The Gun-Care Market

Trends Shaping 2021
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Brush (pictured) is just one of many tools included for gun owners. Image: Real Avid

As we enter the third quarter, the shooting sports industry continues to address last year’s historic firearm and ammunition sales (and shortages). Approximately 8.5 million consumers unexpectedly entered the market in 2020, purchasing a firearm for the first time ever.

Naturally, these new shooters began buying the various accessories that are part and parcel of gun ownership. Holsters, magazines, optics and other equipment have experienced an unprecedented increase in sales over the past few months. Gun-care products — bore brushes, cleaning rods and patches, solvents, lubricants and the like — have also been high in demand. Walk into a gun store these days, and you’re likely to see some empty pegs on the cleaning supplies aisle.

“We can do a better job of upselling gun-care supplies and services than we are currently. We see this as an opportunity for growth.”

Kevin McCunn, Co-Owner McCunn Specialty Firearms • Massena, Iowa

While ammunition and firearm sales are expected to remain strong for the foreseeable future, what is the forecast for the gun-care segment? Are those products continuing to sell? What factors are driving the purchase decisions of new, and long-time, gun owners?

To better understand the market dynamics for gun-care products, Shooting Industry spoke with Jeff Monroe, president of 22three Inc. in Lebanon, Ohio; Kevin McCunn, co-owner of McCunn Specialty Firearms in Massena, Iowa; and Miles Hall, senior advisor at the business consulting group Hall-N-Hall in Edmond, Okla. Here are their firsthand observations and insights.

SI: Describe gun-care product sales these days.

Monroe: I’d say we have two customer groups looking for gun-care products. The first, and still the largest group, are established gun owners who replenish supplies as they’re consumed. These customers also buy new, more innovative, products as they look for more effective or efficient ways to take care of their guns. The second group is new gun owners. Although some of these customers will purchase gun-care products when they purchase a new firearm, we find it more common for them to purchase these kinds of products after they take their gun to the range and it needs its first cleaning.

McCunn: We’ve seen gun-care product sales nearly double over the previous year.

Hall: Actually, it varies to some degree depending on where you are in the country. It accounts for a very profitable center for the store that must, in turn, be nurtured and trained by the management and team members.

SI: Have you witnessed an increase in gun-care sales over the past year? What do you attribute the increase in sales to?

Monroe: We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the sale of gun-care products over the past two years. Our year-over-year comparisons show last year we increased 68% from 2019 to 2020, and another 56% from 2020 to 2021. This is lower than the increase in firearms, but we expect additional sales as the new gun owners start reaching a point where they need to clean their new guns. The increased sales are driven by new gun owners. However, existing owners are always looking for easier or less messy ways to clean their guns.

Hall: Yes, the massive amount of new gun sales is certainly part of the increase, but the one thing we have heard the most is folks had the time to do cleaning. Being home helped guests take the time that was not there before the pandemic. This has had a wonderful benefit to them as they now know their gun’s functions, safety and the like far better. The new buyers, of course, are a big factor, but all owners understand the importance of the process. After all, this is an asset with growing value if kept in good shape.

McCunn: With so many new shooters in the past year, most don’t have any cleaning kits. They need supplies to get started.

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SI: What types of cleaning and maintenance products are customers purchasing?

Monroe: Most of our customers are looking for gun-cleaning kits with pull-through ropes, snakes or brushes. Traditional push-through cleaning kits still have market share, but we typically see them going to our most price-conscious customers.

McCunn: First-time gun buyers are purchasing cleaning kits where the experienced shooters are just buying CLP for the most part. We push CLP because it’s so versatile and Bore Boss snakes for specific calibers.

Hall: The big factor here is the team members in the operation and how they communicate with their guest. Guests expect a certain level of attentiveness and professionalism and respond with their funds and support. The products shown and the benefits explained clearly will always outsell others.

SI: Do customers seem driven by brand loyalty, price or another factor?

Hall: They’re driven by the store, team member and atmosphere above all other matters. We’ve seen operations in some very remote locations with guests who willingly drive whatever distance it is to get there. As more than one guest shared, “Because it’s where you go if you want it done right.” How cool is that?

Monroe: Our traditional gun owners are loyal to the brands they have used over time. Although, new gun owners don’t have a relationship or history with particular brands and they’re more interested in getting products recommended by our sales team, range officers or trainers. Price always plays a role in which products our customers choose, but ease of use and effectiveness are also important. Our customers are willing to pay a few dollars more if we have a product that’s easier to use and more effective.

McCunn: Old customers seem to have their favorite and stick with it. New shooters are not particular.

Jeff Monroe, president of 22three Inc., has seen a dramatic increase in sales of gun-care products
over the past two years. It’s being driven by both new and experienced gun owners, he says.

SI: Is there a preference for premium or budget products?

McCunn: Our market is budget driven.

Monroe: We find it’s important to have both premium and budget- friendly options for customers.

Hall: No, not that we see in quality, service-oriented facilities. It’s about the relationship and fellowship.

SI: What is the gun-care knowledge level of today’s customers? Do they require more help and education?

McCunn: With a new shooter, a firearm tear-down and hands-on cleaning is pretty common just so they’re familiar with the procedure. We don’t charge for this service if the firearm was purchased from us.

Hall: They are new shooters, yes. However, they’re intelligent and willing to learn if approached right and with respect. As far as taking a lot of extra time, we haven’t seen that.

Monroe: Talking about gun care is just part of the bigger conversation we have with our customers.

SI: Are you able to keep cleaning supplies and other gun-care products in stock?

Monroe: We carry quite a few different brands and a pretty broad range of products. As a result, we’ve had decent luck keeping product in stock. We haven’t always been able to keep our first choice of products. If one brand was out of stock in the supply chain, we’d generally be able to find another brand to take its place on the shelf.

McCunn: So far, availability has not been a problem for us.

Hall: Yes. The only thing we have seen around the country is in all the rush some companies have not kept up with refill orders as they normally would. Make the time and the company will benefit greatly.

SI: Do you believe gun-care products will continue to be an area of growth for dealers?

Monroe: Gun-care products are relatively stable proportionately to other products we sell. Simply put, as we sell more firearms, we sell more ancillary and tertiary items. I don’t expect gun-care sales are going to increase at a higher rate than other ancillary products. It’s important to remember to increase gun-care product orders as we increase orders for firearms.

McCunn: We can do a better job of upselling gun-care supplies and services than we are currently. We see this as an opportunity for growth.

Hall: Yes. Remember it’s always about servicing the guest needs and wants. The guest will lead you in the right direction — you just need to listen to them.

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