By Massad Ayoob
Anyone in the business of selling anything knows the customer I’m about to describe. This buyer knows exactly what he or she wants, and “no one has made it happen.” Sometimes, of course, the seller will be unable to accommodate the request. But the seller who does fulfill the need will probably have him or her as a grateful customer forever more.
Let’s look at some of those needs and how they’ve been answered.
Over-The-Counter Solutions …
Sometimes, the solution is only as far away as your showcase. A classic example is the customer —often female, but sometimes male as well — who wants an auto pistol but has trouble racking the slide. Beginning with the Ruger LC380 and most recently with the Smith & Wesson M&P .380 Shield EZ (newly available in a 9mm variant), we have a new generation of concealment-size autoloaders expressly engineered for easy slide manipulation. If the customer insists on a 9mm power level, there’s always the Walther CCP. It, too, had light slide resistance as part of its design parameters.
… And When More Creativity Is Demanded
But there are times when you have to look beyond the showcase to find the answer to a particular customer’s perceived special needs.
Take as our first example an older man with tired eyes whom we’ll call Gary. He liked GLOCKs, and had bought several of those popular polymer pistols in various sizes and calibers. He discovered GSSF (GLOCK Sport Shooting Foundation, www.gssfonline.com) and had done well shooting a mix of steel and cardboard targets, even winning some guns at outdoor matches. When he learned an indoor version shot paper only, and monthly matches were being held within a couple of hours of where he lived, he jumped in.
There are times when you have to look beyond
the showcase to find the answer to a particular
customer’s perceived special needs.
Then Gary discovered a problem. His eyesight was such he could just barely distinguish the aiming point — the center ring of the buff-colored D-1 cardboard target — in bright outdoor light. However, the “gallery” GSSF matches used a paper version of the same target, and the scoring lines were so much less distinct he couldn’t make them out beyond 15 yards.
GSSF gives a “bragging rights” patch for anyone who can shoot a perfect 25-round score in the Pocket GLOCK class, shot at 15 yards and closer, and he had proudly claimed the prestigious “250” patch he earned with his G42 .380. However, the 9mm and larger GLOCKs were shot for 50 rounds at up to 25 yards in this version of the game. Unable to distinguish his aiming point, Gary started missing the center on the long stage and the coveted “500” patch stayed maddeningly out of reach.
The sales force at the host entity, Tallahassee Indoor Shooting Range, was able to help. They sold him a scope mount produced by UM Tactical. The company’s UM3 unit slides onto the accessory rail of a Gen3 or later GLOCK, creating a bridge above the slide on which a telescopic sight can be mounted. (With greater magnification, Gary feels he’ll be able to finally find the little center scoring circle at 25 yards, and hold some crosshairs on it.)
The folks at Tallahassee Indoor Range procured a repeat customer that day.
Another Lifetime Customer
A second example is found in a customer we’ll name John, a member of the baby boomer vintage who had bonded with the third-generation Smith & Wesson auto pistols when they came out — and bought so many of them he wasn’t worried when S&W discontinued them after polymer-framed striker-fired guns took over the market. John found the double-action-only (DAO) models fit his hand and his reach to the trigger the best (the triggers being set further back than traditional DAO S&Ws of the same size and caliber).
Unfortunately, he was also from the generation who grew up assuming “semi-automatic pistol” equaled “manual thumb safety,” and wasn’t 100% comfortable with one not so equipped. Smith & Wesson, you’ll recall, manufactured these DAO guns to the prevailing KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) mentality, and felt they didn’t need a manual safety any more than they needed a de-cocking lever. This meant S&W DAOs were all “slick-slide” point and shoot.
Dealer Rick Devoid at Tarnhelm Supply in Boscawen, N.H., had the answer for this picky patron’s particular perceived needs. A certified Smith & Wesson armorer, Rick knew S&W had manufactured the DAOs by simply putting a cylindrical plug where a safety/de-cock lever would have been. So, his solution was to remove the plug from the customer’s Model 3953 and install a safety/de-cock lever from the same size and caliber Model 3913. Voila! — a dedicated manual safety on a DAO S&W. In John’s case, it was another confirmed customer for life.
The Personalization Quandary
This next customer takes many forms. It might be brother and sister cops seeking a special retirement gift for a brother officer, or just anyone who wants to have a personal touch added to a favorite firearm. Personalizing can take several avenues.
Some manufacturers will, on special order, stamp a new gun with a unique serial number. (Check with the requested maker as to current policy. They will probably want something numerical in the identifying stamping.) I have a Dan Wesson .357 revolver, Kahr K9 and a .32-caliber Seecamp pistol all with my initials: the alphanumeric serials on each are “MFA-1.” When one of my chiefs of police retired, he had at least one custom .45 built on a Caspian 1911 frame; the serial number, if I recall correctly, was “Chief [His Last Name] 501” — the latter part being his call number at the department.
Personalizing on a factory order can go beyond the serial number. When a dear friend did some favors for my family she wouldn’t take money for, I got her a pistol from the Smith & Wesson Performance Center; they engraved “To [Her Name] From Mas” on the slide.
There’s another route to engraving a customer’s gun if you don’t have the equipment in-house. Almost every jewelry store is set up to, at the very least, do letter engraving or laser inscriptions. (I wouldn’t suggest trying Jared Jewelers, however, given their “gun-free zone” policy.) There is, however, very likely an independent jewelry store in your town that would be happy to do it. Lending them the gun could cause problems, more in some jurisdictions than others. However, the slide of a semi-automatic pistol or just the side plate from a revolver is merely a gun part — confirm local laws before moving forward on this.
I know a dad who had a 3″ S&W customized for his young daughter by gunsmith Russ Jefferson. The gun’s good looks were enhanced when a local jeweler engraved her initials, JLA, on the side plate. Many years later, the dad is still appreciative.
Bottom line here: Your ability to find answers to unusual needs cements customer relations and spreads the word you are the go-to entity within your particular retail domain.
What unusual requests have you helped solve from behind the counter? Let the SI team know! email@example.com