The State Of 2022 Gun-Care Sales

Gun-care products represent an important add-on sales driver for gun shops and shooting ranges.

Photo: Howard Communications

Dealers we spoke with last year reported remarkably strong sales of bore brushes, cleaning rods and patches, lubricants, solvents and other maintenance supplies. Some had witnessed a nearly 60% increase in sales from 2020 to 2021, while others reported sales actually doubling last year.

As we move into the third quarter of 2022, the historic firearms surge the industry has enjoyed for the past two years appears to be cooling. According to data provided by FBI’s NICS, there were 10,835,701 background checks in the first four months of 2022 compared to 15,966,389 during the same period in 2021.

As firearm sales begin to slow, how is the gun-care market faring? Are sales as strong as last year? Have rising inflation and other outside factors changed customer buying habits? Which products are in demand these days? What will the next year bring for the gun-care segment?

To get answers to these questions and more, Shooting Industry spoke with Jeania Canel, gun department manager at Jay’s Sporting Goods in Clare, Mich.; Hunter Brooks, store manager at Green Top Sporting Goods in Ashland, Va.; and Larry Hyatt, owner/president of Hyatt Guns in Charlotte, N.C.
Here are the insights and advice they shared.

SI: How well are gun-care products selling this year? How do sales compare to last year?

Brooks: Gun-cleaning products are down 5% so far this year from last year.

Canel: Gun-care products are selling. We are a bit behind last year’s sales.
Hyatt: Gun-care products are selling particularly well, and sales are up significantly from last year.

SI: What do you attribute the sales trend to?

Hyatt: Unprecedented sales over the past two years have led to growth across all of our lines of accessories, including gun-cleaning and other gun-care products. It’s important to note we also have the only true full-service gunsmithing department in our market, so we’ve also seen an uptick in our gunsmithing services, led by gun-cleaning services.

Canel: Lack of availability of product.

Brooks: The sales trend or decrease is due to the lower number of first-time gun buyers. We are not seeing the larger number of first-time gun buyers like we did in the past two years.

SI: Which gun-care products are your customers buying most?

Canel: It varies. In some cases, it may depend on what we have available.

Brooks: Gun-cleaning kits seem to always be the best-selling item in this category.

Hyatt: Our best seller continues to be all-in-one cleaning kits for pistols,
as well as bore snakes.

A close second would be AR-15 cleaning kits. The MSR market has grown so much that this makes sense. We also tend to do well with specialty cleaning products, like Wilson Combat grease, and long-range gun-cleaning products.

“Inflation is definitely impacting how much our customers are spending — not just cleaning products, but other accessories as well.”

Hunter Brooks, Store Manager Green Top Sporting Goods Ashland, Va.

SI: Have you had to tweak inventory based on changing preferences from first-time gun buyers?

Canel: No, we try to carry products that will work for a variety of customers. Gun-care products typically aren’t gun-specific.

Hyatt: We have always specialized in serving the first-time gun buyer, so we have traditionally stocked entry-level cleaning kits and other gun-care products tailor-made for the new gun owner.

Brooks: Not really. We have always presented a broad selection of cleaning equipment that would accommodate a beginner or advanced shooter. If anything, we have had to add newer products at the request of many advanced shooters (especially rifle shooters) who tend to get more technical in barrel cleaning.

SI: Is the widespread, rising inflation impacting your gun-care product sales?

Brooks: Inflation is definitely impacting how much our customers are spending — not just cleaning products, but other accessories as well.

Canel: No more than it does anything else. I think customers know no matter what you are shopping for, inflation is a part of what we are faced with in today’s world.

Hyatt: Inflation hasn’t affected it … yet, but we do expect as raw material prices rise, so will wholesale prices. Higher prices, as well as other market forces like higher gas and food prices, will likely affect consumer buying habits.

Larry Hyatt with some of his store’s top-selling gun-care SKUs. These include: Pro Shot Products
Multi Pistol Cleaning Kit (.38–.45-cal.), Hoppe’s BoreSnake, G96 Synthetic Gun Oil and Birchwood
Casey Gun Scrubber. Hyatt shared gun-cleaning services have been the biggest source of growth
for his gunsmithing business.

Jeania Canel says gun-care products are “very important” to Jay’s Sporting Goods: “If we sell a gun,
our customers need to have the means to maintain it. Add-on sales are very important.”

SI: With rising inflation, are customers buying more budget-friendly items these days?

Brooks: We have seen more hesitancy to buy accessories with gun sales. I wouldn’t say budget-friendly products are doing better, but customers are shopping prices.

Canel: I think if someone is looking to buy, they pretty much have an idea of what they want. I feel they have budgeted for it prior to shopping. If it’s more than they budgeted for, they will do a layaway and make monthly payments.

Hyatt: Customers have traditionally bought cleaning products in stages. Most will buy a cleaning kit or a bore snake with their first gun, and then, if they catch the “gun bug,” we see them adding to and improving their equipment. We’re not seeing anything changing from this paradigm, but time will tell as basic goods become more expensive.

SI: Has the supply chain improved for gun cleaning and maintenance supplies? Are you able to keep these products in stock?

Canel: Yes, I think we have done a good job of keeping “something” on the shelf. It may not be what we are accustomed to, but regardless, what we do bring in is of good quality and typically a name-brand item.

Brooks: Supply chains have improved on certain products, cleaning being one of them. So far this year, we have had no complaints on receiving cleaning products.

Hyatt: As one of the largest gun shops in the country, our buyers are usually
able to secure products many smaller retailers cannot get. We have not seen a lot of shortages, and we don’t expect them any time soon.

“Customers have traditionally bought cleaning products in stages. Most will buy a cleaning kit or a bore snake with their first gun, and then, if they catch the ‘gun bug,’ we see them adding to and improving their equipment.”

Larry Hyatt, Owner Hyatt Guns Charlotte, N.C.

SI: How important are gun-care products to your overall business?

Hyatt: With profit margins continuing to shrink on new guns, add-on sales are key to our bottom line, so gun-care products are very important, especially at point-of-sale of a new firearm.
Brooks: Gun-care products are essential to any business selling firearms and they are essential to anyone who owns a firearm.

Canel: Gun-care products are very important to our business! If we sell a gun, our customers need to have the means to maintain it. Add-on sales are very important throughout the department.

SI: Any recommendations for dealers who are looking to stock gun-care products or expand their current offering?

Canel: Most of the old-school brands such as Hoppe’s, Break Free, Rem Oil, Ballistol, etc. are still highly sought after. CLP, Butches and Lucas are some of the newer ones we have done well with.

Brooks: Just have it available and have a broad or diverse selection. Whether it is a larger kit that can clean multiple calibers or a specific kit for a 9mm that can fit in a range bag, having more choices will be best because all shooters or customers are different.

Hyatt: Keep it as simple as possible and try to keep your manufacturer list short.

SI: What do you think the next six months to a year will bring for gun-care sales?

Canel: I think it will hold steady. We have been selling guns at a steady pace so, with that said, the add-on sales will be pushed. People may not be shooting as much with the higher prices on ammo and the shortage of ammo, but maintenance is still a necessity.

Brooks: I believe we will continue to see a decrease this year in sales. As long as inflation continues to rise, gun sales will continue to fall and so will accessory sales.

Hyatt: The market is slowing down a little bit, but we have plateaued much higher than in previous bubbles, so we expect the gun-care part of our business to continue to grow.

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