The NRA annual gathering is seen as a national meeting by most of its members, but industry people often refer it to as “the NRA Show.” The event’s acres of display tables make it the second largest “gun show” in America. The biggest, of course, is the SHOT Show, where the focus is on members of the industry.
This April, more than 86,000 everyday gun buyers attended the NRA Show; an important reason for the large turnout was the chance to see all the guns and related products on display.
A record turnout it was: roughly 12,000 more than the previous largest NRA bash in the organization’s 142 years. As always, the show is a great “test lab” for what buyers are looking for — and what they hope to actually purchase.
At this writing, guns are starting to come through the pipeline again, though most manufacturers are still hugely backordered. Ammunition, on the other hand, is disappearing from dealers’ shelves almost as soon as it arrives. That’s not just a local perspective, either. The NRA Annual Meeting was the final week of a five-week coast-to-coast tour I conducted that resulted in the same conclusion: The ammo shortage is severe everywhere.
New Defense Guns
The SHOT Show, of course, is the hot spot for each year’s new gun introductions. That said, the NRA conclave is a handy mid-year point for introducing firearms. There were definitely some potential best sellers debuting in Houston, Texas this year.
From Beretta comes the ultra-thin Pico. A micro .380, the Pico is designed to compete with the wildly popular Ruger LCP and Kel-Tec P3AT. The sights are unusually good for this type of pistol. With a slide that locks open on the last shot, a manageable slide-lock/slide-release lever and a low-profile Walther-style magazine release, the Pico is readily convertible from .380 to .32 ACP. The latter feature may appeal to those who are especially recoil sensitive, while the interchangeable calibers will resonate with folks who found .380 ammo unobtainable during the ammo shortage, but could occasionally spot a box of .32 ACP on otherwise bare shelves. Price point is around $400, and I look for it to be a strong seller.
Many of your customers are clamoring for the cool, radical, little Kel-Tec KSG shotgun — regardless of how nearly impossible they are to get in stock. For those who aren’t willing to wait for the KSG, consider the very similar UTS-15 from Turkey (www.utas-usa.com). This 12-gauge is going to get a lot of attention, if the crowds stacked around it at the NRA show were any indication. It sports a smooth pump action, a grip and safety lever that owners of modern sporting rifles will be right at home with, as well as dual seven-round magazine tubes, having a total unloaded weight of 6.9 pounds.
Andrey Safanyuk, iSniper Inc. president, uses a modified S&W M&P
to demonstrate his company’s iMarksman product.
Shooting Without Ammunition
That five-week tour I mentioned encompassed a week at the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers seminar, where it became clear cops are just as desperate for ammunition as you and your customers. This has required cops to cut back severely in live-fire training. Dry-fire is all well and good, but it doesn’t give you the greatest “am I hitting the target?” feedback. The current situation is a natural for non-ballistic shooting.
At the NRA event and law enforcement seminar, iSniper Inc. presented the iMarksman Virtual Target System, which connects to your customer’s personal computer and almost any training gun that emits a laser beam when the trigger is pressed.
Such training guns include the dedicated laser SIRT pistol and the SIRT bolt for AR15-type rifles (www.nextleveltraining.com). LaserLyte (www.laserlyte.com) offers laser cartridges for use with firearms. They include the recently introduced LTS Trigger Tyme dedicated laser training pistol, plus, LaserLyte has interactive targets designed exclusively to work with their products. I’ve had good luck in testing with these items.
Getting back to the iMarksman system, new software allows it to go beyond simple “electronic bullseye shooting.” No, it’s not a FATS machine or a MILO range like they have at the police academy (which almost create a virtual-reality gunfight). However, iMarksman doesn’t cost tens of thousands of dollars, either. www.imarksman.com is your source for more info.
BLACKHAWK!’s Diversion Workout Bag offers secure, discreet transport of firearms.
Gun cases that don’t look like gun cases can deflect unwanted interest in the firearms your customer routinely transports. BLACKHAWK!, a company always looking for new dealers, now offers a neat line of non-traditional gun cases in their recently-added Diversion line.
At the NRA show, BLACKHAWK!’s Chuck Buis showed me backpacks designed to transport folding-stock modern sporting rifles. The Diversion line looks like “yuppie-wear” instead of “gun stuff.” Yes, I know, some of your customers would rather be seen as “gun guys” than “yuppies.” Still, there’s a huge market for low-profile stuff that doesn’t flag the gun owner as a target for theft. BLACKHAWK! even offers a “gym bag” that can carry multiple M4-size carbines. Check them all out at www.blackhawk.com.
All those customers who crowded the NRA exhibit hall in Houston are just like your customers. People want to spend time with the things they’re enthusiastic about, so it’s perfectly logical that gun enthusiasts want to spend time with their guns. When they can’t find ammo to shoot or primers to feed their reloading machines, their thoughts turn to other applications for their interest — and other products to buy.
More sophisticated cleaning gear, for the enthusiast who wants to spend more time better understanding the firearms he or she owns, is a great purchase option.
Otis offers a wide range of brilliant gun-cleaning products, and backs them with colorful advertising, making the line hugely popular. The company’s success was evident by the large crowds that surrounded their booth at NRA. They also offer an attractive display for retailers. Check them out at www.otisgun.com.
Sentry Solutions also drew large numbers to their booth, based on their reputation and “free samples” offer. When this firm was founded in my native state of New Hampshire in the 1980s, I was skeptical, at first, of their claims. But working with Sentry Solutions products such as Smooth-Kote and Tuf-Glide made me a believer. They definitely reduced maintenance needs, in terms of cleaning and lubrication, and kept hard-used guns up and running longer between clean-up sessions. You can get info from them at www.sentrysolutions.com.
May of 2014 will find the 143rd NRA Annual Meeting & Exhibits in Indianapolis, Ind. Hopefully, the ammo situation will be better by then. In the meantime, dealers who attended this year’s event in Houston, have solid ideas for new products to bring cash flow into their gun shops.
By Massad Ayoob
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