Trends In Long Guns

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Plenty Of Opportunities With Rifles,
Shotguns & Accessories

By Kevin Russelburg

In many gun stores across the country, long-gun sales are not as strong as handgun sales based on volume. However, long guns are still very much a popular item and an essential tool for most defensive firearm owners and shooting sport enthusiasts. To that end, dealers these days are still selling a significant amount of MSR-style rifles.

Entry-level models such as the DPMS Oracle and S&W M&P 5.56mm remain a popular seller for retailers. This is helped, in part, by the MSR’s modular platform and the fact they’re available at a welcoming price for consumers. Once a customer purchases an MSR, he or she can accessorize it for a custom look and feel.

Another selling point for MSRs is as the hoarding of ammunition has subsided and bricks of .22 LR are available again, customers can enjoy the economic advantage of plinking with one of their most favored rounds. The quick and simple changeover of uppers can make many MSRs capable of shooting .22 LR — providing an attractive option for those who spend a fair amount of time at the range.

In a potentially softened market in 2017, niche category MSRs — such as high-end offerings from companies like Daniel Defense, Black Rain Ordnance and LWRCI — are primed to sell well.

Compared MSRs/M4s, the AR-10 has faced some challenges. In talking with other dealers, I’ve found they’ll often suggest bolt-action rifles for customers that are looking to get into a .308 round for big-game hunting or for longer-distance shooting.

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Benelli Super Black Eagle 3

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Springfield Armory SAINT

The “Other” Black Gun

With the MSR market flooded with just about every variant imaginable, a segment of the market has turned to AK-style rifles.

“Following the over-saturation of MSR-style rifles, it got to the point where many gun owners would have their gun safes full of those rifles and they wanted to add something new to their collections. The AK platform has experienced many improvements over the past few years and is economical and as effective as the MSR,” said David Fillers, CEO DDI Arms.

Despite the popularity of AK-style rifles around the world, they haven’t always been viewed favorably here in the U.S. This image was “earned” mainly through the conflicts in which our military was involved and our GIs were almost always facing off against the AK.

“The perception of AK rifles started to change with a new generation of veterans,” Fillers added. “After coming back home, many of them wanted to have their own AK because they could see with their own eyes how little maintenance is needed to keep these rifles going.”

Another big push toward the popularity of AK-style rifles could be attributed to the growing “preppers” movement. For many, the AK’s legendary dependability is enough to make this platform their ideal survival rifle.

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Savage Arms MSR15 Recon

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Henry Repeating Arms H018-410R

Hunting For “Game” Changers

When it comes to home-defense, pump-action shotguns like the Mossberg Persuader 12-gauge with pistol grip and the Remington 870, tactical lines are stable and reliable sellers for dealers. However, customers interested in trap or skeet consider more traditionally-configured shotguns.

All gun shops strive to grab their customers’ attention and bullpup shotguns have proven to be an eye-catcher at the gun counter. Whether it’s the Kel-Tec KSG or the UTAS UTS-15, they stand out to customers because of their configuration and tactical capabilities.

“Although they don’t necessarily appeal to the hunting community, the interest in bullpups is growing and the market is expanding with newer versions and people becoming interested in their usefulness as a tactical- or home-defense option,” said Jim Wisner of Firearm Training and Shooting Supplies in East Peoria, Ill.

Dealers located in areas with a customer base heavily involved in the hunting community benefit greatly by catering to all seasons.

“During hunting season in our area, we only have shotgun and muzzleloader zones for deer hunting. Muzzleloader hunters tend to be very passionate about their craft, but because of potential changes to hunting regulations, hunters need to be aware of restrictions on caliber and allowable cartridge types. In certain markets, rifles above .35 caliber tend to dominate,” Wisner added.

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Howa 1500 Hogue KUIU Verde

Reach Out And Touch Something

For long-range shooting, bolt-action rifles remain the tool of choice, and the Remington 700 platform is still very popular. For your customers looking to get started in distance shooting or a good-quality hunting rifle, the Tikka T3x has also emerged as a strong product.

“We get quite a few people coming into the shop wanting to get into distance shooting. We recommend starting out with a good solid foundation such as the Remington 700 and learning the fundamentals to decide if it’s really something they’re interested in,” Wisner said.

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The Locking Rifle Display from Horizon Mfg. Enterprises Inc.
Rack’Em Racks showcases eight rifles and can be mounted to a
slat wall/peg board, flat wall or grid wall.

A Shift Toward Accessories

Any firearms dealer knows the margins on accessories far outweigh those on firearms alone. But with the availability of everything via the internet, it can be difficult to capture this higher-margin business. A common trend among long-gun accessories is customers will come to the store to replace items they bought online.

“Customers want value, but they also want products that work as advertised,” Wisner said. “They’ll buy accessories online, then discover they’re not what they thought or they don’t meet their needs. We offer better quality products because we know what works and what doesn’t.”

Storefront dealers still have an advantage in attracting customers, even with the growth of online retailers.

“One of the biggest benefits of buying from a brick-and-mortar store is customers can get advice and actually try the product before buying. This is especially true for higher ticket items like scopes,” Wisner added.

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