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Air guns: what's new & how you can profit.


A lot is happening in the area of airguns these days, and any firearms dealer who will not pay attention risks losing a pretty substantial profit. Airguns have come a long, long way during the past fifteen years or so, expanding steadily in just about every imaginable direction. In fact, I daresay that the field of airguns is now so wide and diverse that in many ways it rivals the field of firearms in its complexity. Dealers don't necessarily have to become full-fledged airgun experts in order to profit from the current airgun market. They must, however, learn the fundamentals, such as the three main types of power plants -- springpiston, pneumatic and [CO.sub.2] -- and become at least familiar with the basic categories of airguns according to their capabilities and intended applications. Most of the necessary information is readily available in the catalogs published by airgun manufacturers and importers, so that the learning process is quite painless.

Despite the steady growth of the airgun industry over the years, I am often shocked at the way in which some firearms dealers ignore the whole thing. The proverbial ostrich with the head buried in the ground comes readily to mind, to give you a better idea of some dealers' attitude regarding airguns. In some ways I guess it is not their fault; after all, airguns were traditionally regarded as basically toys in this country for many years. Because of the huge success of the youth-oriented, low power BB gun, many Americans eventually came to regard all airguns as mere BB guns. (It may come perhaps as a suprise to many, but even the classic youth style BB gun many of us grew up with is not a toy!)

Unfortunately, old attitudes and beliefs die hard and this has been the case with airguns, to the financial detriment of a lot of firearms dealers. I still see too many gun shops where airguns are treated more as an afterthought than anything else. Sales personnel seldom can answer intelligently even the most basic technical questions about airguns and, in fact, tend to look upon the airgun customer as an occasional nuisance that they must endure. More often than not, whatever airgun selection is available -- usually no more than a couple of basic domestic models and perhaps one or two imported spring-piston guns -- is sort of lumped together in some out-of-the-way corner where customers have difficulty finding them. In many instances the airguns are simply lost among the "real" guns in the racks, making it even more difficult for the potential buyer to identify them when they walk into the gun shop.

The "horror stories" don't stop there. I have personally witnessed sales clerks giving absolutely erroneous -- if not outright dangerous -- advice on a couple of instances to customers trying to purchase high-power spring-piston rifles. In one case the dimwit behind the counter actually told the customer that squirting WD-40[R] or 3-in-1[R] oil into the compression chamber would make the gun shoot harder. Right, for a few shots, perhaps, until the power plant destroys itself due to severe dieseling or even blows up!

On another memorable occasion at a different gunshop, the joker trying to sell an expensive European spring-piston air rifle kept dry-firing the gun while demonstrating it to the hapless customer. Again, just a few dry snaps are sufficient to internally demolish most adult spring-piston guns. Both of the above incidents are, I am afraid, the rule rather than the exception. Again, a bit of basic education regarding airguns would do wonders for the firearms dealer who is serious about tapping into this source of profit.

Besides learning himself and -- if he has additional sales personnel -- making sure that at least one member of the sales staff is knowledgeable on airguns, there are other positive steps that the firearms dealer can take in order to increase his sales of airguns and related accessories:

1) Set aside a specific area of the gun shop for airguns only. Even a small section is far better than nothing. Post a sign conspicuously above the area to indicate clearly to customers that you carry airguns. Something like "The Airgun Corner" or just "Airguns" will do.

2) Make sure that you stock at least a couple of models from each basic power plant category. There is a wide selection of brands and models within each of those categories, so learn as much as possible about their performance specs before ordering. Generally speaking, you will not go wrong in stocking a few of the high-power European spring-piston models, as well as some of the more traditional American pump-ups, such as those made by Benjamin/Sheridan, Crosman and Daisy.

Don't overlook [CO.sub.2] guns and offer a couple of regular BB gun models, especially for the Christmas season.

3) Carry a comprehensive selection of pellets, targets, pellet traps, cleaning supplies, [CO.sub.2], etc. It is not just selling an airgun, but having the right accessories to go with it that completes the cycle.

4) Find out if there are any good, reliable airgunsmiths in your area and have the information available to customers requesting it. If word gets around that your store is serious about airguns, some of these people may come in to look around and ask questions about new airguns. They may end up buying a new model from you instead of fixing the old one.

5) If feasible, set up a few feet of space next to the airgun section so that customers can try out their intended purchase. Even a large cardboard box stuffed with newspapers will make a dandy pellet trap that will last for a very long time. Let the customer fire a couple of shots if necessary and chances are that you'll have a sale. Although safety and insurance considerations play a crucial part in the decision to have an airgun firing point in your store, this is something that is worth checking into.

6) Most American airgun manufacturers offer attractive point-of-purchase displays, often at little or no charge to the dealer. These displays, along with colorful, expertly designed packaging, can enhance dramatically any airgun sales area in the store. In addition, airgun companies have dealer programs that may include co-op advertising and other special incentives. As far as the airguns themselves are concerned, 1990 thus far is turning out to be a banner year regarding the sheer variety of new models available. Let's take a brief look at these new airguns.

Match Air Rifles

For the past several years, the trend in world-class match air rifles has been away from the once predominant recoilless spring-piston system, in favor of the pneumatic and [CO.sub.2] power plants. This is still the case, as evidenced by the appearance last year of the RWS-Diana Model 100 single-stroke pneumatic rifle, the Steyr [CO.sub.2] Match rifle and the Walther CG90 [CO.sub.2] Match rifle. Interest in world-class match airguns, while not as dynamic as other areas of the airgun spectrum, continues to climb at a more or less steady rate in this country. This trend can be expected to stay on course now that 10-meter airgun shooting is a fully recognized Olympic event.

Gun South, Inc. (Circle No 401 on Inquiry Card), importers and distributors of the Steyr-Mannlicher line, has made the new Steyr [CO.sub.2] Moving Target Match rifle available to American shooters. This superb model boasts every conceivable refinement that a world-class competitor might want, and then some.

Interarms (Circle No 402 on Inquiry Card) has added the new Walther LG90 match air rifle to its lineup. The LG90 utilizes the single-stroke pneumatic power plant and is also loaded with competition-proven features.

One of the most successful examples of the recoilles spring-piston power plant is the Anschutz Model 380 match air rifle. Although unavailable in the U.S. for the past few years, this outstanding match rifle is once again being distributed here, this time by Marksman Products (Circle No 403 on Inquiry Card). The Anschutz 380 certainly rounds out Marksman's comprehensive line of adult airguns.

Magnum-class Adult Air Rifles

One of the fastest growing airgun categories during the 1980s, high-power or magnum-class adult air rifles -- those with muzzle velocities well in excess of 800 f.p.s. in .177 caliber and 625 f.p.s. in .22 caliber -- still has a commanding lead among airgun enthusiasts as well as general sport shooters. The magnum-class air rifle packs enough punch to take small game cleanly and humanely at ranges that sometimes exceed fifty yards. Its power and accuracy also make it a favorite with field target and metallic silhouette shooters.

Air Rifle Specialists (Circle No 404 on Inquiry Card) is the U.S. importer and distributor of the superb Theoben line of air rifles from England. Theoben rifles are famous for their unique "gas ram" power plant, in which the piston that produces the air compression is itself propelled by a compressed gas rather than the traditional mainspring.

New this year from ARS are the Theoben Imperator Field Target Match and the Grand Prix SLR88. Both of these beauties are top-class all the way and their retail prices of more than $1,300 apiece reflect that fact. For those who desire a super-magnum air rifle, the Theoben Eliminator can produce a whopping 30 ft/lbs of muzzle energy. ARS also has the new HW90, the first air rifle produced by the famous German firm of Weihrauch to incorporate the Theoben gasram.

Beeman Precision Arms, Inc. (Circle No 405 on Inquiry Card), has been a truly major force in the American adult airgun scene for many years. Adding to an already extensive lineup of adult air rifles, Beeman has just launched the model RX, a magnum airsporter that also incorporates the Theoben system. The Beeman RX is available in calibers .177, .20, .22 and .25, with suggested retail prices hovering around $410.

Another high-power air rifle also being imported by Beeman is the Webley "Eclipse." This is the latest model from the famous English gunmaker and utilizes the spring-piston system, cocked by an underlever mechanism.

Not to be outdone, Marksman Products (Circle No 406 on Inquiry Card) introduced late last year the 60 Series spring-piston rifles. Both the model 60 and the model 61 Carbine use an underlever cocking mechanism and produce muzzle velocities of approximately 840 f.p.s. in .177 caliber, with near-match accuracy besides.

General Purpose Air Rifles

In this group we have a variety of new entries intended for everything from youth training to backyard plinking. Crosman Air Guns leads the parade, with three brand-new entries: the Model 262 Sporter, the Black Diamond and the Outbacker. The first two are powered by [CO.sub.2] and have rifled barrels, while the latter is a single-pump pneumatic with a smooth-bored barrel. Both the Black Diamond and the Outbacker can handle BBs as well as pellets, while the Model 262 fires pellets only, single-shot. These three models complement another Crosman entry from late in 1989, the Backpacker carbine, a multi-pump pneumatic with creditable power.

Dynamit Nobel-RWS, Inc. (Circle No 407 on Inquiry Card), has just introduced the dainty little models 70 and 72 match training rifles. Intended for young shooter desiring a true match-oriented air rifle, these scaled down break-barrel models fit the bill perfectly. They differ only in that the Model 72 incorporates a recoil-neutralizing mechanism similar to that found in Diana spring-piston match airguns.

Marksman Products has just launched the Model 1750, a smoothbored version of the highly popular Model 1790 Biathlon Trainer air rifle. The 1750, however, is intended for both BBs (as an 18-shot repeater) or as a single-shot pellet gun. It also differs from the 1790 in that it comes with a simple open rear sight. The Marksman 1750 is a true fun-gun for all age groups.

Air Pistols

The Daisy Mfg. Co. (Circle No 408 on Inquiry Card) has just added the Power Line Model 45 to its roster of look-alike fun-guns. The Model 45 is a spittin' image of none other than the legendary .45 caliber Colt Govt. Model autoloader. This latest Daisy entry is powered by [CO.sub.2] and takes a magazine with capacity for thirteen .177" pellets; perfect for dispatching mice and other small pests at short range.

In the area of match air pistols, Beeman is now offering the Beeman/FWB C5, a slick, rapid fire model powered by [CO.sub.2]. Hot on its heels is the new Walther CP5, also a [CO.sub.2] powered rapid fire match model that should be available from Interarms at about this time. Gun South reportedly will be distributing Steyr's new [CO.sub.2] Match pistol, a single-shot model intended for regular 10-meter international competition.

In addition to all of the new models hitherto discussed, here is one airgun development that falls into a special category.

The Airrow Series 6 gun shoots regular Easton[TM] aluminum arrows at up to 375 f.p.s. and is intended for target shooting as well as hunting. This unique and unusual gun is powered by [CO.sub.2] but compressed air can also be utilized. Airrow guns are manufactured by Swivel Machine Works, Inc. (Circle No 409 on Inquiry Card).

Let's face it, airguns are becoming an increasingly important force in the shooting sports. The growing threat against the legitimate use and possession of many types of firearms, coupled with changing lifestyles and economic factors, is certain to boost airguns as an increasingly viable means of keeping the shooting sports alive for future generations. With a bit of judicious homework, you could turn a tidy profit from those ubiquitous airguns, and that's certainly no hot air!

PHOTO : (Top to Bottom) - The colorful Marksman Air Pistol Center is offered at no charge to the

PHOTO : dealer and has plenty of room for an assortment of Marksman air pistols and accessories.

PHOTO : - Daisy's new Power Line 45 is a [CO.sub.2]-powered pellet firing spittin' image of the

PHOTO : legendary Colt Govt. Model autoloader. It takes thirteen .177 caliber pellets in the

PHOTO : magazine and fires them at around 400 f.p.s. - The Crosman "Outbacker" sports novel

PHOTO : styling along with the new Pinpoint peep sight. Its single-pump pneumatic power plant

PHOTO : produces a m.v. of 450 f.p.s. with BBs and 400 f.p.s. with .177" pellets. - Marksman's

PHOTO : #1790 Biathlon Trainer offers top value at a modest price. Sleek styling appeals to a wide

PHOTO : cross-section of shooters.

PHOTO : - The RWS-Diana Model 72 is intended specifically for junior shooters wanting a recoilless

PHOTO : match air rifle. Buttplate extension allows the diminutive rifle to be used by adults.

PHOTO : - The superb Anschutz 380 match air rifle is now available in the U.S. through Marksman

PHOTO : Products. - The smart dealer should not overlook paintball guns, such as the new Nel Spot

PHOTO : 007 Challenger, as well as related accessories. - Despite retail prices in the $500 to

PHOTO : nearly $900 range, world-class match air pistols, like the Beeman/FWB Model 100, continue

PHOTO : to have a steadily expanding market in this country.

PHOTO : (Top to Bottom) - Crosman's superb Model 357 [CO.sub.2]-powered revolvers make ideal

PHOTO : firearms training tools. Ten-shot pellet cylinders are now available for this model.

PHOTO : - The classic Daisy Red Ryder BB gun is still a top seller. Current version comes with a

PHOTO : neat stock medallion and replica of the original Red Ryder comic book from the 1930s.

PHOTO : - The Airrow Series 6 works with either [CO.sub.2] or compressed air and can shoot a

PHOTO : regular aluminum arrow at nearly 400 f.p.s. - A variety of practical [CO.sub.2] power

PHOTO : sources can be adapted to the new Airrow Series 6, from 12-gram cartridge to 7-oz. bottle

PHOTO : that doubles as a shoulder stock.

PHOTO : (Top to Bottom) - The Beeman/FWB C5 is a world-class rapid-fire [CO.sub.2] pistol that

PHOTO : will undoubtedly earn its fair thare of gold at international events. - The Steyr

PHOTO : [CO.sub.2] Match is another world-class competition rifle that is now available to

PHOTO : American shooters. A real beauty, inside and out! - The Bikathlon, an event for youngsters

PHOTO : co-sponsored by Crosman Air Guns, combines cross-country bicycle riding with target

PHOTO : shooting.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Publishers' Development Corporation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Galan, I.I.
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Aug 1, 1990
Previous Article:What makes a customer a buyer?
Next Article:New publications: a composite review.

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