Personal Defense Beyond The Gun

Highlight Accessories, Safety To Increase Add-On Sales.

Firearms dealers are seeing fewer sales of personal-defense firearms compared with the frenzied selling during the first half of last year. Dealers worked overtime during the “crazy” months of 2013 to match thousands of consumers with their desired handguns and long guns.

At times, during last year’s frantic buying sprees, consumers lined up as many as 30-deep at the sales counter of Great Guns in Liberty, Mo. This created a buy-the-gun-and-go scenario, which meant potential add-on sales were deferred — and, perhaps, lost. No doubt, many other gun dealers experienced similar challenges.

“I think too often after the customer said, ‘I’ll take that gun,’ dealers just walked them up to the counter without asking if they needed a holster or a box of ammo or a laser. Depending on how busy we are, we can get lazy with selling accessories,” said Kathy Peisert, Great Guns president.

The sale of beyond-the-gun products has always been key to dealers’ profits; however, with the vast number of firearms sold last year, they will be even more important for sales in 2014. This is prediction of Rob Southwick, of Southwick Associates, who has tracked and analyzed consumer-buying habits for more than 20 years. For 2014, he forecasts stabilized sales compared to recent years.

“I don’t think we’ll see a drop, as enthusiasm for recreational shooting and hunting remains strong, but growth rates may have peaked. Sales growth may be more likely in accessories and in upgrades as our new shooters discover their personal shooting and product preferences,” Southwick said.


Kathy Peisert, Great Guns president, takes her customers’ personal- and home-defense needs
seriously. At left, she models the Concealed Carry Hobo Sac from Gun Tote’n Mamas.

Selling Missed Accessories

What home- and personal-defense add-on products did you or your customers overlook during the busyness of last year? Perhaps those customers are ready for some training time with their defensive firearms at the range. That means adequate eye and hearing protection. Add in a range bag, carrying case, mini-lockbox, extra magazines and a gun cleaning kit — there is a long list of must-have accessories.

Your customers may be in the market for gun-mounted lasers or other enhanced sights, rail-mounted lights, holsters or handbags for concealed carry. How about knives for personal-defense — no ammo required?

Do you offer classes in basic personal- and home-defense training? Perhaps it’s time to host an outside trainer to conduct non-shooting classes at your store, or full training at a local range. The training itself provides nice profits and leads to even more follow-on sales.

In Liberty, Mo., Peisert, who has been president of Great Guns since 1981, has supplied three generations of Missouri gun enthusiasts. She takes her customers’ personal- and home-defense needs seriously. Most of her customers purchase handguns for defensive use, but some prefer the heavier insurance of a shotgun. Both provide opportunities for security sales, with the long guns opening the possibility of a large gun safe sale.

Great Guns’ defensive customers generally look to purchase holsters, speedloaders, extra magazines and, of course, ammunition at the same time they buy their defensive handgun, or soon after, Peisert says. What other follow-on sales is she seeing?

“Consumers are buying more lasers, particularly those from Crimson Trace. Ladies especially like those because, if they have to grab the gun fast, they don’t have to get into their shooting stance to use it,” Peisert said. “We haven’t had a concealed-carry class for the past two years that hasn’t had at least one woman — if not two or three — in it. A lot of women are starting to get interested in protecting themselves and carrying guns.”


Viridian recently added its Reactor 5 green laser sight for the Ruger LC9 and LC380.

Great Guns also carries laser sights from Viridian. Speedloaders — HKS is Great Guns’ top-selling brand — are also in great demand. Their top-selling defensive flashlight brands are SureFire and Streamlight.

Concealed-carry firearms provide many options for add-on sales.

“A lot of women want holsters they can wear inside their jeans or dress pants. They also like it to have a clip so they can attach it to some designated spot in their purse. I sell two different brands of concealed-carry purse, Gun Tote’n Mamas and Roma,” Peisert said.
Great Guns offers three brands of leather holsters — Tagua, Jason Winnie and Don Hume.

For your customers, especially women, who want non-lethal, personal-defense products, are you adequately stocked with pepper/Mace sprays, keychain alarms, blinding personal lights and earsplitting whistles? All these have their place in your personal-defense arsenal of products. Animal repellants — think joggers and those who walk their dogs — also belong in the personal-defense category of products.


SABRE Red offers a wide range of personal-defense products
to consumers, such as the Spitfire Pepper Spray Keychain.

In non-lethal personal-defense products, Great Guns sells pepper spray/Mace products from SABRE and Spitfire. Peisert says her customers prefer not to carry Tasers or personal-defense batons.

“I sell a lot of keychain items for students and women who work in places where they can’t carry a gun. And I sell some of SABRE’s GateKeeper Door Stop Alarms that you can put under a hotel or bedroom door to protect against an intruder,” Peisert said.

Knife sales for personal-defense have increased at Great Guns since a change in the law in 2012.

“I am selling a lot more of the auto knives since Missouri passed a law allowing them to be carried. A lot of people will carry a knife where they are prohibited from carrying a gun,” Peisert said. “Benchmade is our top-selling brand.”


With an emphasis on quick access, GunVault’s Bio 2000 features
a patented No-Eyes Keypad with fingerprint scanner.

Selling Safety

Great Guns’ personal- and home-defense customer demographics, as is the case in many regions, increasingly are younger families with children and retirees who “never thought they would need a gun or even have to lock their doors,” Peisert said.

While some customers want gun safes for the added assurance of protecting their valuables, Peisert says most are more concerned about their lives and their families’ lives.

“The majority of folks I talk to say, ‘Let them take whatever they want. I don’t care. Insurance will cover that. I just don’t want to be hurt or see my family hurt,’” Peisert said.

This means consumers are keen on whatever will make them more effective in their defensive tactics. Offering firearms training, in today’s environment, is important, as consumers seek ways to safely handle firearms and to use them correctly in the face of danger. Great Guns offers Missouri’s mandated CCW class, plus a Conceal & Carry course.

Peisert says that basic safety instruction is vitally important for personal- and home-defense firearm customers, even for those who, though they’re purchasing a gun, are not keen on using it.

“There is a small minority of folks that will say, ‘I never plan on shooting this gun. I just want it in case I need it,” Peisert said.

She urges such customers to become familiar with their handguns so they will be less likely to panic in a real-life defensive situation. In addition, she and her sales staff cover important gun-handling basics, with a specific recommendation for pistols.

“We go over the importance of not chambering a round in semiautomatics. It takes just a couple seconds to rack the slide and chamber a round, and most children aren’t strong enough to do that,” she said.

Recent headlines have driven home the message of the importance of properly securing firearms in the home, especially where there are children.

“I sell a lot of gun safes,” Peisert said. “I carry just about the entire GunVault line, from the fingerprint models to digital to keyed ones. Of course, we are required by law to supply a lock for each firearm we sell. Most of our customers lean toward a safe because it’s more easily accessible; they don’t have to take the time to remove a lock.”

Reevaluate Your Approach

Profit margins for accessories are higher than those for firearms. And the potential for add-on accessory sales is strongest while a customer is purchasing a defensive firearm.

“People may get on the Internet and price out a gun, but they are not as likely to do that for a speedloader or other accessories,” Peisert said.

The market is also strong for personal-defense products that are “beyond the gun.” Consumers are keenly aware of the danger around them, and dealers report strong sales of the full array of personal-defense products. For dealers not fully capitalizing on this segment of the market, a reevaluation of inventory, training and sale approach will result in added profits.



Personal- and home-defense ranks as a high priority for new and established customers and — if a viral video is any indication — they’re willing to spend a few minutes to learn about safety tips and how they can better protect their families.

A recent addition to the popular “Roy’s Insider Tips” series of how-to, safety videos struck a chord with viewers. Hosted by Roy Huntington, publisher and editor of American Handgunner, “Home-Defense: Buckshot vs. Birdshot” has racked up over 32,000 views and has generated numerous discussion threads between viewers.

In this short video, Roy answers the question many of his readers have been asking: concerning whether 00 Buckshot or No. 8 Birdshot is more effective for home-defense purposes. The amount of views and volume of comments confirm the significance of this topic with consumers.

This video can be viewed at or on FMG’s YouTube channel
By Greg Staunton

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