Why You Should Pursue Customers
In This Surging Market
By Carolee Anita Boyles
Today’s recreational shooters represent a whole new generation of firearm enthusiasts. From youngsters to their mothers, the recreational shooters of the 21st century are bringing new energy to the shooting sports. Patrick Brady, owner of The Gunman of Arkansas in Berryville, Ark., has observed the number of women shooters at his store and range increase greatly over the past five years.
“Women in the shooting sports have really come out in increased numbers,” he noted. “It’s all ages. I have one lady who’s 89 years old and loves to shoot, and I have teenagers who come out with their families.”
Brady said today’s new shooters like all types of guns, with about an equal number shooting rifles and handguns.
“They shoot rifles, shotguns and pistols. They’re doing it for pleasure and they’re not competing,” he added.
Women shoot a variety of calibers, according to Brady.
“In rifles, they shoot a lot of .22s. From there, .17 Magnums are good; they also like 5.56. Handguns range from .380 on up to .45.”
Today’s shooters are purchasing a number of brands, Brady continued.
“My recreational customers buy a lot of Marlin rifles and Ruger 10/22s,” he said. “Springfield Armory is really a big hit for handguns.”
A healthy segment of recreational shooters are target shooters — and they like variety, Brady relayed.
“They shoot a lot of paper,” he stated. “I also have reactive steel targets, and they like to shoot those as well.”
Brady uses his range as the basis for a shooting club; it attracts many new shooters.
“People pay to join the club,” he noted. “They come out and shoot, and I have barbeques and places for them to sit and eat, so they can make a day of it. It’s cold in the winter but during the spring and summer whole families come out and really enjoy the facility.”
The influence of new shooters also extends into accessories.
“People are buying a lot of PMAGs for MSRs,” Brady said. “On top of that, they like red-dot scopes and all kinds of pistol accessories.”
According to Brady, the most important thing he provides to new shooters is good customer service.
“Without good customer service I wouldn’t be in business,” he said. “This means giving customers what they’re able to handle, and teaching them about what they’re not able to handle at no charge.”
If you can successfully appeal to recreational shooters,
you’ll be able to benefit from an active customer base.
With the importance of word-of-mouth marketing, make sure
your store is known as a welcoming place to visit.
Get Them Started With “The Real Thing”
At Jay’s Guns in Crestview, Fla., owner Jay Woodbury has also seen a big change in his clientele. “We have a lot more female shooters,” he observed. “And we have a lot of younger shooters who were into video games when they were 16 or so. Now they’re getting into real firearms — on our range. I think video games introduce them to firearms, and then when they get the opportunity to see the real thing they’re fascinated with it. We do rentals on our ranges, and when we offer these younger customers the opportunity to shoot, they’re hooked.”
Much of the influx of women shooters, Woodbury noted, comes from word-of-mouth marketing.
“In this area, we have a lot of new organizations that sponsor women as they take their first steps into the shooting sports,” he said. “They meet at night and come to the range afterhours when there’s just women and they feel more comfortable. Then they talk about the experience to their friends. It’s like a virus; it spreads and everybody catches it.”
Along with this has come a change in the guns customers purchase.
“When I started this in 2002, every gun was black,” Woodbury recalled. “Then we started seeing flat dark earth ones. Then came pink, purple, teal and turquoise.”
It’s not just women who like these brightly colored guns, Woodbury noted: guys like them, too. However, he added dealers should avoid assumptions when interacting with customers.
“When I go to a gun show, I just lay the guns out,” he said. “But you have to be really careful when you talk to ladies about these brightly-colored guns. You can’t just assume a lady wants one; I’ve had some customers get offended by my assumption. So, we just put them out and let them tell us what they want. It pays to have a wide variety, and not have a premonition of what you think people want.”
At Jay’s Guns in Crestview, Fla., Owner Jay Woodbury points out the
features of a Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 Sport M-LOK Muddy Girl to a young
customer. Woodbury reinforces quality customer service is a key component
to retaining customers.
In Woodbury’s store, female shooters are buying mostly handguns.
“Right now it’s a tossup between the GLOCK 42, the GLOCK 43 and the Ruger LC9s,” he observed. “It used to be the LCP and the Kel-Tec P3T in .380.” Furthermore, Woodbury’s customers like the Ruger Mark IV and Browning Buck Mark pistols.
“And of course the old favorites remain the Walther P22 and Ruger SR22,” he shared.
When it comes to rifles, the recreational rifle of choice is the MSR platform.
“Youngsters like military-style rifles,” Woodbury said. “The new KRISS Vector rifle is in a lot of video games and TV shows.” These shooters are roughly aged 19–24, he added.
Then there are accessories, which increasingly appeal to Millennials.
“There are a lot of cool gadgets out there Millennials like,” Woodbury said. “I’m just an old guy with a flip phone, and the kids tease me with their fancy phones and all the stuff they can do with them. Now there are things like that for firearms. It goes well with the transition from fantasy to reality.”
Scopes these younger shooters are buying are red dots from EOTech and Aimpoint, Woodbury noted. “They also like the BSA red dots. And then there are laser flashlights and the vertical grips. Some of the guys with more money are buying range-finding scopes with built-in laser rangefinders.”
All of this goes along with cool targets for customers to shoot, Woodbury pointed out.
“On the range, we have about 60 different kinds of paper targets customers can buy. We have steel plates, bowling pins and other reactive targets. We also will sell them a bag of balloons they can hang up and shoot so they pop when they’re hit. Even though we don’t have trap or skeet, we keep clay pigeons so people can buy them and shoot them and they explode; it’s more fun than just shooting a piece of paper that doesn’t do anything,” he explained. For very young shooters, Jay will sell a bag of cookies for a dollar the kids can shoot.
Remember on Homecoming weekend when high school officials would bring an old car and the students would beat it up with sledgehammers?
“I have a friend who has a scrapyard, and I go over and get a car and let people shoot at it on our outdoor range,” Woodbury said. “They have a lot of fun with it.”
Like Brady, Woodbury emphasized the most important key to reaching new shooters is good customer service.
“I try to hire younger folks who have an open mind and are more customer-service friendly,” he said. “Nowadays there are so many options with online sales and other new brick-and-mortar stores, customers don’t have to put up with poor customer service. If you don’t treat them respectfully, they’re going to go somewhere else.”