Adding Handgun Accessories To The Sales Equation
By Tim Barker
Clearly, most customers walking in the front door of a gun shop are there for the guns. But it doesn’t mean there isn’t a serious bit of business to be done on the edges of this market. Handguns, for example, need holsters, mounted lights, red dots, grips, night sights, self-defense ammo, extra magazines, cleaning supplies and suppressors — to name a few. These goodies give customers a chance to have a little fun with the guns they’ve just purchased, or already own.
And at a time when guns sales are slowing down, these extras may offer shop owners an opportunity to capture additional revenues. “When you pile on accessories, you can really build your ticket. A $500 gun becomes a $1,000 sale,” said Casey Hite, owner of Gun Dog Armory in Ocoee, Fla.
Hite estimates about 85 percent of his business is based on self-protection sales. And roughly two-thirds of his handgun customers end up buying extras to go along with their primary purchases.
“Lights and lasers are a big part,” Hite shared. “It’s like the wheels and rims on a car. People are always looking for ways to customize.”
Hite emphasized customer service is an important part of the equation. With lights (brands include TRUGLO, Streamlight and SureFire) it’s a matter of helping the customer find the right option — for their budget and needs.
“Do we all want Ferraris? Of course. Can we all afford Ferraris? Of course not,” he quipped.
The store also does a healthy business in night sights, with popular brands like Trijicon, AmeriGlo and Meprolight. He estimates, for example, seven of 10 GLOCK buyers add a set of night sights — which are installed free-of-charge by one of the store’s gunsmiths.
During a handgun sale at East Orange Shooting Sports, associates
know the value in walking a customer through their purchase — which
includes simplifying the holster selection process. “It makes all
the difference in the world and boosts sales,” says John Ritz, who
owns the store.
Red Dot Boost
Across town at East Orange Shooting Sports, in Winter Park, Fla., the shop has noticed an increase in sales of red dot sights for handguns. Owner John Ritz says it’s a trend being fueled, at least in part, by manufacturers offering more models designed to be used with optics — guns like the GLOCK MOS, Springfield Armory’s XD(M) OSP and the FNX-45 Tactical.
“Most people still view firearms as recreational objects,” Ritz said. “The red dot sitting on top makes it more interesting for people.”
The store offers several options, including C-MORE, Trijicon and DeltaPoint. But are customers willing to spend half the price of a polymer gun on a red dot sight?
It’s not something that bothers the more experienced shooters who tend to make these types of purchases, said store manager Michael Munro.
“In the rifle world, the general rule of thumb is you spend as much on the optic as you do on the gun,” he observed.
The popularity of red dots has shaped how new generations of customers
approach a handgun purchase. A healthy inventory of red dot sights can
help associates easily double the sale of a handgun. Here, the C-More
STS, Leupold DeltaPoint, Trijicon RMR represent popular options at EOSS.
GemTech Lunar-45 Suppressor
The Hands-On Approach
Both stores offer a variety of holster options — made from a range of materials, including Kydex, leather and nylon. But in Florida, the top sellers tend to be lightweight and easy-to-conceal under T-shirts.
At East Orange, popular holster makers include BLACKHAWK! and Galco, with a wide range of price points. It’s one of the areas where Ritz pushes his employees to interact with customers to help them navigate the options. When someone asks about a holster for a gun they’re buying, it’s not enough to simply point at the wall display.
“You take the gun out of the case and over to the wall of holsters and show them the fit. Show them why this holster is $15, this one is $45 and this one is $100,” Ritz said. “It makes all the difference in the world, and boosts sales.”
The stores also offer a range of after-sales support options, from free sight and grip installation to basic gun maintenance classes.
Crimson Trace Laserguard Pro
TRUGLO Tritium Pro Night Sights
N82 Tactical Ambassador
One of the things East Orange is looking forward to during the years of a Republican presidency is a more normal business environment: One where it’s easier to maintain consistent inventories free of fear-based fluctuations.
Munro, the buyer for the store, would love to offer more promotional programs — a “Bring your kids to the range day,” for example. But how do you plan something like that, he asks, when you aren’t certain you’ll have .22 ammo available?
One of the more frustrating accessories, at least for the moment, is the suppressor, which has been on a rollercoaster ride since last summer, when the BATF changed the way it handled background checks for firearms trusts. The rule (41F), which went into effect in July 2016, was preceded by a surge in demand for suppressors, with buyers taking advantage of the older rules.
“Everyone tried to buy as much as they could to get grandfathered in. Everybody bought what they wanted,” said Hite from Gun Dog Armory, which makes its own line of suppressors, while also selling other brands, including SilencerCo and AAC.
But now things have flipped with demand for suppressors dampened by the Hearing Protection Act of 2017, a piece of federal legislation proposing the removal of suppressors from the restrictions put in place by the National Firearms Act. With potential buyers hoping to avoid the $200 tax stamp and months of waiting for approval, sales have slowed to a trickle.
At East Orange, the shop was selling a suppressor a day during April, May and June of last year. After 41F went into effect, sales have been closer to one per week.
What people don’t realize, they say, is it could take years before the law actually changes. And if it does, the supply/demand dynamic will likely shift in ways that won’t benefit consumers — at least not right away.
The industry simply cannot meet the demand that could follow. And as everyone witnessed during the previous eight years, when the supply dries up, prices spike. So, people hoping to avoid paying for a $200 tax stamp could see their savings more than offset by higher prices on suppressors. Current prices, even with the stamp, could seem like a bargain.
“You may not see those prices again for two years,” Munro concluded.