By Ashley McGee
The political climate and current events have a significant effect on gun sales — particularly when it comes to long guns designed for tactical and self-defense use. Historically mass shooting tragedies, and the consequential call for gun reform that follows, have resulted in an increase in firearm sales out of fear particular types will be banned.
Following the recent tragedy in Parkland, Fla., Stoddard’s Range and Guns observed increased sales in modern sporting rifles (MSRs) through February and into early March. Stoddard’s operates two locations in Georgia, Douglasville and West Midtown Atlanta — the only gun range located within Atlanta city limits.
“For us, Daniel Defense, SIG SAUER and Smith & Wesson rifles sell well across the board,” said Ken Baye, COO of Stoddard’s Range and Guns. “We’ve also seen an uptick in 300 Blackout and 6.5 Creedmoor ammunition.”
Despite their urban location, Baye said the large majority of his customers have access to rural land that affords them ample long-range shooting opportunities.
Also gaining traction are magazine-fed shotguns. These semi-automatic firearms have drawn a lot of interest because they function much like their AR and AK rifle counterparts.
“We recently received our first shipment of Remington 870 DMs,” Baye relayed. “We only purchased a few to start, but they seem to be well received so far.”
Other popular sellers for Stoddard’s include the Remington 870 Tac-14 and Benelli M4. “Our customers like these for home defense, personal defense within their vehicle and even as a backpack gun,” Baye said.
According to “America’s Complex Relationship with Guns,” a report published by Pew Research Center in June 2017, about 4-in-10 gun owners (38%) reported there is a gun loaded and easily accessible to them all of the time when they are at home. Another 17 percent say this is the case most of the time.
He added bullpups have not been big movers in their market. Bullpups offer unmatched maneuverability in confined spaces like around corners, moving through doorways and small rooms, or getting in and out of vehicles, making them an ideal gun for home defense. However many can be back heavy, causing imbalance and the muzzle to rise when fired — not exactly a gun designed for the novice shooter.
Bill Robinson, president of City Arsenal, stands in front of a wall packed with rifles to greet visitors.
He sells several levels of MSRs to appeal to a broader spectrum of end users. “I find most customers
either want a price point or are willing to pay a little more for better quality and more features,”
An Inventive Idea
Some consumers might be intimidated by the idea of using a long gun for home or self-defense. To overcome this challenge, Stoddard’s offers extensive training, range rentals to “Try Before You Buy” and a “No Regrets” 30-day return policy.
Uncommon within the firearm industry, purchasers can use a gun for up to 30 days, and if for any reason they aren’t happy with their purchase, it can be returned for store credit for the full purchase price. Per the company’s website, the gun must still be in “as-new” condition. It cannot be damaged, modified or subjected to misuse and must have all original boxes, packaging, paperwork and accessories.
“This policy puts the responsibility on our staff to be knowledgeable and take the time to understand a customer’s unique needs,” said Baye. “By recommending the right gun for them and educating the customer, so he or she feels comfortable with their purchase, they’ll have no reason to return it.”
Your ability to provide efficient and friendly customer service goes a long way into making
“the experience” of a long-gun purchase much more enjoyable for customers. Stoddard’s “Try
Before You Buy” and “No Regrets” policies are two creative ways to ensure a positive experience
MSR Sales Keep Up Impact
In Greenville, S.C., City Arsenal has witnessed similar trends with MSRs leading the long-gun category. They experienced a similar uptick in sales after the Parkland tragedy.
“Although in my experience, it’s not the event that drives people to the stores to purchase a specific firearm,” said Bill Robinson, president of City Arsenal. “It is much more due to the politicians or the media exploiting the event to push gun legislation that gives people the urgency to purchase. Just the talk of banning or restricting specific types of firearms motivates even non-gun owners to make a purchase.”
Robinson is well-versed in long guns. After leaving the corporate world in 2009, he began working as a territory manager for Daniel Defense. For the seven years that followed, he traveled the U.S. introducing their new line of M4 rifles to distributors, retailers and shooting ranges; consequently earning a promotion to VP of sales.
A desire to travel less and spend more time with family led him to purchase Allen Arms, a dealer he worked with in his previous role. City Arsenal opened in February 2016. Naturally, their top-selling brand is Daniel Defense.
“We sell several levels of MSRs,” Robinson informed. “However, I find most customers either want a price point or are willing to pay a little more for better quality and more features.”
With the exception of the new Springfield Saint, MSRs in the $800–$1,000 price range are the slowest movers for City Arsenal.
“We have seen the market change over the last several years. Customers are either looking for an MSR under $700 or are willing to pay $1,500 and up,” he continued. “Once you cross $2,000, the volume drops quickly.”
When it comes to shotguns, City Arsenal has not received enough shipments of magazine-fed shotguns to truly get a feel for their impact on sales or the shotgun market. However, the Mossberg Shockwave and the Remington 870 Tac-14 have been strong models for the home-defense market.
“Shooters really appreciate the size of the shotgun and the bird’s- head grip makes a much more comfortable shooting position than the pistol grip version,” Robinson said. “Compact shotguns are the best sellers for us — 18.5- and 20-inch barrel shotguns with extended tubes.”
While 6.5 Creedmoor is clearly a popular caliber for precision, long-range shooters, Robinson said rifle sales are still low volume in City Arsenal’s market. This can be attributed to a lack of long-range shooting opportunities in South Carolina. “Thousand-yard ranges are rare around here, and 6.5 Creedmoor is just getting started at that distance,” he added.
It All Leads To “The Experience”
To market their tactical and self-defense long guns, City Arsenal relies on multi-channel marketing including social media, billboards, radio and print. Once a customer walks into City Arsenal, the focus is on the experience.
“In order to continue to grow our industry and the shooting sports, we need focus on that first experience for new shooters,” Robinson stated. “In my opinion, it’s critical to whether they continue to pursue the sport and the lifestyle or walk away with a bad taste.”