By Carolee Anita Boyles
For some time now, a certain subset of target shooters has been interested in — even obsessed by — long-range shooting. Recently, however, this interest has become a passion for a larger number of shooters, leading to increased potential for sales of guns, ammo and accessories for the long-range market.
“For the past 12 months or so, I’ve seen a huge move toward interest in long-range accuracy,” said Doug Gifford, director of operations at both Core Rifle Systems and GTO Guns & Sporting Goods in Ocala, Fla. “Specifically, people are asking for 6.5 Grendel and 6.5 Creedmoor. Those are very popular and are probably the fastest-moving modular sporting guns at the moment.”
Gifford added guns chambered in .338 Lapua, .300 Win. Mag. and .308 Win. also continue to be very popular.
“Those are the long-range accuracy bolt guns consumers are coming in looking for,” he asserted.
Although the interest in long-range accuracy isn’t new, Gifford lends it’s been overshadowed by sales of ARs and other, similar guns.
“There’s been too much smoke in the air from the frenzy of buying any ‘black gun,’” he shared. “People were afraid the Second Amendment was in jeopardy, and they felt the need to get one in their gun cabinet — whether they had a particular interest in the platform or not.”
As the demand for the AR platform has slowed, Gifford relayed those long-range accuracy enthusiasts have started moving to the 6.5 Grendel and the 6.5 Creedmoor (among other calibers). Part of this move has been made possible by increased availability of both of those cartridges over the past couple of years.
“Prior to this, you were hard-pressed to find the ammo,” Gifford informed. “Until the last couple of years it’s been tough. But once Hornady and some of the other big manufacturers get in the game as they have with these, you’ll start seeing ammunition become available.”
Still, this availability is being driven by demand in the consumer market.
“It’s not that someone just decided to make a bunch of ammunition and now we’re interested,” he observed. “It was like pulling hen’s teeth to get people to start making the cartridge. But once manufacturers started making them, they caught on.”
In terms of optics, there’s more interest in more traditional 30mm optics than there has been in the recent past.
“Over the past 10 years or so, the trend has been to red dot and laser-type stuff, which is close-in, personal-defense optics … human affairs,” Gifford said. “The long-range trend is moving into real science. Shooters are looking at parallax and focal plane; they’re getting into the science of optics.”
Gifford regularly recommends two brands for long-range shooting: Pulsar and Riton.
“Riton is fairly new,” he noted. “They’re well-priced for the quality. They have a ‘replace it, not repair it’ lifetime warranty, and we’ve had good results with them so far. They have high-quality Japanese glass and they’re using argon-filled tubes instead of nitrogen, which I think gives a little better clarity.”
Trijicon and Leupold also are favorites at Gifford’s store.
Products That Have Opened Up The Market
Vikram Mookerajee, store manager at Pinnacle Firearms in Carmel, Ind., said the Ruger Precision Rifle has really changed the market in long-range shooting and opened it up to both new shooters and experienced shooters who want something different.
“Historically and always, Ruger has been a good company when it comes to accessible firearms, and something that’s cool, different and works,” he asserted. “It’s in a great price point. You’d expect someone to have already come out with something this cool and this modular and has so many variations to it. It’s opened up a market some people might view as intimidating.”
Mookerajee said the Ruger Precision Rifle is attracting shooters with its price point ($1,500 to $2,000); in addition, the Ruger brand overcomes some of the intimidation factor for shooters new to the long-range market. It comes in .308 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, 6mm Creedmoor, .338 Lapua and .300 Win. Mag. (The Ruger Precision Rimfire Rifle is now available in magnum calibers.)
Another rifle falling into the same category, according to Mookerajee, is the Savage Stealth. With an MSRP of about $1,200 to $2,000 (depending on configuration), the Stealth is available in .223 Rem., 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Win. and .338 Lapua. In its Evolution 110 BA and 10 BA configurations, it comes in a left-handed model.
“The Stealth falls into the same kind of offerings and price points: a weapon of something accessible that’s different,” Mookerajee added. “Both of these guns have customization and modularity to them. Some of them use standard-spec magazines, which helps with the accessibility factor of being able to run them and be cost-effective.”
The market for these guns is a mixture, Mookerajee confirmed.
“It’s a little bit of everyone,” he said. “I’ve known some folks who have worked on SWAT teams when it comes to both the Savage Stealth and the Ruger Precision Rifle, where they use them for a job application that needs precise shots for a protection detail for a VIP. There’s also been a demand in other law enforcement groups.”
Many buyers, however, are on the civilian side.
“Some of them are vets,” Mookerajee shared. “And people always are interested in military-style guns snipers and designated marksmen are using.”
Mookerajee has observed a significant volume of sales in SIG SAUER and Trijicon optics.
“Those are the ones we typically recommend,” he noted. “In Trijicon it’s the AccuPoint and the AccuPower, depending on what the person is looking for in terms of application and magnification. SIG SAUER has a really solid optics line they’ve been selling the past couple of years. They offer good stuff at a good price point. When someone walks into the shop looking for an optic, I try to steer them to those brands and then figure out what features and models fit their needs best.”
The biggest trend he’s seen, Mookerajee said, is new offerings in ammunition becoming available.
“There’s more 6.5 Creedmoor and .224 Valkyrie than in the past,” he stated. “Those have been the two new flavors to go with your standard 6.5mm as well as .308 and the other popular calibers.”
Hornady is the go-to manufacturer for new and unusual rounds, and until recently it’s been the best source for these calibers, Mookerajee said.
“Now you’re seeing Black Hills Ammunition, Remington and Winchester making them,” he added. “And of course Hornady still is. These major brands, and some minor ones, have offerings that are fitting the needs of the marketplace as well as industry specs.”
6.5 Growing Pains
For a while, the best alternative for aficionados of the 6.5 family of new calibers was to reload the rounds themselves. The increased availability of these cartridges, however, has not decreased any interest in reloading them. In fact, according to GTO Guns’ Doug Gifford the opposite is true.
“You get some excitement over a new cartridge, and then people start buying it, and then you think it will decrease the need for reloading it,” he said. “But what you really do is create more interest in that particular cartridge and it brings people in who never even thought about it before. So the increased availability of these cartridges has had a positive effect on reloading them even though more people are buying them off the shelf. Plus now there’s a lot more brass at the ranges to pick up and reload.”