Trends In Handguns

Concealability Here To Stay —
Plus, 10mm & Rimfire Growth Potential

Image: Springfield Armory

It often seems like there isn’t a lot of change in the world of handguns. Ask a gun store owner about top sellers and the answers tend to be pretty similar — regardless of where the store is located. 

Customers reliably lean toward the GLOCK 19, SIG SAUER P320, Springfield Armory Hellcat, Smith & Wesson Shield EZ and other mainstays. Still, this doesn’t mean change is absent from the market. It’s just that sometimes you need to squint to see it.

Consider the recent revival of 10mm. While .40 caliber has been in a steady decline in the wake of abandonment by police departments across the country, its big brother is experiencing a resurgence.

“Forty caliber is extinct. I mean, it’s a dinosaur right now,” asserted Patrick Hayden, owner of Kentucky Gun Company in Bardstown, Ky. “But 10mm is kind of a sleeper. It’s still a niche thing, but it’s growing in popularity.”

Hayden attributes the change to recent handgun introductions — including 10mm variants of the Springfield Armory XD-M Elite and Smith & Wesson M&P — and the marketing efforts supporting them.

There’s also the uniqueness factor, suggested Henry Parro, owner of Parro’s Gun Shop in Waterbury, Vt.

“It’s one of the calibers you either like or you hate,” he proposed. “It has a mystique about it. Everyone else has a 9mm, so I want a 10mm.”

Carry Guns

Even when it comes to the industry stalwarts, there’s sometimes room for a little variety. Parro’s, for example, has had success with a GLOCK 43x MOS package by Shield Arms that includes 15-round magazines. It has quickly become a top seller for Parro’s concealed carry market.

Interestingly, it wasn’t even something they were considering selling until customers started asking about it.

“We looked into them and the next thing you know we’re carrying them, and everybody loved them,” Parro recalled.

Of course, there’s always going to be a strong demand for guns like the SIG SAUER P365 and Smith & Wesson Shield EZ, said Kathy Peisert, owner of Great Guns in Liberty, Mo.

The latter is particularly popular with women.

“The slide is so easy; a lot of women shooters can pull it back where they can’t with some of the other guns,” she noted.

The P365, on the other hand, appeals to people more concerned about magazine capacity.

“That’s really important,” she confirmed. “They want as many as they can get in a small gun. Just in case.”

Hayden, in Kentucky, is also seeing interest in the new FN Reflex, one of the latest micro 9mm high-capacity handguns.

“It’s basically a copycat of the SIG P365, but it’s been a pretty good seller so far,” he shared.

“Forty caliber is extinct. I mean, it’s a dinosaur right now. But 10mm is kind of a sleeper. It’s still a niche thing, but it’s growing in popularity. ”

Patrick Hayden, Owner
Kentucky Gun Company Bardstown, Ky.

Range Guns

While we may love those  micro 9s when it comes to carrying, it’s a different story when it’s time to pack a range bag.

“Most people aren’t taking their concealed carry guns out for true range work or to shoot for enjoyment,” Hayden contends.

Instead, they prefer higher-capacity guns that are bigger and heavier, often with an optics cut.

“Not everybody has the intention of putting a red dot on there, but they want the option down the road,” he said.

It’s also not unusual for customers to include a .22 rimfire among their range options. This trend has accelerated with the introduction of higher-capacity .22s like the SIG SAUER P322 and others that mimic larger-caliber counterparts.

“They’re trying to imitate the full-size gun without the price of shooting 9mm,” he said. “It’s just a cheaper way to shoot.”

At Parro’s in Vermont, customers are showing interest in the new Springfield Armory Echelon, one of the latest modular polymer handguns. Boosting this interest was a special event where the shop was given the state’s first look at the new gun, with customers getting a chance to shoot it on the range.

Other popular range options include the FN 509, SIG 220 Legion and various offerings from Dan Wesson.

“A gun we just started carrying on a regular basis is the new DWX. 

It’s kind of a hybrid and people love it,” Parro relayed.

At Great Guns in Missouri, range-oriented customers are more likely to pick from a 1911 stable that includes Kimber, Springfield Armory, SIG SAUER and Wilson Combat.

But when are customers ready to move on from a less-expensive polymer gun to one of these pricier options? There’s no way to predict it, according to Peisert.

“It’s hard to tell. It might be their first gun; if they want it they don’t mind spending that kind of money. Some people want the best there is out there,” she acknowledged. “It’s more likely they’ll start out with something less expensive.”

The Range Rental Advantage

There is a built-in sales advantage for shops with a range — at least in terms of helping customers figure out what’s best for them. A well-stocked rental wall allows shops to offer something like test drives at a car dealership.

“Obviously you can’t have everything in your display cases, but we try to have the most popular guns,” said Parro, in Vermont.

The option can be attractive to veteran customers when something higher end — like the new Dan Wesson DWX — shows up on the rental wall. But it’s particularly valuable for newer shooters.

His store offers a “try before you buy” program. If someone is serious about a particular gun, the sales staff can set them up.

“We give them the gun and some ammo and they go to the range to shoot it,” Parro said. “They can purchase it or maybe try something else. It gives them the option of trying different guns.”

Hayden at Kentucky Guns sees the same thing playing out at his shop, which offers a $10 hourly rate giving customers access to numerous rental options. This helps novice shooters get a better handle on the right caliber and platform — before they spend a lot of money on a gun.

“Some of them are a little bit nervous and don’t really know what to ask for or what they need,” Hayden shared. “A gun might look cool, but when you shoot it, it might not fit quite right. So, you’ve got to find the right match.”

“I like to be the first kid on the block. When we get a Dan Wesson DWX, we get pictures of it and get it right up on social media.”

 Henry Parro, Owner
Parro’s Gun Shop Waterbury, Vt.

Getting The Word Out

Among the bigger challenges facing shops these days are finding ways to reach customers. It’s not easy for any business. It becomes far more complicated after factoring in the difficulties in working with social media platforms that are unfriendly toward guns.

The Kentucky Gun Store has taken an aggressive marketing approach, with a full-time employee managing the shop’s digital-centric message. This includes social media and email campaigns, with the occasional foray into television and radio.

Radio and TV are good for locally focused promotions, but the digital options — including weekly email blasts and a newsletter — allow a much larger reach. And with 80,000 Facebook followers, they do their best to keep the avenue open, without running afoul of the company’s censors.

“Occasionally we get caught up doing something against their policies, but you just need to know you’ve got to follow their rules,” Hayden stated. “It’s their platform, and it’s still such a very powerful way of advertising that is relatively inexpensive. You can’t ignore it.”

Parro’s uses a similar approach. While there wasn’t much need to advertise during COVID, everyone is getting back to full inventory, reviving the need to stand out against competitors.

They’ll dip into the local radio market during store events, but most of the emphasis is on Facebook and Instagram. They’re also starting to explore videos. 

One of the major goals is to make sure customers know when the shop has something different or unique.

“I like to be the first kid on the block,” Parro explained. “When we get a Dan Wesson DWX, we get pictures of it and get it right up on social media. What seems to drive the conversation is when you get a new product.”

One of the keys to staying out of trouble, he said, is “We make it very clear we don’t give prices out and nothing is for sale on Facebook. This is just purely what’s new.”

Social media isn’t for everyone, however. At Great Guns, Peisert prefers to skip social media in favor of using local radio, particularly for special events. 

Otherwise, she relies on the reputation of a shop that’s been there for 43 years. 

“It’s being in business for so long and having good pricing,” she reasoned. “I think word of mouth is probably the best for us.” 

SIG SAUER P322 Coyote

FN 545 MRD

Dan Wesson DWX

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