Safety First

Consumers Demand Options In Safes, Eye And Ear Protection.

The record number of firearm sales in recent years has been accompanied by a marked increase in the sale of safety products. Retailers report huge increases in purchases of eye and ear protection, gun locks, mini-safes/lockboxes and full-size safes.

New firearm owners are very focused on purchasing safe products, as indicated by the NSSF report “First-Time Gun Buyers.” Four of the top seven product categories for new gun buyers were safety-related: gun-cleaning products or kits (74.5%), ear protection (64.3%), eye protection (61.5%), gun locks (58.5%), targets (46.5%), soft carrying cases (45.6%) and gun safes (44.3%).

John Schipper is the safe buyer at Dunn’s Sporting Goods in Pevely, Mo., and has experienced this trend firsthand — since late 2012 the store has seen its most profitable period ever for safe sales.

“Everyone wants to lock up their guns and their valuables,” he said. “Crime rates are up, and with everything that people see on the news, they want to protect what they own.”

The Cannon Commander can accommodate up to 48 guns, features 90-minute
certified fire protection, a double-steel door and an EMP dual action
lock, ensuring the safety of a variety of valuable items.

Customized Security

Schipper finds many of his customers who purchase safes at Dunn’s Sporting Goods are repeat buyers.

“A lot of our customers will buy a safe that’s too small when they buy their first one,” he said. “Then, they come back and buy another, larger one. Some customers keep the old one, and others trade in the old one.”

Schipper also noted customers prefer to customize the interiors of today’s safes.

“People really like the storage units on the door,” Schipper said. “They also like safes that you can organize any way you want, and those with spaces inside that are compatible with electronics, such as laptops.”

Schipper said the store’s best-selling brands of full-sized safes include those from Fort Knox, Browning and Champion.

This year, a number of manufacturers debuted tactical gun safes designed for modern sporting rifles (MSR). Stack-On has a line of safes designed for MSR-style firearms, and they’re suitable for any collection of long guns. These safes have slots specifically for guns with different barrel lengths and MSR-style stocks, with adjustable barrel rests to accommodate any rifle.

Liberty Safe & Security has also introduced two new safes for MSR-type firearms. One model holds 24 firearms and the other holds 48. Both have flexible interiors, Velcro door panels for shotgun storage, extra tactical and utility cases, ammo cans and accessory trays.

To help sell these full-sized safes, Dunn’s offers a subcontracted delivery and setup service.

Schipper has also seen an increased demand for smaller safes and lock boxes.

“Customers are buying more of them and putting them in their trucks, in addition to their homes,” he said. “People are fascinated with the idea that only their fingerprint will open some of the small safes with a biometric lock. But, a lot of people still really like the old-style safe with a key.”

Schipper said his customers prefer the GunVault NanoVaults and the GunVault MV500. Dunn’s also sells Stack-On portable cases with electronic and biometric locks.

Willie Robertson and other celebrities have endorsed Stack-On Products’
national safe gun storage campaign, “Keep ’Em Safe – Locked and Unloaded,”
which asks gun owners to keep all firearms in a secured, locked environment.

Large Options Sell More

At the Bargain Barn in Jasper, Ga., manager Brenda Crooke has also seen increased sales in safes and locking devices, but her customers tend to gravitate toward larger options.

“We don’t sell a lot of the smaller safes and lock boxes,” she explained. “Our customers mostly buy full-sized safes. We sell Champion and Browning safes, and the numbers even out between the two in popularity.”

At the Bargain Barn, Crooke said her customers really like extra storage offered in today’s full-size safes.

“Many safes are coming in now with extra pockets and added space on the doors,” she said. “That gives customers a lot of places to put ammo and accessories. It gives the customer more for his money, and it gives us more to offer the customer.”

The Howard Leight Impact Pro Electronic Earmuff offers effective ear
protection at both outdoor ranges and indoor shooting environments.
These earmuffs feature Air Flow Control technology, water-resistance
and convenient folding design for easy storage.

Preventative Measures

This trend in increasing sales reflects a growing concern among safety-conscious consumers taking steps to ensure their guns are properly secured.

Schipper has found his customers are more aware of keeping guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. The NSSF Project ChildSafe program reinforces this awareness. The nationwide program promotes safe firearms handling and storage practices and offers firearm Safety Kits, which include a free gunlock.

“The number one way to help prevent firearm accidents in the home is to securely store your firearms when not in use,” said NSSF President Steve Sanetti at a Project ChildSafe event in New Orleans, La.

Manufacturers are also increasing their safety messaging. Stack-On Products Co. has launched a nationwide safe gun storage campaign, endorsed by TV personalities Willie Robertson (“Duck Dynasty”) and Steve West (“Steve’s Outdoor Adventures”). As part of the campaign, Stack-On is making a donation for each household that completes the “Keep ’Em Safe” pledge — up to $20,000 total — to the Shoot for A Cure charity to fund leukemia and multiple sclerosis research.

Furthermore, Crooke’s customers have also expressed the desire to keep their valuables safe from the threat of theft.

“Customers aren’t purchasing safes so much for fire protection or for keeping guns out of the hands of children,” she said. “Here, it’s more about securing guns from theft.”

Radians offers combination options for safety, like Remington’s T-10 True Jr.
Combo Kit, which includes T-10 shooting lenses and True Jr. earmuffs. The
GunVault NanoVault 300 features a protective foam-lined interior, 18-gauge
steel construction, an easy-to-operate key lock system and a three-number
combination lock.

Safeguard Eyes & Ears In Style

For first-time gun buyers, buying quality eye and ear protection is a top priority — providing dealers with major sales opportunities. Wideman, also a buyer at Dunn’s Sporting Goods, said customers are well aware of the need to protect their hearing and sight — and they want to look good while enjoying time at the range.

“Most of our customers are looking for more stylish eye and ear protection,” he said. “We’re seeing a trend toward more fashionable eyewear than standard safety glasses. And for people shooting outside, they want UV protection and a ‘sunglasses look.’”

Two brands of shooting glasses Wideman favors are Rudy Project and Oakley.

“Both brands offer a safety ballistic polycarbonate that’s used in the shotgun sports,” he said.

When it comes to hearing protection, Wideman said, molded earplugs are becoming increasingly popular.

“They’re very comfortable to use,” he said. “They’re so comfortable you don’t even know they’re there. We sell Radians kits for shooters to make molded ear plugs themselves.”

The Radians Custom Molded Earplugs kit is a do-it-yourself project that creates custom fitted earplugs in about 10 minutes. Dunn’s also sells a lot of electronic earmuffs.

“Some dedicated shooters even use a combination of a molded plug and muffs,” Wideman explained. “Radians, Champion and Pelt are the three biggest sellers of eye and ear protection here.”

Manufacturers continue to develop technology for enhanced hearing protection. Howard Leight has seen a tremendous response to the Impact Pro electronic earmuff. It features all the electronic capabilities of the Howard Leight Impact Sport, but with an increased Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of 30.

E.A.R. Inc. has introduced a filtered earplug called the HearDefender that’s a variable attenuator; as the noise level rises, the sound suppression increases.

At the Bargain Barn, Crooke said her sales in this category have remained stable over the past couple of years.

“We sell a pretty good bit of both eye and ear protection products,” she said. “There isn’t any one brand that sticks out that customers are buying.”

In contrast to the trend observed at Dunn’s Sporting Goods, Crooke said her customers tend to buy more traditional shooting glasses, rather than more fashionable sunglass-style glasses.

When it comes to ear protection, the most popular style at Bargain Barn has proven to be the less-expensive earmuff options.

“Our customers are going more with passive protection rather than electronic muffs,” Crooke explained.

When it comes to safety options, dealers should carry a diverse product line; as Schipper and Crooke’s differing customer trends indicate, demand can be varied and there are plenty of products available to meet the needs of gun owners. Today’s consumers are increasingly aware of their responsibility to protect their firearms and themselves, and they’re willing to make substantial purchases in this important segment of the market.
By Carolee Anita Boyles

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