What’s Trending In Handguns?

Dealers Share Their Insights On Top Sellers,
Best Services For Repeat Customers

By Mark Kakkuri

This year, a few handgun manufacturers rolled out some noteworthy goods: Kimber revealed its first revolver, the K6s. Ruger brought forth the Ruger American Pistol, a new polymer duty pistol. And Nighthawk Custom started carrying high-end Korth revolvers. Yes, that’s a broad spectrum of product offerings in the handgun market. So clearly these manufacturers think there’s a market for them — or at least they’re hoping there will be.

Since we’re still seeing record gun sales and plenty of interest in self-defense, law enforcement and sporting handguns, Shooting Industry decided to check in with a couple of dealers to see what’s hot in the handgun market and why. David Freeman and David Loeffler head up Texas Gun Pros in North Richland Hills, Texas, and Loeffler’s Guns in Grants, New N.M., respectively.

SI: How are you dealing with the increased demand for handguns?

Freeman: “We deal with multiple distributors and we monitor their inventories daily to see what’s available in the most popular handguns for our store. In fact, we keep standing orders for Taurus PT111s, Smith & Wesson M&P Shields, SCCYs and a few other models that sell as soon as they hit the door.”

Loeffler: “There’s a small increase in sales in my area. Definitely an increase in interest in personal carry and home-defense firearms, and sales are fairly steady. The last seven years have shown a slight increase in interest, but the economy for this area has been hard hit by the increase in regulation of coal mining and in the energy industry. There have been many who have lost jobs and disposable income has dropped precipitously.”

SI: How has a change in demand affected what you offer to customers?

Freeman: “Early in the year there were shortages for GLOCK 42, GLOCK 43 and GLOCK 19 pistols. Almost all of this year, until recently, Taurus PT111s, S&W Shields and Springfield XD-S models have been in high demand because of the popularity of civilian concealed carry. The same goes for the Springfield EMP and their smaller 1911s.” Freeman also relayed he provides extended customer service to great effect: “We have the ability to special order almost anything. So we spend our inventory dollars mostly on what we know people are looking for.”

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Springfield Armory XD(M) OSP

Loeffler: “We maintain a selection of new and used guns in the lower-to-middle price range with some higher-end firearms mixed in as well. My wholesalers do a good job of keeping a selection of types on hand but selection of a particular make and model can be iffy.”

SI: What trends are you seeing in sales of handguns? And how would you rank
the sales of, say, polymer semi-autos compared to 1911s and revolvers?

Loeffler: “There’s a demand for lighter weight polymer frame guns for personal carry, but for shooting pleasure the 1911 is popular, yet a slow seller.” He says revolvers are about a third of his sales for personal defense — and about 2:1 prefer double action over single action. “The single action is still popular in rural New Mexico in both .22 LR and larger calibers for hunting and just plain fun.”

Freeman: “For the past two years, the single-stack nines have had the highest demand. Right behind these are the smaller nines with more capacity. When those guns are short in supply, we offer easier-to-get alternatives we know will work for a customer’s intended use. For example, a CZ-P07 is an excellent carry gun, as is the SAR-B6. We can get these.”

SI: Are you seeing increased interest from handgun hunters or target shooters? And if so, what’s the reason behind it?

Freeman: “Because we teach [Texas] License to Carry courses, the bulk of our business is for defensive handguns. This is followed closely by MSRs. Currently, we’re not getting a lot of hunters, but we’re expanding and expect that to change.”

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Taurus Millennium G2 PT111

Loeffler: “The change in handguns for hunting here in New Mexico is not actually for hunting with a handgun, but for personal defense from both two- and four-legged predators when archery hunting. And target shooters provide steady sales; I’m expecting an upturn when the county range comes online in a year or so.”

SI: How about the concealed carry/personal defense market?

Loeffler: “There are inquiries daily about concealed carry/personal defense. I have two local instructors I recommend for basic handling and concealed carry instruction. Overall there’s been a huge increase in interest and the classes we’re offering are full.”

Freeman: “Most of our business is from the concealed-carry and/or home-defense market, primarily because we’re a training facility first — with gun sales as an added element. But I have to say: Our revenues last year were 70 percent from gun sales, 30 percent from training. The smaller guns sell well — but we don’t push .380s at all. We’ll sell one, but only if the customer fully understands what they’re getting. We simply don’t feel they’re the right solution for personal defense until we’ve helped the customer explore other options.”

SI: What are customers coming back to your store most for — training, gunsmithing, gear, more guns?

Freeman: “Customers usually come to us first for training, then come back for firearms and additional training. Because we approach every sale as instructors, rather than salesmen, we get a lot of repeat business. People like being educated more than they like being sold.”

Loeffler: “The gunsmithing side of the business is steady, and there’s a small increase in reloading inquiries. With the availability of ammunition online, I’m not seeing more than a 1 or 2 percent increase in ammunition sales here.”

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Remington RM380

SI: What are you offering in incentives to get customers in the door and how are you getting them to buy add-on products?

Freeman: “We send out email flyers weekly, and on special occasions we’ll let people know when we have desirable or hard-to-get firearms. We also offer a 5 percent discount forever on in-stock firearms for people who have attended one of our classes. Add-on products are just a natural part of the educational process. We don’t tell people they need something without educating them about why they need it (or why they should want it).”

Freeman also points out first-time handgun buyers will have immediate gear or accessory needs, right out of the gate. “They need a holster or purse, and if they’re going to wear it, a good gun belt. Almost everyone these days wants an UpLULA magazine loader once they’ve tried one. They need ammo, both range and personal-defense, and they need cleaning supplies. We offer a free gun cleaning class each month, not just to our existing customers, but to anyone who wants it (subject to seating limitations), and we help those that attend buy the right kind of cleaning supplies so they don’t overspend.”

Loeffler: “Our customers prefer a broad availability of accessories and gear. Mostly just having ammunition, holsters, paper, DuraSeal and steel targets, magazines, magazine loaders and magazine carriers available gets them sold. That, along with free advice, helps handgun sales.”

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courtesy of Heckler & Koch

“It’s Just Getting Crazy Out There.”

Freeman says the most surprising thing about the handgun market so far this year is, “we continue to see people come in who have previously been afraid of guns or maybe anti-gun and something has turned a switch in them to make them feel not only that they need a gun at this point in their lives but also that they need to know how to safely own and operate it.”

The impetus behind a new customer’s decision to buy can be a myriad of reasons. “We hear very interesting stories,” he says. “Some who live in gated, high-end communities tell us of break-ins, robberies and such that happened to them or a friend or family member. Others are concerned about the possibility of terrorist sleeper cells in the U.S. Some are concerned that ‘it’s just getting crazy out there.’”

handgunner-magazine

American Handgunner Celebrates 40 Years Of Groundbreaking Content

Forty years ago, the U.S. was in the midst of celebrating its Bicentennial, Steve Jobs cofounded the Apple Computer Company in a garage and a magazine devoted to all things handguns made its debut as the first of its kind on the newsstands. Since 1976, American Handgunner has set the standard when it comes to delighting readers with eye-popping images, engaging reviews and a cast of knowledgeable, yet talented writers.

With the launch of the September/October 2016 issue earlier this year, American Handgunner celebrated 40 years on the newsstands. Ruger’s American Pistol was on the cover, and other highlights from the issue include “The Impossible Python,” how the .50 GI is alive and well and a “Close Look” at sights/optics and accessories.

In his Insider column, Publisher and Editor Roy Huntington saluted Handgunner’s readers for sharing in the publication’s success, writing, “That first issue, Sept/Oct 1976, rewrote the book on gun magazines and has spawned copycats galore over the years. We’re still number one in the quality of our readers and the affection of the industry. You guys are handgunners and love to shoot, reload, compete, collect, train, defend and you all cherish your families, your friends and your country. So do we.”

To stay up to date on what your customers are reading about in American Handgunner visit www.americanhandgunner.com.

Salutes to the entire American Handgunner team for achieving this milestone!

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Click To Read More Shooting Industry October 2016 Issue Now!

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