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Airguns - not just for kids.

Not Interested In Selling Airguns? You're Missing A BIG Market!

Airguns are more popular today than ever before. More companies - many of them mainstream gun manufacturers - are including airguns in their inventories. Airguns, without a doubt, are selling. But somehow, gun dealers haven't gotten the word. Or perhaps they don't care. Should they?

Given the bumpy business road that the gun industry continues to travel, any firearm that sells deserves attention. In addition, airguns play an important role in the continuing emphasis of "attracting the next generation of gun owners." Traditionally, airguns have been the first "gun" many young people own. But airguns aren't just for kids. They really never have been.

Airguns have been around for hundreds of years. One of the oldest dates back to the late 16th century. Late in the 19th century, powerful .51 caliber repeating airguns were in use by the Austrian army. Members of the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1803 reportedly used airguns.

In those days, airguns were the plaything of the wealthy. But late in the 19th century, mass production began to lower the price. The BB gun became and still is a popular, inexpensive gift for the younger shooter. Many dealers continue to sell plenty of Daisy Red Ryders at Christmastime.

The most important change in the airguns market has been the introduction of "adult" air handguns and rifles. These C[O.sub.2]-powered airguns have the size, feel, weight and look of modern firearms. They're excellent for practicing at a far lower cost than "real" guns. The practice is virtually silent and can be done in a backyard or basement, given a safe backstop.

As an additional selling point, there's no traveling to a range, checking in, or range fees. While the airgun's recoil is different, the weight, size and grip are identical to the firearm it resembles. The shooter gets plenty of practice at the lowest cost.

Recent introductions in the "adult airgun" category have come from longtime airgun manufacturers and "real" gun companies.

Daisy, who introduced its still-popular Red Ryder in 1938, has found new markets with its Model 454, a semiauto airgun that has an operational slide that actually cocks the hammer.

Beeman recently introduced the P3, a .177 caliber single-stroke pneumatic air pistol that looks like it came out of a gun shop's semi-auto showcase. The P3 has a two-stage trigger, automatic safety, recoilless action, micrometer sight adjustable for windage and elevation, and a dovetail rail for scope mounting. Last year, Kim Rhode, the Olympic Gold Medalist, joined Beeman as their spokesperson. Rhode began shooting with a pellet gun, before advancing to international double trap.

Crosman's new 1911-style CB40 semi-auto air pistol has a zinc alloy frame. It's capable of up to eight shots under two seconds and pushes pellets to 430 fps. In Crosman's 100 series of semi-autos, the 1008BRD comes with a Copperhead red-dot sight.

Marksman's new Laserhawk sight system is designed for the Model 2005 Laserhawk Special Edition Air Pistol and the Model 2015 Laserhawk BB Repeater Air Rifle. The sight has a fiber optic filament that emits a red dot. Marksman's new 1795 Bolt Action Repeater Air Rifle uses a 10-shot ammo clip and comes with Marksman's 1804 4x20mm airgun scope.

Gamo USA has a new airgun that looks remarkably like a Walther semiauto. The P-23 has a 12-shot magazine and a muzzle velocity of 400 fps. Gamo's R77 airgun revolvers, which mirror Smith & Wessons, come with robber combat-style grips. The Hunter 880S is Gamo's latest air rifle. It boosts 1,000 fps in. 177 caliber and comes with a 3-12x44 parallax adjustable scope. Gamo plans to introduce six to eight new offerings at the NASGW Show in Tampa, Fla., next month.

Dynamit Nobel-RWS found instant success last year with their C225 air pistol series. "These C[O.sub.2] powered pistols have exceeded our wildest expectations," said the company's president Frank Turner. The C225s are modeled after large-caliber semi-auto pistols with single and double action and a functioning decocking lever. This year, Dynamit NobeI-RWS introduced the Model C-357, a C[O.sub.2] revolver in the Diana line. It has a 6-inch rifled barrel, eight-shot cylinder, and the look and feel of a large-frame revolver.

Then there are the airgun offerings from mainstream, "real" gun companies.

Colt has invested a significant amount of money in the development and advertising of their new line of C[O.sub.2] pistols. The three models are identical to Colt's semiauto, including the slide markings: "Colt Government 1911 A1." The Colt advertising in national gun magazines heralds the pistols as "Ideal for safety instruction, sport shooting or target practice." This year, the 350 members of the Shooting Industry Academy of Excellence voted the Colt C[O.sub.2] Pistols as the 1998 Specialty Product of the Year.

Savage Arms surprised the market place this year with the introduction of three modern air rifles. They have two-stage triggers, 18-inch barrels and .177 caliber power. The Model 1000G delivers 1,000 fps and has adjustable sights and a checkered hardwood stock.

SIGARMS has for years offered the Hammerli line of top-precision match airguns. This year they've added another match air rifle, the Hammerli AR 50. This sophisticated rifle features a vibration-free firing release, adjustable trigger, Hammerli peep sight and a dazzling rainbow-colored stock.

How can a dealer cash in on the surge in airgun interest?

"Every firearms dealer should have an air-gun range in the store or just outside," says Bill Poole, director for education and training at the NRA. "Start an air gun league, especially in the winter.

"Develop some sort of competition for the youngsters and adults. Any dealer who is not involved in promoting airguns is missing plenty of business."

The NRA's Air Gun Package contains a number of booklets to help shooters and dealers - get started in airguns. The package costs $8 plus shipping, handling and state taxes. Poole also offers his personal help to any dealer requesting it.

Frank Turner, of Dynamit-Nobel RWS, also says dealers have a lot of help marketing airguns.

"Ask for help!" says Turner. "Our sales representatives can help train counter personnel on the products they sell, especially adult airguns. We offer our dealers in-store seminars and have several plans for co-op advertising with the dealers through our distributors. We think the dealers should know the products they sell. We can help them with that knowledge."

Randy Antonio, an assistant store manager in Oceanside, Calif., says he moves a comfortable number of airguns to customers, almost without any special promotions, little advertising or support for local shooting programs.

"I sell what I would buy myself," said Antonio. "Many of our customers are rural, rather than urban dwellers. They typically have rodent and pest problems and that's why they buy pellet-shooting air rifles.

"The airgun customers we have are about 50-50 adults and children. Only those children accompanied by adults are sold airguns."

Antonio says the store stocks some inexpensive airguns, as well as an increasing number of more expensive adult, precision airguns. In the expensive category, the shelves display a selection of RWS, Diana and Beeman Precision rifles and Walther pistols. Other brands are Daisy, Crosman, and Marksman.

"We sell a lot of Daisy Red Ryder, Daisy 866 and Crosman rifles at Christmastime," said Antonio. "The Crosman airguns are probably the biggest sellers."


AIR GUN PACKAGE (Item # 09440) NRA Education & Training Division 11250 Waples Mill Road Fairfax, VA 22030 Sales Dept. (800) 336-7402
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:adult airgun models
Author:Combs, Roger
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Oct 1, 1998
Previous Article:Long-gun marketing.
Next Article:School shooting energizes gun-control forces.

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