Find Your Self-Defense Mainstays

By Carolee Anita Boyles

Self-defense products continue to be hot sellers. Whether customers are purchasing handguns, shotguns, MSRs or non-lethal tools for self-protection, the category continues to sell well and bring in customers — even in today’s softened market.

Chuck Cunningham is the sales manager for Annie’s Guns in Fremont, Calif. He shared handguns and shotguns continue to be the backbone of his self-defense sales.

“If a customer is buying a 12-gauge shotgun, it’s generally something like an 18- or 20-inch barrel from Mossberg or Remington — usually a Mossberg 500 or 590, or a Remington 870 Tactical,” he relayed.

In handguns, most sales are in 9mm. When it comes to brand, customers are typically looking for something to fit their hands.

“If it’s from Smith & Wesson it’s usually the SD9 VE,” he noted. “If it’s a GLOCK, it’s usually a GLOCK 17 or 19, from SIG SAUER the SP2022, from Beretta the 92FS and from Springfield Armory the XD series in 9mm.”

In a positive trend, Cunningham still sees a lot of first-time shooters.

“When we qualify someone as a first-time shooter, one of the things we do is get them into a safety class,” he said. “After they take the class, they progress to a hands-on firing class. We start them out on a .22 LR and then progress them when they feel comfortable. After they’ve done that, when they purchase a gun they usually stick with a 9mm.”

Cunningham shared neighborhood violence continues to drive sales in his locale.

“The story I hear a lot is the neighbor down the street got burglarized,” he said. “And it’s not just once; it’s maybe two or three times in someone’s neighborhood.”

Recently, a local news story with video from a homeowner’s internal security system showed burglars tying up the homeowner frightened a lot of people, Cunningham said.

“That was right in this neighborhood. Now a lot of people are deciding, ‘It’s time,’” he added.

Mossberg 590 Shockwave

Smith & Wesson 509

Non-Lethal Alternatives

Besides hosting classes for customers who purchase handguns, Cunningham also offers classes in non-lethal methods of self-defense. He has an instructor in the store who is qualified on Sabre products and who teaches a class once a month on non-lethal options such as pepper sprays and gels, stun guns and other products.

“There are a lot of those customers out there,” Cunningham affirmed. “The people who still aren’t sure about having a gun, or they’re frightened of guns. They want something, but they’re not sure they can take a life. There hasn’t been much of a rise or a decline; it’s been pretty steady.” (Cunningham shared around 10 percent of these customers eventually go on to purchase firearms.)

The most popular product in non-lethal options, according to Cunningham, is pepper gel with blue marking dye.

“As we explain it in class, they spray the person who’s trying to attack them, get away and then call 911,” he said. “When the officer arrives and asks who did this, the person can tell the officer, ‘Look for the guy who looks like Papa Smurf.’”

Although he sells several pepper gels, Cunningham claimed Sabre pepper gel with blue dye is his number-one seller.
“Once they see that blue dye, it’s what they purchase,” he said.

Training is a key part of Paul Davidson’s business plan. Female firearms instructors,
like Jacyln Scott (pictured here), help foster a welcoming environment for first-time
gun owners.

Find The Right Fit

At Davidson’s Guns in Henderson, Nev., Owner Paul Davidson has seen a lot more self-defense sales in general over the last couple years — as well as an increase in smaller, more concealable guns.

“There’s also been an increased interest in CCW classes. We’ve had a lot of women coming in to purchase their first concealed carry firearms, both for home and personal carry,” he shared.

News stories about break-ins and other crimes are helping to drive the desire of customers to purchase self-defense firearms, Davidson noted. The store offers a wide variety of self-defense classes, including CCW classes, personal protection both inside and outside the home and basic firearms handling for beginners.

When a new customer comes in, Davidson has instructed his staff to start by finding out as much about the customer as they can.

“We try to find out what they’re looking for in a firearm,” he said. “Is it for self defense at home, or self defense they’ll be carrying personally? We encourage them to take classes and find out what gun fits for them. For example if you’re at home, it’s much easier to have a larger-framed firearm with a higher-capacity magazine than it is if you’re going to be keeping your gun in your purse or a holster on your body.”

SABRE Red Pepper Gel

Shotguns are especially suited to have at home, according to Davidson.

“If someone hears a shotgun racking, it’s going to make them think twice,” he said. “They may not hear you pulling a handgun out of a holster or racking a slide. A shotgun makes a very distinctive, very loud noise. The one we recommend depends on the situation in which the customer wants to able to protect themselves.”

Likely the case at your store, Davidson’s customers buy a mix of brands and models.

“We’ve been selling a lot of concealable guns for people to be able to carry,” he said. “We sell a lot of Smith & Wesson Shield and Bodyguard, GLOCK 42 and 43 and Ruger LC9. The most popular are the Bodyguard and the GLOCK, because they’re small and compact and are at a great price point. They’re both very reliable, very easily concealed firearms and have good prices on them.” One reason for the great prices right now, Davidson shared, is manufacturers are trying to move inventory and are offering a lot of sales and promotions.
In shotguns, customers are looking for the Mossberg 500, the Mossberg Shockwave and the Remington Tac-14.

“The Shockwave has a 14-inch barrel and a bird’s head grip on it, so it’s a lot smaller shotgun,” Davidson said. “The Mossberg 500 they’re looking for is the one with either a pistol grip or a shoulder stock, but with an 18-inch barrel rather than a longer hunting or sport barrel. The Remington Tac-14 is basically Remington’s version of the Shockwave.”

Federal Premium Ammunition Personal Defense HST Micro

Comp-Tac Flatline Holster

Like much of the industry, Davidson is looking forward to the passage of the Hearing Protection Act.

“When you’re training — especially a new person — one of the things that happens is the first time they fire the gun, the loud noise startles them. With the suppressor on the gun, it still has noise, but it reduces the initial shock,” he noted. Davidson asserted this will help new shooters build confidence as they practice and begin developing their shooting skills.

Like Cunningham’s store, Davidson still has customers who ask for non-lethal products for self defense.

“If a customer isn’t ready for a firearm, there are several non-lethal options we recommend,” he said. “TASER makes a couple different models that use the same type of technology most police officers carry. They shoot barbs about 15 feet, which keeps the person at a distance; they’re not close enough to you to where you’re having to use something like a stun gun to actually reach out and touch them to incapacitate them. The Taser will disable anyone who is trying to attack you.”

He said TASER products use NMI, neuromuscular incapacitation technology, which temporarily overrides an attacker’s central nervous system, limiting muscular control for 30 seconds. Pepper spray also ranks high on Davidson’s list.

In today’s current sales environment, it’s important to offer both firearms and other non-lethal alternatives to boost self-defense sales — and cater to an increasingly diverse group of nontraditional shooters.

What concealed-carry firearms and non-lethal products have stood out to your customers? Let us know at or post your thoughts on SI’s website.

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