Versatile Long Guns

MSRs Remain Hot, Creating Trends, Inspiring Innovation.

In today’s market, virtually every type of gun sells. The popularity of the modern sporting rifle (MSR) has changed what hunters and target shooters are buying, opening the door to emerging trends in long-gun sales.

Earl Cupp, manager at Winchester Gallery Gun Store in Fort Worth, Texas, said his hunting clientele buys a lot of MSRs.

“We’re seeing MSR, shotgun and .22 LR sales,” he said. “The number one thing people are buying is MSRs in .223, closely followed by 7.62×39. The next most-popular model everyone wants is in .300 Blackout.”

The store carries .300 Blackout models from Bushmaster, Colt and SIG SAUER.

Cupp said his customers hunt feral hogs throughout the year, using larger-caliber MSRs. His .22 sales are very good, driven by the low price of ammunition.

“People use .22s for target shooting, squirrel hunting and for teaching kids to shoot,” he said.

At SharpShooters USA in Roswell, Ga., customers like MSRs as well as more traditional firearms.

“Most of our customers want a synthetic stock and a basic setup,” said Jason Perryman, general manager of SharpShooters USA. “I’m seeing a trend away from heavier and longer-barreled rifles with big magnification scopes, and seeing people buying hunting rifles that are shorter and more traditional, with a 24-inch or shorter barrel and a more traditional scope, such as 3-9X power.”

Perryman said another prevalent trend is customers buying basic rifles with wood stocks and blued finishes.

“The Ruger American has really done well for us,” he said.

Other rifles Perryman’s customers are buying include the Remington CDL, Remington BDL Deluxe, Winchester Model 70 and the Ruger No.1.

“Most people are buying .308, .30-06 or .270. I also have a few people buying 7mm Magnum and .300 Magnum,” Perryman said.

Although he does see a trend in hunters using MSRs, Perryman said those firearms are less popular in north Georgia.

“We’re starting to see more people who are into the modern sporting rifle for personal defense realize there’s an application for them for hunting,” he said. “That trend hasn’t quite caught on here in the northern part of Georgia. In south Georgia, though, there’s a lot more feral hog hunting, and the MSR is a very popular platform for that type of hunting.”

Perryman’s customers’ favorite rifle calibers include: 6.8 SPC, .308 Arrow, .30 Remington AR, .450 Bushmaster, .458 SOCOM, .50 Beowulf and 6.5 Grendel. Perryman said MSRs lead the way in target shooting.

“They’re mostly in .223, but we’re also seeing people buy .22 conversions to shoot .22 LR,” he said. “Several companies are building .22s and other caliber uppers for MSRs, which is the beauty of the platform. I think that is going to make them the mainstay for a lot of people down the road.”

Since many MSRs have collapsing stocks, Perryman says a customer can buy one rifle and everyone in the family can shoot it by adjusting the stock to fit, along with changing the caliber to suit how the shooter uses the rifle.

“There just aren’t any other firearms that have the versatility that the MSR platform has,” Perryman said.

Bushmaster offers numerous models of modern sporting rifles, including the Varminter A-TACS.
For 2013, the rifle features a Magpul Original Equipment rifle stock.

Versatility Sells

The versatility of MSRs has inspired improvements in traditional long guns, such as bolt-action rifles, as companies respond to consumer demand. The Ruger Guide Gun is one example.

“We introduced our Guide Gun in calibers from .30-06 to .375 Ruger with a 20-inch stainless steel barrel,” said Ken Jorgensen, director of media relations for Ruger. “People seem to be looking for shorter barrels that are more maneuverable and don’t snag on things when you’re walking with the gun on your shoulder.”

The versatility of the Guide Gun has great appeal for customers.

“It has the adjustable butt pad system. It comes with spacers so you can change the length-of-pull,” Jorgensen said. “If you’re hunting in hot weather and all you’re wearing is a T-shirt, you can add a half-inch or an inch to the stock. Then if you’re hunting in cold weather and wearing six layers of clothing, you can remove spacers from the stock and the gun still fits you.”

Ruger has developed a muzzle brake system that adds to the versatility of the company’s Guide Gun, African and Magnum Hunter rifles.

“The muzzle brake comes with a dynamically-matched weight,” Jorgensen said. “Practice with the muzzle brake. When you go hunting, to reduce noise, you can take the muzzle brake off and put the weight on. Your point of impact will not change.”

Today’s serious hunters are looking for versatility.

“They want products that help them do a better job and give them options,” Jorgensen said. “For several years Ruger has been asking people what they’re looking for through our ‘Voice of the Customer’ program, and then designing, building and delivering those products. We have a lot of new people coming into shooting, and if retailers offer products that meet their needs, while educating them about what those products do for them, they’ll sell them.”

One of the top sellers in competition shotguns at SharpShooters USA is Benelli’s SuperSport
in 12-gauge. This model is the 12-gauge Vinci SuperSport ComforTech Plus.

Hunters And Competitors

At SharpShooters USA, Perryman said his shotgun market is geared more to the wingshooter, mostly for dove and quail. In addition, he moves a lot of shotguns to shooters who compete in skeet and sporting clays events.

“Turkey hunting is not as popular with our customers,” he said. “Those customers who do turkey-hunt primarily use a Remington 870 or a Mossberg 590 pump-action, or a Beretta A400 semiauto, all of those in 12-gauge. We do have an occasional customer looking for a 12-gauge slug gun for deer hunting. Those customers primarily are looking to hunt out of state or on special state-regulated draw hunts.”

Perryman’s most popular semiautos for hunting are the Beretta A400, the Benelli Super Black Eagle and the Mossberg 930. The most popular pump-actions for hunting are the Remington 870 and Mossberg 500 and 590. His most popular shotguns for competition shooters are the Beretta A400 and Benelli SuperSport in 12-gauge.

“Ninety percent of the shotguns we sell are 12-gauge,” Perryman said.

“The Ruger American has really done well for us,” says Jason Perryman. New for 2013 is a compact
version of the American Rifle, which features an 18-inch barrel.

Hunting Accessories

Perryman said the market for accessories is booming.

“Customers who purchase a gun for hunting almost always purchase an optical sight, along with a sling and a carrying case. Then they purchase some sort of maintenance equipment, whether that’s a gunsmithing screwdriver set or a cleaning kit, he said.”

Perryman said the store’s number-one seller in optics is Trijicon.

“Trijicon makes glow-in-the-dark sights, and also build the ACOG for the military, which now has moved into the civilian market and is very popular,” Perryman said. “They also have their AccuPoint line, which is a phenomenal sporting optic.”
Customers want to add a lot of accessories to guns, Perryman said.

“They want to mount lasers and lights,” he said. “The people I know who hunt feral hogs use SureFire gun-mounted lights, which are legal here in Georgia as long as they don’t exceed 6 volts.”

Connect With Customers

Both Cupp and Perryman say selling firearms and accessories in this market is easy, but they haven’t lost sight of the need to educate customers and promote add-on sales.

“If we get to the point when we see slow sales, we get on Facebook and post information about what we have,” Cupp said. “We have constant phone calls asking whether we have something. I got in a case of 9mm ammo and it was almost gone in less than two hours.”

Perryman said SharpShooters USA puts a lot of effort into education.

“We get people who are interested in Trijicon optics, but they’re on the high side and are out of some people’s price range,” he said. “We explain the technology and their quality, and most people see the value in the extra dollars they’ll spend. Once we get them sold on the first one, they come back and buy more of them.”

Perryman said the store reaches out to its customer base through social media. In May, SharpShooters USA posted information about a sale on the Mossberg 400 Tactical Persuader 12-gauge on their Facebook page. The guns quickly sold out.

“We put out a lot of information through social media,” he said. “Right now we’re trying to get more videos uploaded to our YouTube channel. We shoot a lot of video to inform customers about the products we offer, as well as products we don’t carry. We want informed customers.”
By Carolee Anita Boyles

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