very cheaply to dabble, but the firearm and optic wouldn’t be capable of making the adjustments you need to make to shoot at distance,” noted Jason Gentz, manager of Arnzen Arms in Eden Prairie, Minn. “It might be the most expensive setup you’d ever buy, because you’d just have to buy another one.”

How has one of the industry’s pricier sectors fared during our recent years of chaos? We know why all the moderately priced handguns and home-defense rifles and shotguns went flying out of display cases. This sector, too, has faced its share of issues.

For those serious about long-range precision shooting, Arnzen Arms’ Jason Gentz offers a full
setup to make his store a one-stop shop: “They come in looking for a complete package. If you
aren’t capable of doing all of it, it’s difficult to make a sale,” he says. PROOF Research has been
a valuable partner to the store in this regard. SWAROVSKI, Nightforce and Kahles are popular
optics brands, while Kestrel wind meters are essential add-ons.

Where’s The Ammo?

As with just about every other segment, long-range shooting has been heavily impacted by the availability of ammo. When a customer is looking to spend $4,000 on a setup, they expect to get some use out of it.

Or as Gentz put it: “Would you buy a Ferrari if you couldn’t get gas?”

Both shops see the ammo shortage — along with slower deliveries of optics — as a key obstacle to growing this sector. Prior to the onset of turmoil, there was a solid uptick in local competitions for long-range shooters, he recalled. But now, it’s far more difficult for newbies wanting to get into the game.

The shop also faces the prospect of disappointing customers who walk in the door expecting to leave with everything they need to get started.

“They come in looking for a complete package,” Gentz said. “If you aren’t capable of doing all of it, it’s difficult to make a sale.”
Hoffman agrees. While veteran shooters might have stockpiles of supplies, it’s the newer shooter who’s left to stare at sparsely populated shelves.

Ammo continues to trickle in. And even if things are showing signs of improvement, we’re a long way from those days of unlimited ammo purchases. Like many shops during the ongoing shortage, SoDak holds some ammo back for new gun buyers.

“It’s a balancing act, deciding what to put on the shelves and what to keep in the back,” Hoffman observed. “We have rifles and maybe a few boxes of ammo we can sell them, but we’re limited in what we can do for them down the road.”

SoDak Sports’ A.J. Hoffman with a setup that’s proved popular with his contingent of long-range
customers: a SIG SAUER CROSS Rifle (chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor), topped with a Leupold VX-5HD.
A SilencerCo Omega 300 suppressor adds both comfort and enjoyment to long-range pursuits.

King Of The Mountain

For anyone following this particular rifle sector, it’s no surprise both shops still see 6.5 Creedmoor as the king of the caliber mountain.

“Creedmoor, by far, outsells everything else. It’s the industry leader,” Hoffman shared. “And we actually have it on the shelf for the first time in a long time.”

At least for the time being, he doesn’t see anything that suggests an imminent shakeup in the rifle-cartridge hierarchy. SoDak has seen rising interest in 6.5 PRC, but any serious growth is hampered by availability.

“When the ammo shelves are full, I think we’ll sell a lot more PRC than we do today,” he predicted.

“ You have to order to your comfort level, but if I hadn’t been ordering, a lot of this stuff would be hard to get. It’s not just ordering for order fulfillment, but ordering for inventory.”

Jason Gentz, Manager Arnzen Arms Eden Prairie, Minn.

For alternatives, Arnzen points customers to an old favorite. “I think the .308 is still overlooked by people who are trying to get into the game,” Gentz said.

He also sees promise, performance wise, from 300 Norma and 300 PRC. “That market is growing,” he suggested. “We’re at the beginning of people trending that way.”

Still, along with availability, cost is a major issue for anyone veering toward the more exotic cartridges.

“Do you want to spend $2 or $3 a round — or $10 — every time you squeeze the trigger? It makes for a very expensive day at the range,” Gentz added.

What To Carry

Deciding what to carry for the long-range customers can quickly become a decision on how much money you want to have tied up in pricey inventory. It may be better to focus on the lower end of the sector, particularly when it comes to rifles.

Many of the more serious shooters will end up going to custom rifle builders to get exactly what they’re looking for. With this in mind, Arnzen Arms still tries to keep at least a half-dozen higher-end rifles (in the $3,000–$5,000 range) in stock at any time.

Those rifles may not be exactly what a customer is looking for, but they can help generate a custom order.

Among the top sellers at the shop are JP Enterprises, Christensen Arms, Cooper Firearms and PROOF Research.

It’s a similar story with optics, where brand loyalty is more likely to come into play.

“There are a lot of manufacturers building quality target rifles. But there are maybe six manufacturers good at the optics segment,” Gentz said.

Arnzen tries to keep 15 to 20 high-end optics on the shelves from top sellers: Nightforce, Vortex and KAHLES. They’ve been able to keep a steady stream of optics coming through the door, in part, because they’re always ordering them.

“You have to order to your comfort level, but if I hadn’t been ordering, a lot of this stuff would be hard to get. It’s not just ordering for order fulfillment, but ordering for inventory,” Gentz shared. “Some people don’t want to order a $3,000 scope just to have it sit on the shelf and hope it sells.”

At the South Dakota shop, top production options carried by the store include Christensen (Mesa and Ridgeline, in particular) and Browning’s X-Bolt. Nightforce optics are popular with the long-range crowd, though delivery times on new orders can stretch out for months.

The shop also keeps these shooters in mind with its reloading inventory — with most serious long-range shooters doing their own reloads.

Hoffman gets why many shops prefer not to delve into the reloading segment: “There’s a lot to chase there. A lot of SKUs.”

Still, it remains a solid draw for the store, with customers coming in regularly to look for brass and other components.
Unfortunately, it’s also one of the hardest-hit segments.

“Powder has been one of the biggest struggles, and it’s likely going to continue in 2022,” Hoffman proposed. “We’re still going to struggle to put product on the shelf.”


Vortex Optics Razor HD Gen III 6-36x56 FFP

WOOX Cobra Thumbhole Stock

ZEISS LRP S5 318-50
Don’t forget about accessories when equipping long-range shooters. GPO USA’s RANGEGUIDE Binoculars boast edge-to-edge
clarity and precise ranging on reflective targets out to nearly 1.75 miles. The unique ergonomics of the Cobra Thumbhole Precision
stock from WOOX reduces felt recoil to help the shooter feel more comfort while on the firing line. Each attracting a hefty price
tag, the Razor HD Gen III 6-36x56 FFP and LRP S5 318-50 from Vortex Optics and ZEISS, respectively, offer exceptional features
for those looking to push their limits in precision shooting.

Know The Sector

As with any other sector, there are advantages in having employees who are well versed in long-range shooting. It’s something Gentz, in Minnesota, has come to appreciate over the past year.

“People tend to assume because I sell the stuff, I know how to use it,” he stated.

So, last year he took a long-range shooting class at Accuracy 1st in Texas. Afterward, he decided to send one of his employees to a similar school at Blue Steel Ranch in New Mexico.

“ Deciding what to carry for the long-range customers can quickly become a decision on how much money you want to have tied up in pricey inventory.”

Gentz’s own interest in long-range shooting is nothing new, but he saw a distinct advantage for the store in being able to improve communication with these shoppers.

“I wanted us to be able to relate better to our customers,” Gentz concluded. “You think of the rifle, scope and ammo, but there’s so much more that goes into it.”

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