In-Demand Long Guns

New Products, Long-Range Shooting And
3-Gun Competition Boost Business

By Kevin Russelburg

America has a deep, rich history with long guns and that interest has continued (even increased) with the newest innovations hitting the market from today’s manufacturers. For your customers that are interested in training, they’ll hear instructors say the purpose of a handgun is to get to their rifle. And it’s obvious why rifles are preferred for hunting, sporting and defensive purposes. Those who learn and subscribe to this in practice will look to have long guns in their collections. So, these owners also tend to have dedicated purposes for each type of gun they own, which means an opportunity for additional sales for you.

As you know, there tends to be seasonality in firearm sales. The summer months are generally slower, and things pick up in the fall due to hunting season — resulting in purchases of bolt-action rifles and shotguns. Sales in modern sporting rifles (MSRs) and M4-type rifles are generally more consistent throughout the year, especially at today’s prices and availability.

Some market trends are clearly driven by the state and local laws. “Here in Illinois, rifle hunting is limited to coyote, so we don’t sell rifles for hunting,” said Pete Negro, managing partner of The Range At 355, a shooting range, training facility and retail store in Bolingbrook, Ill. “Most of our sales are for sporting rifles and we sell quite a few MSR-style rifles on a consistent basis. The ability to offer a wide selection of manufacturers and models is key.”

Often referred to as “tinker toys for adults” due to the amount of accessories and their relative ease of modifications, MSR-style rifles remain popular for many shooters. Attractive price points, a variety of customizable accessories and personal security concerns are some significant factors driving sales in MSRs at Range 355.

“The MSR platform is intriguing to many people due to its utility. A range of caliber options and seemingly endless options for accessories are two of the many attractive reasons why customers like them. With a quick change of a complete upper, a shooter can switch from 5.56mm to 300 AAC. The cost can be significantly less than the cost of a new rifle and offers a variety while at the range,” Negro said.

Because there are many different options available, providing a large selection to fit most customer tastes is important. “There are a number of caliber options available, so we try to stock a little bit of everything,” Negro added.

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Adept for pest or predator control, Navy Arms’ Winchester 1892
“Coyote Killer” is chambered in .44 Rem. Mag. to ensure there’s enough
stopping power to take down everything from coyotes to deer and hogs.

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“The Ruger Precision is a good product for shooters who want to make
long-range hits from a more modestly-priced platform. We carry a few
different models and calibers, but .308 is still the most popular,
and we sell out quickly when shipments come in.” — Pete Negro,
The Range At 355

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The Benelli ETHOS is now available in a 28-gauge configuration. While
developing this shotgun, Benelli worked with Fiocchi to produce the world’s
first 3-inch, 28-gauge load.

If One Is Good, Three Is Better

Increasing sales in long guns often means you should provide an array of upgrades available for purchase in addition to the rifle or shotgun itself. Traditional platforms, such as the Remington 700, have long been a favorite for hunters and competitive distance shooters. However, these two groups have very different needs. Hunters may need to purchase a scope, a sling, and possibly a cleaning kit.

Competition shooters — especially those in 3-Gun — are looking for sub-MOA performance, which requires the potential for quite a few modifications. Items such as bedded stocks or chassis options are more of a personal choice to the individual shooter, which provides an opportunity for dealers to deliver additional services to these customers. Although it’s not always possible to have an in-house gunsmith, working closely with one in your area can provide opportunities for everyone to increase sales and provide excellent customer service — a win-win.

3-Gun competitions are experiencing a growth in popularity in Negro’s area, which brings a unique opportunity to foster a relationship with these passionate customers. “The growing interest in 3-Gun competitions is a driving force in sales of MSRs and tactical shotguns in our area. Long-gun manufacturers have recognized the need for options, which allows for gun owners to customize their firearms to their liking. They’ve responded by getting creative and growing the market through innovative products.”

In shotguns, consumers generally fall in a couple main categories. There are those who are looking for a utility pump shotgun for hunting or defense, and the Remington 870 and Mossberg 500 are excellent products for this set of consumers. Beyond that, the next categories include bird hunters, or those involved in skeet, trap or sporting clays. These shooters tend to have a fairly good idea of what they’re looking for which could be a semi-auto or an over/under that fits their specific needs.

“In our store, most of our shotgun sales are of the tactical variety — with 3-Gun competition types selling the best. In fact, we’re going to start setting up competitions at the range. One of the things that sets us apart from other ranges in the area is if you can buy it here, you can shoot it here,” Negro added.

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Meopta’s MeoRed compact reflex sight is well suited for tactical use,
along with 3-Gun competitions, target shooting and hunting close-range
game, such as hogs. It’s made from aircraft-grade aluminum alloy and is
fully waterproof and shockproof.

The Long-Range Rush

Advances in optics technology, coupled with the economics of reduced costs, are allowing people to get into the long-range/sniper shooting market.

“We have a section of the store set up just for optics,” Negro noted. “There are so many considerations when buying a scope, so we help our customers. Eye relief is one of the most important for people to understand. Each person is unique, and just because a particular brand has an excellent product and reputation, it may not be the best choice for everyone. We feel strongly before a customer spends as much money, or even more, on a scope than they did on their rifle, they should be able try it out and make sure it fits.”

Long guns are growing in popularity, in part, due to manufacturers offering a variety of new, exciting designs and accessories at lower price points. “The Ruger Precision is a good product for shooters who want to make long-range hits from a more modestly-priced platform. We carry a few different models and calibers, but .308 is still the most popular, and we sell out quickly when shipments come in. We stock a variety of caliber options, which also drives sales,” Negro added.

At Range 355, Negro said education plays a key part in long-gun sales — especially for those interested in long-range shooting.

“We make every effort to ask the customer very specific questions in order to educate them and help them understand what may be the best option to fit their needs,” he said. “Calibers such as 6.5 Creedmoor, .243, and .338 Lapua are part of the reason for the increased popularity in bolt-action rifles and very desirable options for the long-distance crowd.”

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Capitalize on the continued popularity of the AK-47 platform by offering
magazines, cleaning kits and other accessories for your customers.

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BLACKHAWK! debuted a line of suppressors at this year’s NRA Annual Meeting,
with calibers ranging from .22 LR to .338 Lapua Magnum.

Look For More Opportunities

Providing additional services beyond the sale is an excellent way to increase sales revenues. “We have a reloading section set up in the store to introduce customers to the equipment and supplies needed,” Negro said. “We offer everything a shooter needs to get started and we keep the section stocked with supplies to make it as convenient as possible. As far as I know, there aren’t any other operations in our area offering this service. This especially appeals to the sporting shooters who use our range, but also precision shooters who are looking for quality supplies and convenience.”

Dealers, you can improve year-round long-gun sales by engaging with your customers regularly and making sure you have a good inventory of new and popular items. Readily available add-ons and other accessories such as optics, magazines and ammunition will appeal to your customers and keep them coming back.

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