By Carolee Anita Boyles
The landscape of firearms sales has changed drastically in the past two years. No longer are gun owners buying in a panic, afraid their ability to purchase guns and ammunition will be curtailed in the near future. Sales have slowed down as the industry is adjusting to an altered political climate.
Epie Martinez owns Silver Gun Sports in Pueblo, Colo. Although sales have slowed, Martinez lends what customers are buying now is much the same as what they’ve purchased over the past several years.
“This past year was a much slower year than what we were accustomed to during the Obama days,” he shared. “It was one of the slowest years I can remember in the 22 years I’ve been here.”
The MSR platform continues to be popular for Martinez, and hunting rifles still are a major player.
“MSRs are as popular as they were a couple years ago,” he informed. “I’m still selling as many as I was.”
Long-range precision shooting is not a factor in his store, Martinez contends.
“I know there’s a big market for that in certain areas, but I haven’t been asked for it,” he relayed. “I won’t bring it in until I get requests for it.”
Shotguns are the long guns of choice for self-defense, of course.
“Mossbergs are real popular,” Martinez added. “The Remington 870 is one of my most popular sellers.” The 14-inch shotguns both Remington and Mossberg make also are selling well, he informed. The Mossberg version is the Shockwave; Remington offers two 14-inch versions of the 870.
In hunting guns, Martinez sells a lot of both Rugers and Remingtons.
“Hunters are buying 7mm Mags,” he observed. “Both .30-06 and .308 are good sellers, and heavy Magnum guns are real popular. Colorado is an elk hunting state, so .338s sell. I’ve seen a decline in the WSMs.”
In Pueblo, Colo., customers are still buying what they always have in recent years — particularly MSRs
and hunting guns — maintains Epie Martinez, owner of Silver Gun Sports.
According to GM Louis Janski, it’s business as usual at Fort Thompson Sporting Goods in Sherwood, Ark.,
including a boost in sales from an increased presence online.
Hot Trends: 6.5 Creedmoor,Lever-Actions
In Sherwood, Ark., Louis Janski paints a very different picture of the long-gun market. Janski, GM of Fort Thompson Sporting Goods, notes the biggest trend he has seen is a steep rise in the popularity of the 6.5 Creedmoor.
“You can pretty much sell that in any form or fashion you have it,” he noted.
One of the problems with this caliber in the past was a lack of ammunition for it, but the situation seems to be improving.
“Hornady has done real well with 6.5 ammunition,” Janski said. “I’ve got plenty of Federal, and I’ve got Browning in 6.5 Creedmoor. We ran a little low in the Hornady Precision Hunter for a little while, but we’re in good shape now.”
Part of what makes 6.5 Creedmoor attractive to hunters is that it shoots fast and flat, Janski contends.
“It also has very little recoil,” he shared. “I’ve got one, and the owner of the store, Tom Denniston, has one. I’ve always loved the 7mm-08 and the .260, and the 6.5 Creedmoor is kind of a cross between the two. The ballistic coefficient of the bullet is superb.”
The obsession with 6.5 Creedmoor has spilled over into long-range shooting as well.
“Guys are buying a lot of 6.5 Creedmoors,” Janski informed. “We’ve also sold a handful of .338 Lapua, and a few Remington Senderos in .300 Ultra Mag. I still do a few .300 Win. Mag., but most of the guys are coming in here and buying 6.5 Creedmoors.” One in particular shooters are asking for is the Kimber 84M Hunter.
In long-range precision shooting, Janski is also selling a lot of riflescopes.
“We’re selling long-range Leupold and Vortex,” he said. “We can sell anything in a Vortex PST, first or second focal plane. We have long-range shooters coming out of the woodwork. Our problem is getting scopes in here. We can get guns, but we can’t get the scopes we need.” Even in hunting rifles, the trend is — you guessed it — 6.5 Creedmoor.
Contrary to Martinez’s experience, the MSR market has almost vanished for Janski’s store.
“That market is flatlining,” he remarked. “We’ll buy a few just to have them because we have customers still wanting them, but the bottom really has dropped out of the market. Distributors are basically paying you to take them.”
Janski conveyed there isn’t anything really new in bolt-action rifles.
“Bergara has come along really well as far as developing a line is concerned,” he said. “We’re selling a lot of them; they’re outselling Remington right now.”
Lever-action guns remain popular, Janski shared.
“We can sell anything Henry makes,” he reported. “The .41 Rem. Mag. is pretty strong here, and I can sell every .308 I can get my hands on in the Long Ranger. Any of the brass Big Boys in all calibers sell, from .45-70 down to .30-30. If it’s got Henry’s name on it, I can sell it.”
Arkansas is a big duck hunting state, so the shotgun niche remains strong.
“The Browning A5 is still doing well,” Janski noted. “The Benelli Black Eagle 3 has come out, and they’re pretty strong. We sell about the same number of Beretta A400s as we do Black Eagle 3s.”
Remington 870 DM
Springfield Armory M1A 6.5 Creedmoor
Henry Big Boy Classic
Ruger PC Carbine
Staying The Course
The way Martinez approaches long-gun sales hasn’t changed much in the current “new normal.”
“I’m still doing the same things,” he disclosed. “The biggest thing I’m up against is the big chain stores: Cabela’s, Bass Pro and the like are coming into my area.”
In terms of marketing, Martinez informed his store isn’t doing anything significantly different from what he has done the past couple years.
“We have a website, and we advertise on the radio,” he shared. “We also advertise in our local Thrifty Nickel. We’ve done TV in the past, and we do some of the social media. I don’t like computers, so my daughter and nieces do my social media.”
Martinez is hoping for a good 2018.
“2017 was quite a bit slower than what I’m used to experiencing,” he observed. Even in gun safes, which is a growing market in Colorado and one Martinez is known for, sales have slowed, he added.
Likewise, Janski admitted the store’s approach to long-gun sales remains the same as it was the past several years.
“People aren’t panic buying now,” he said. “Before, they were coming in and buying anything that had a high-capacity magazine. They’re buying now because the economy is good and guns are cheap.”
An increased online presence means greater visibility for the store, Janski relayed.
“We have a couple of IT guys now, and we have our website up and we’re selling guns on GunBroker.com,” he said. “We’re new in it, but it’s doing pretty well. This is new ground for us, but that’s where the trend is going, so we need to do it. We’ve gone from three employees to about 25 in the last 10 years, so the growing pains are kind of crazy for us right now.”
Janski doesn’t see much change ahead for 2018.
“I think it’s going to be business as usual unless something happens,” he offered. “The industry is strong, and we’re in a strong hunting state. Our forte is deer hunting, duck hunting and turkey hunting and we’ve seen an increase in all. The only thing we’ve seen a decline in is the MSR part of the business.”