Selling Beyond The Gun

Dealers Encourage Personal-Defense Accessory Sales

By Kevin Russelburg

It’s well established one of the main criteria for selecting the proper handgun or long gun is its intended use. And when the intended use is personal defense, the selection process has only begun. Dealers and instructors would agree the perfect firearm for a specific individual depends solely on him or her. Once the primary piece of equipment has been identified, it’s necessary to give it the proper support — which is where brick-and-mortar retailers have an advantage over online retailers and big-box stores. A new customer will have many questions during the selection process, and those criteria will need to be considered when it comes to sales “beyond the gun.”

Dealers have an opportunity to provide education, information and sales of a variety of accessories to greatly benefit their personal-defense customers. If the option for concealed or open carry is being considered, then holsters and ammunition types offer an excellent opportunity. If it will only be used for home protection, then safety and security will be necessary. Both options will require the need for range and cleaning gear — which your store can also provide.

Even during times when dealers are experiencing a bit of a slowdown in firearm sales, revenues from the sale of accessories tend to stay steady, according to Stephen Stewart, owner of C.I. Shooting Sports in Normal, Ill.

“People tend to keep the guns they have, and are purchasing items to improve performance or upgrading. Some of the most common upgrades for handguns we sell in our store include Blade-Tech and Sticky Holsters in both IWB and OWB varieties. Crimson Trace lasers are very popular, as well as Trijicon HD sights and TALON Grips.”

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Your personal-defense customers will need defensive ammunition, and both Ruger and Browning
recently added a variety of calibers to their line of offerings. Handgun safes are another
product category to consider adding to your store. The Hornady Key Lock Safe 2600KL fits
most 4-inch barrel pistols and some 2-inch revolvers.

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Personal-Defense Ammo

Selection of the proper ammunition is critical to personal-defense customers, and it depends on what personal-defense situation he or she has identified as primary. Caliber is obviously part of the selection process when purchasing a firearm, but there are numerous options to sort through. Manufacturers and dealers both agree advancements in ammunition performance over the past couple of decades have increased significantly. One of the main drivers for these advancements is the demand from consumers for better ballistic performance for manageable recoil calibers, like 9mm.

When it comes to responsible gun ownership, training is an essential element — which shouldn’t be overlooked. Brendan Tebbs, a firearms training consultant and NRA-Certified Instructor, had some observations for dealers on training ammunition.

“You should have a supply of training ammo, preferably bulk quantities of factory FMJ in the correct caliber. You’ll also want to have a considerable quantity of carry/defense ammo, such as jacketed hollowpoints,” he said. “I always recommend shooters should try to use similar bullet weights in both training and defense ammunition to minimize the Point of Impact (POI) variance. For 9mm, 115-grain and 124-grain are most common, followed by 147-grain. Hornady, Federal and Speer are three names popular names when it comes to quality defensive ammo.”

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Having a wide range of products available allows dealers to offer unique products
specific to each customer’s needs (above). Dealers should always take the
opportunity to discuss and educate their customers on accessory options such as
magazines, holsters, lights, grips, sights and more.

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Selections Abound In Holsters

For those customers intending to carry concealed, this creates an excellent opportunity for knowledgeable dealers to provide an essential service beyond the sale. If you have a steady stream of personal-defense customers, you already know the biggest market for holsters are of the concealable varieties. Most customers are interested and surprised at the sheer number of variations and manufacturers with products available to them.

“If a customer is purchasing for the purpose of carrying — whether concealed or open — they’ll likely need a holster, even if only for use at the range. For concealed carry, IWB or OWB are two main options for consideration. Some customers may also be looking for pocket carry, ankle or shoulder options,” Tebbs added.

It’s important for dealers to have a representative group for each of the main carry types for customers to try prior to making a selection. Material choices such as leather or Kydex also should be considered. In addition, there are numerous hybrid options available today.

Holsters have been some of the biggest sellers over the last year at Just Target Guns in Libertyville, Ill., according to Partner Bruce McGlothin.
“We carry several different lines of holsters from Galco, BLACKHAWK!, Sticky and Safariland. For customers looking for something custom, we’ll work with some local Kydex holster manufacturers,” he said.

In addition to a good quality holster, a sturdy belt should also be an integral part of your offerings. Wilderness Tactical, Cobra, Galco, Beltman, Bullard, as well as others, all provide an excellent range of products to consider. There are also quite a few custom and semi-custom leather products available as an alternative for your customers.

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For personal-defense customers that prefer a long gun, Streamlight has expanded its
ProTac line with its first dedicated fixed-mount tactical light. Featuring a fixed rail
grabber, it includes a remote pressure switch with constant-on operation, as well
as a “standard switch.”

Reinforce Safety

Even when the customer’s reason for purchasing a firearm is for personal defense, there will be times when the gun isn’t on the customer or in their immediate vicinity 24/7. During those times, they’re going to need a place to securely store it. This presents an opportunity for dealers to educate new shooters, emphasizing the importance of safety and storage when the gun is not being carried. They’ll need your insight on why it should be safely secured in a vehicle, or inside the home. Options include large home gun safes as a central location for all guns, as well as smaller one- and two-handgun sized safes.

“We’ve made the transition from large safes to smaller ones — which are designed for ease of access to the user. Secure storage options for inside the vehicle should not be overlooked,” McGlothin said.

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Safariland IWB 575

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The Spartan series from LaserMax uses Rail Vise Technology, which eliminates
the need for multiple laser housing options or adapters. It’s fully adjustable
and is available in either red or green.

Maintain Options For Customers

Don’t miss an opportunity to provide spare magazines, night sights, replacement grip panels, grip sleeves, recoil springs, triggers or magazine extensions for your personal-defense customers. Flashlights are an attractive option for those who don’t like lasers mounted on their handgun or long gun. There are several options available, including a light on the gun, or separately, in hand. SureFire, Streamlight, Insight, etc. are some popular options to have in your store.

At Just Target Guns, McGlothin notes his store’s personal-defense classes provide a natural “tie-in” to additional accessory sales.

“After holsters, the next biggest selling item customers are looking for is tactical lights. When I’m working in the shop, I carry a SIG P229 with a Streamlight light on it. If customers ask, I give a mini tutorial on the use of lights and how they can be attached to different weapons systems. We cover the use of lights in our CCW class, so it’s an easy tie-in for selling accessories. Lasers aren’t as popular, but that’s most likely a regional influence since we have a quite a few customers from Chicago and the use of lasers in the city is illegal,” he said.

Stewart says pepper spray has been very popular with customers and his store is looking to bring in more women customers.

“Pepper spray is always a big mover when school starts in the summer, and with women. We’re in the process of training a couple of female instructors and sales associates to target the female demographic.

We’ve also had a couple of ladies’ nights to encourage more participation. We carry 10 different SKUs of SABRE Red pepper spray,” Stewart said.
“Don’t overlook an opportunity to cater to the needs of women purchasing accessories as well. CCW purses by Bulldog Cases are a big seller in our store.”

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