Long-Gun Shift

Recent Trends Drive Sales In Long Guns & Accessories

By Carolee Anita Boyels

The long-gun market has undergone enormous changes over the past several years. The popularity of MSRs has meant a shift in calibers and changes in the accessories customers purchase.

Joseph Newton is one the gun managers at Bill Jackson’s Gun Shop in Pinellas Park, Fla. He said sales of long guns for traditional hunting have slowed down in the past couple of years.

“I think it has a lot to do with the economy,” Newton observed. “We used to have customers who bought a new hunting rifle every couple years. We’re not in a ‘hunting’ county, so it’s never been a real strong market with us — but it’s been even slower since the economy slowed down.”

Newton mentioned, however, sales of modern sporting rifles (MSRs) in the store have increased. “Any time there are concerns about restrictions on MSRs, sales increase,” he said.

One change Newton sees in the marketplace is who’s buying.

“More women are buying guns for self-defense, and are taking our classes,” he said. Although this is most noticeable where handguns are concerned, Newton said, the number of women purchasing long guns for self-defense has increased as well, just not as much as it has for handguns. “We’ve also seen a small increase in the number of women buying MSRs,” he added.

Some of the most popular guns in Bill Jackson’s for self-defense are the Mossberg 500 series and the Remington 870. “In rifles, people are looking for Colt or Daniel Defense,” he said.

Most customers are looking for a rifle in the $1,000 to $1,200 range, Newton said. “Then there’s another group looking for something in the $600 to $700 range,” he said.

Although he feels the economy is part of the reason why sales of traditional hunting guns have declined, Newton added the reasons are much broader than that.

“There’s a lot of chatter on the Internet, not all of it necessarily accurate,” he said. “We have a lot of customers come in who are worried about losing their gun rights. They’re also concerned about their safety. I think this is why we’re seeing more women coming in; they’re single moms who have a home and family to take care of, and they’re arming themselves.”
To accommodate these customers, Bill Jackson’s carries smaller-framed, home-defense shotguns with a youth-type stock.

“We think when someone finds a good quality gun to fit their hands and body, they’ll tend to bond with that gun and shoot better with it,” Newton said.

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The Mossberg 500 pump shotgun platform received an update for 2016:
the Mossberg 500 – ATI Scorpion. A TALO Group Distributor exclusive,
this Mossberg and ATI collaboration features a six-position stock,
the ATI Halo Heatshield, ATI Halo Side Saddle and accessory rail options.

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Also new for 2016, the Expanse M4 from Colt is available at an entry-level
price point for your customers that want an MSR-style rifle. It’s available
in 5.56×45 NATO with a 16.1-inch barrel and can be upgraded with the addition
of a forward assist and dust cover.

Self-Defense Long Guns

At East Main Trading Company in Farmington, N.M., manager Chad Wright said long guns in a moderate price range are the ones that have been moving for them.

“The Savage Axis and the Ruger American are in the moderate price point, and a number of other manufacturers have been trying to get in on it too,” he said.

Wright observed he’s not seeing as many sales in bolt-action guns as he did in the past. “In hunting, I think people are borrowing a buddy’s gun or their father’s gun instead of purchasing a new gun,” he said. “The people who are buying are purchasing either less expensive or very high-end firearms. Everything in between seems to be kind of slow.”

Although Wright is seeing some sales in self-defense guns, this trend is not as strong as what Newton is experiencing in Florida.

“People with money aren’t necessarily spending it on a gun for hunting,” he said. “They’re spending it more on a gun for self-defense. If someone is going to buy one gun this year, they’re not going to buy a bolt-action hunting rifle; they’d rather have some kind of an MSR or a self-defense gun.”

In rifles, Wright said, two of the favorite calibers are .223 and .308.

“As far as rifles go, those are still what people are buying, just because there’s a lot of ammunition out there,” he said. “We’ve also sold a lot of AKs.”

In shotguns, the strongest sellers still are 12-gauge guns.

“Those sales are probably 50/50 between self-defense and sporting,” Wright said. “Our sales have picked up for self-defense shotguns in the past year.”

Wright said a mixture of politics and the economy are driving the changes in the marketplace for long guns.

“We’re seeing increased sales today (one day after Obama announced his plans for executive action on gun control),” Wright said. “It’s going to continue until after the election. I think many products will become hard to get again.”

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Manager Chad Wright says moderately priced long guns have been
selling well at his store, especially those in .223 and .308.

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For the first time, Okay Industries SureFeed MSR magazines are available
commercially. The company co-developed 30-round M16 magazines with the U.S. military in 1973.

If It Goes On An MSR, It Sells

When it comes to accessories, Newton said, the strongest sales are in items for MSRs.

“As sales in these rifles increase, so do the sale of accessories for them,” he said. “We have people coming in daily looking for optics, handguards, bipods and things like that.”

Wright sees the same thing at his store.

“People are more likely to spend money on accessories for their MSR than they are upgrading their hunting scope,” he said. “We’re selling lots of tactical red-dot sights, which people are putting on their MSRs.”

If it will go on an MSR, it’s popular, Wright said.

“Our sales of Magpul products have been increasing every year,” he said. “They do anything and everything for an MSR.”
In response to what customers are asking for, Newton said, the gun department at Bill Jackson’s has changed over the past five years. Where it was weighted to hunting and target shooting a few years ago, now it’s much more about handguns and tactical long guns now, including MSRs.

“We saw what the demand was, and we changed our inventory,” he said. “We’re much more on the home-defense side of things now, and not as big into hunting as we were five years ago. We had camo and accessories for hunting back in 2012, but now the spaces where we had those things have been taken up with accessories for the modern sporting rifle.”

Although this is not a change, Newton said, the staff at Bill Jackson’s take great pride in listening to what customers are asking for and responding to their needs.

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Luth-AR’s MBA-3 Carbine stock allows shooters to have
full adjustability with their rifles.

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The V200, part of Viridian’s Weapon-Mounted Long Range Illuminator Series,
boasts a 300-yard range and provides a seven-position, manual focus lens.

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The Trijicon MRO (Miniature Rifle Optic) is a sealed miniature reflex
sight intended for use on long guns to provide fast target acquisition.

“We try to find out what their real concern is, and what they’re looking for,” he said. “Then we support them in that area; we ask a lot of questions and then try to address their concern. What we hear from our customers drives what we carry in our inventory.”

According to Wright, East Main Trading Company has also adjusted its inventory to meet customer demand.

“Ten years ago we had maybe 15 MSRs to choose from,” he said. “Now we have probably 80 in the store. In accessories, we’re always adding new products. We have lots of different scopes from low-end quality optics for $50 right up to scopes for $1,500.”

Newton noted customer service is the most important part of what Bill Jackson’s does.

“We have a competitor down the road, and we get customers in here all the time who say they feel we’re more approachable than our competition,” he said. “They don’t feel we’re talking down to them. We realize someone who’s coming in to buy their first gun doesn’t understand a lot about guns, and we let them know we’ve all been there. We do our best to make them feel welcome. We want our customers to be comfortable when they’re in an area that’s new to them.”

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New for this year, Traditions Performance Firearms introduces the
Stock Pack into the company’s accessory line. The Stock Pack was
designed to help hunters and shooters carry important accessory
items securely on their rifle; it fits most conventional butt-
stocked muzzleloader and centerfire rifles.

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