Modern Firearms Attract New Customers, Increase Profits.
Modern muzzleloaders are attracting a new group of sportsman who are looking for additional shooting challenges and hunting opportunities. Advanced technology, which improves capability and accuracy of muzzleloaders, is providing increased profits for dealers.
Tom Hall, president and CEO of Traditions Performance Firearms, said one trend in muzzleloading is customers are looking for full-featured guns.
“Customers want guns that are lightweight, balanced and easy to use. They’re looking for better performance than older guns offer. They want guns that will shoot further and are easier to clean,” Hall said.
Hall said this trend is occurring because consumers are looking for better products, ones that push past the basics.
“For a number of years we had people just getting into the sport,” he said. “Now that they’ve been in the sport for a while, they want to move up to advanced products.”
Muzzleloaders of the past, Hall said, had 24-inch barrels; today, some muzzleloaders have barrels as long as 30 inches. These guns are more accurate and shoot longer distances than older versions.
“The majority of the muzzleloaders we sell today are scoped,” Hall said. “You have to have open sights in some markets, because they’re required by law. But in most places, the performance that shooters are looking for requires optics on the gun.”
These trends are found in both the hunting and the recreational segments of the market.
“People who shoot muzzleloaders recreationally also are shooting for performance, accuracy and distance,” Hall said.
In Traditions Performance Firearms, Hall said shooters like the Vortex StrikerFire, which is a new high-tech muzzleloader with a 28-inch, tapered fluted Magnum Chromoly barrel. It has a one-piece stainless steel Accelerator Breech Plug, which allows the shooter to use either loose or pelletized powder without changing anything on the gun.
New for 2013, the Vortek StrikerFire from Traditions Performance Firearms does
not have an external hammer, which provides faster lock time, better positioning
of a scope and a crisp-breaking trigger. Visit www.traditionsfirearms.com.
Thompson/Center’s Impact Magnum .50-caliber muzzleloader features .209 primer
ignition, a single-shot, break-open design and is available in camo and
synthetic stocks. Visit www.tcarms.com.
Matt Spoon, gunsmith at Mack’s Prairie Wings in Stuttgart, Ark., said the store’s muzzleloading market has changed quite a bit over the past few years. Changes in agriculture, hunting seasons and weather patterns have impacted muzzleloader hunting in the area.
“Our main market is hunting,” Spoon said. “In northern Arkansas, some shooters like to dress up in old-time gear and have competitions, although I don’t see that much in the Delta where we are. Fifty caliber is most of what we sell, although we special order other calibers.”
Spoon said the store’s customers favor Thompson/Center muzzleloaders.
“We also sell a few CVAs,” he said. “Our customers really like the Thompson/Center Pro Hunter and the CVA Scout.”
At Second Amendment Sports in Tucson, Ariz., general manager Josh Beck and reloading expert David Browning clearly separate the muzzleloading hunting and the recreational shooting markets.
“Our hunting market has increased because there are more tags available for muzzleloading than there were in the past,” Beck said. “In our area, .50 still rules for the most part. Our customers buy Thompson/Center in-lines, especially the Encore. We also sell a few Traditions for hunting.”
Hunters in the West have less opportunity to use muzzleloaders than do Eastern hunters, Beck said, because Western hunters often shoot across canyons or make other long shots beyond the range of muzzleloaders.
In recreational shooting, the market at Second Amendment Sports is mostly in cartridge-type black powder firearms.
“Our customers typically shoot a Sharps clone or a Ballard or Winchester High Wall,” Browning said. “Uberti also makes Italian clones of those guns. Some of the guys are shooting original guns that are worth a fortune; they’re shooting a piece of history.”
Recreational shooters favor black powder rifles in .32, .36, .44 and .58 Browning said.
“I shoot a Sharps clone from Pedersoli in .45-70. In this store, the .45-70 is one of the top five most popular black powder cartridges,” Browning said.
One reason black powder has remained popular is the price of ammunition, according to Browning.
“Unlike with an AR-type platform, you’re not going to shoot through a 30-round magazine in 10 seconds,” he said. “Black powder is slow and methodical, whether they’re shooting traditional muzzleloaders, cartridge-type black powder guns or flintlocks.”
Outers Black Powder Cleaning Kit includes a three-section aluminum rod, gun oil,
bore cleaner, bronze bore brush and more. Visit www.outers-guncare.com.
All The Extras
The high-tech trend in muzzleloading hasn’t reduced the market for accessories and supplies. Muzzleloader shooters still want all the extras they’ve always purchased.
“Customers want optics, and rings and bases to go with them,” Hall said. “And they need all the cleaning supplies, including breech plug grease.”
Stocking muzzleloading-unique accessories and powder is a must, Hall said, if dealers really want to take advantage of the market.
“There are two kinds of powder,” Hall said. “There’s pellet style and loose powder. Some dealers have gone away from carrying those things, but I would suggest that they take a look at those accessories again; consumers who want to shoot loose powder need powder measures and all the accessories that help them get better performance.”
Spoon said Mack’s Prairie Wings does a fair amount of business in muzzleloader accessories.
“We sell quite a few brushes and cleaning accessories from both CVA and Thompson/Center,” he said.
Spoon noted that most of the store’s muzzleloading customers have made a gradual change to using shotgun primers over the past 10 years.
“It’s humid here and it rains a lot,” he said. “I’ve personally had muzzleloaders not go off in hunting situations as a result. Anytime you can improve on that, it’s a good thing.”
Spoon, too, sees the trend toward high-end, high-tech muzzleloading gear.
“Almost everyone uses scopes,” he said. “You don’t see many open sights anymore. Now people want stainless steel instead of Chromoly steel, and they want camouflage.”
Black MZ from Alliant Powder is a black powder replacement designed for hunters,
cowboy action shooters and reenactment enthusiasts. Visit www.alliantpowder.com.
Promotions Pay Off
Hall said in-store events are a great way to get the word out about muzzleloaders.
“Retailers who have focused on these kinds of events have done very well in the muzzleloading market,” he said. “Any time you have a promotion — particularly if there’s some way you can have a shoot or a training day — it will pay off for everyone.”
Using social media such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs and YouTube, is also important.
“A lot of younger shooters get their information that way,” Hall said. “They can see videos and read digital information. Even some of the older shooters are going to social media and using them to get information on products. It’s instantaneous.”
Dealers using social media tools to educate consumers on how products are used, including hunting, will see increased business, Hall said.
“Social media is important and you need to have a presence there, but at the same time, TV is driving the market, as well as print media. You need to have balanced advertising to keep driving all the different customers into your store.”
By Carolee Anita Boyles
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