As the latest state to pass a concealed carry law, Illinois retailers will finally experience purchasing patterns dealers from other states have long enjoyed.
In the second quarter of 2013, a federal court found the state’s ban on any concealed carry of handguns in public unconstitutional, giving Illinois legislators the opportunity to pass a shall-issue concealed carry bill. One Illinoisan, a longtime advocate for gun owners’ civil rights, posted on a gun forum, “Hell must have frozen over!” Illinois was the last state with no provision in its laws for law-abiding citizens to carry concealed.
At this writing, details are still being worked but it appears long-suffering Illinois gunowners will be able to carry concealed in public. They are saving up for $150 license fees (it will be $300 for non-residents) and waiting to see exactly what will be entailed in the required 16 hours of training. Of little surprise, gun dealers are gearing up.
At Chuck’s Gun Shop in Riverdale, Ill., interest is already spiking in short-barrel concealment handguns. However, owner John Riggio told SI, “It’s hard to get a really good fix on it. Since the massive gun-buying spree in the first quarter of this year, it has been awfully hard to predict trends. I can tell you this, every second phone call we get is asking about the permit situation. We’re referring them to the appropriate websites for details.”
In Lincolnwood, at the very border of Chicago, Mitch Shore of Shore Galleries just wishes he had product to sell to the budding concealment population. Shore Galleries is the traditional vendor of choice for Chicago’s 13,000 police officers, who purchase their own service handguns and off-duty weapons. The shop draws more law enforcement clientele from the surrounding suburbs and is open to private citizens.
“We can’t really spot trends, because we’re selling everything we can get in,” Mitch told me as we stood in his shop with walls and shelves among the barest I’ve come across. “We’re backordered on everything. I got 10 Glocks in yesterday and they were gone in an hour.”
The massive buying that began in late 2012 does indeed make it difficult to gauge new trends in Illinois’ unique situation. That said, it’s likely purchasing trends will follow a predictable course. Many dealers in other parts of the country have missed potential sales because they did not follow those trends closely.
Up And Down The Size Ladder
To most folks, “concealed carry” translates to “small gun,” and when they decide to enter the armed lifestyle they buy something small. The trend has long favored snubnose, small-frame revolvers and compact semiautos — the lighter the better for first-time buyers.
However, once your customers start carrying daily, they soon acclimate to that reassuring weight at the hip or in the pocket or purse. As they seek out training materials, they learn experienced gun owners carry larger, more powerful handguns. Your customer who bought a .380 likely will be back to your shop looking for a concealment-size 9mm or .40. The revolver customer who likes the small-frame snubby .38 — but finds it hard to shoot — decides to augment it with a slightly larger model, perhaps with a 3-inch barrel and in .357 Magnum.
Why the upgrades? Because their research convinced them they’d be safer if their “firearms wardrobe” included something more substantial than a little “hideout gun.”
The next time your customer who bought the little “concealment gun” is in your shop, ask how it’s working out. Talk about elements of capacity, point-of-aim and even power that might favor a larger gun. Remind them cooler weather is coming, and the holsters you have in inventory will allow them to discreetly conceal a more substantial handgun under winter garments.
This process goes in both directions. Consider the consumer who has protected home and hearth with a full-size handgun. Once he or she decides to carry when out and about, a smaller version of the same type of pistol or revolver makes the additional sale easier. They don’t have to “learn a new system.”
You’ll also meet the customer who enthusiastically bought a big police service pistol to go with a new permit, but found its size and weight to be too much, too soon for someone not accustomed to everyday carry. This customer is your perfect candidate for a subcompact, perhaps even one of today’s wafer-thin .380s.
Sonja lines up her Springfield XD(M). Her next handgun purchase will be something more concealable.
I recently met both types of customer, a couple from Illinois. Neither Brian or Sonja had ever owned a gun, but friends and family convinced them it was a good idea. They settled on a polymer-framed 9mm, and went to the range to try several brands and models under supervision.
Brian found the Glock 19 suited him more than anything else, and bought one new as his very first gun. Sonja has small hands and found the short trigger reach of the Springfield XD series worked best for her. Her mom, a shooter, happily gifted her with an XD(M) 5.25.
The “gun bug” has bitten them both — they now shoot regularly. Brian now competes in IDPA matches and plans to buy a larger version of his Glock, the G34 with a 5.3-inch barrel, strictly for recreational match shooting. Sonja, an emergency room nurse who works nights and regularly sees the violent side of humanity, thinks the new carry permit law will be a very good thing. She’s looking for something smaller than her long-barrel, long-grip target pistol.
Your community is full of people like Sonja and Brian. As Illinois gun dealers are about to see, part of their service to the community is helping customers select a handgun that will allow them to be optimally protected within the broad needs of the concealed carry world.
By Massad Ayoob
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