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Ammunition: boosting profits and increasing your ammunition sales take more than just loading the shelves.

Dealers don't need to be told that gun sales, with few exceptions, are in the doldrums. Handgun sales are especially soft. But instead of bemoaning the poor state of sales, perhaps there's an opportunity just waiting to be tapped.

After all, there are tens of thousands of new gun owners out there who are waiting for you to sell them ammunition. Ammo is the bread and butter of the gun shop and is often the largest profit center. Are you getting the most out of the ammo sales opportunity? Given the number of guns that have been sold, dealers should be able to increase their sales with extra marketing and service.

Make It Easy To Buy

When it comes to suggestions on how to increase ammo sales, gun shop owners and ammo manufacturers often repeat one theme: place ammunition where it can be touched.

"The ammo needs to be out where the customers can graze." said one dealer. He was, of course, referring to putting ammo out front instead of the common practice of keeping ammo behind the counter so the customer has to ask for it.

One gun shop proved the wisdom of making ammo an easy impulse purchase. One day, the owner `installed a pair of gondolas that funneled customers from the front door door to the shop. On one side were shotgun shells: the other was stocked with handgun ammo. The result: ammo sales were up 15 to 20 percent. There are, of course, important security considerations regarding floor plan and staffing availability when placing ammunition within easy reach of customers.

Information Sells Ammo

The average ammunition customer probably falls into one of three categories. The first simply wants a box of "bullets" and will be perfectly happy with whatever you hand him. The second type of customer knows precisely what he wants, calls for it by name and, as long as you've got it, is an easy sale. The third type may have a little information but really needs help to get the best product- to meet his needs. These folks can take a lot of sales time.

The vast variety of ammunition available makes it difficult for anyone to stay up to date. The premium grades of ammunition probably are the most difficult to understand. However, whether it's rifle, handgun or shotgun ammo, they're all changing as new products or new technology is introduced.

It's obvious there's a technological race between the major manufacturers in all kinds of ammo. In shotgun shells, there are now biodegradable wads, improvements in water resistance, vast improvements in steel shot, better buckshot and slugs, specialized loads for sporting clays and generally better target loads.

In handgun ammo, there's the widespread development of better defensive ammo and the expansion of generic lines. For rifles, target and game bullets that were once available only to handloaders are now factory loaded. Every manufacturer has a specialty game bullet like Grand Slam, Trophy Bonded, Swift A-frame, Nosler Partition and Ballistic Tip, and Barnes X-bullets.

Hunters need to know the features and performance each type of ammunition offers.

Manufacturers do a good job of getting this information to dealers, but it's extremely time consuming to pass it on to the customer. One gun shop uses Federal counter mats to show the complete rundown of ballistic data on the company's most popular hunting loads.

Another shop has catalogs, open to important data, hanging by a string from the shelf where the ammo is stocked. A copy of a magazine article about a specific load, displayed with the ammo, can promote sales. The idea is to let the customer answer his own questions.

Defensive Handgun Ammo

The increasing number of states that allow their residents to carry concealed firearms has opened a rapidly growing area for the industry. In addition to guns, holsters and accessories, the market has grown for high quality defensive ammo.

It is also an area where misinformation abounds. No matter how determined the effort, the myth of the magic bullet is alive and well. Your customer is going to demand the best and he will probably have heard some war story and have some misconceptions about what a handgun and ammo can do.

By any objective standard it is hard, if not downright impossible, to prove that one type of ammo is clearly better than another. Everyone has their opinions and there's nothing wrong with sharing those with customers, but it's important not to perpetuate myths.

Sales aids can help dealers explain how different types of ammunition perform. Most ammo manufacturers produce expanded bullets that can be used as powerful sales aids. However, they're expensive and sometimes hard to get. Dealers can produce their own sales aids to help customers understand ammunition, how it works and what it will do.

While a dealer may have strong preferences for one brand, it's a good idea to have a good selection of the various "premium" loads available.

Not too long ago, there was only one type of handgun ammo -- the brand name. Then Federal introduced Hydra-Shok. This created a new marketplace for "premium" ammunition that US as a defensive round.

Today, every major American ammo manufacturer has the equivalent: Remington has Golden Saber, Speer has Gold Dot and Winchester has SXT. All are great improvements over bullets that were available just a few years ago. We've also got small specialty ammo companies like Cor-Bon and Triton that offer ammo loaded to higher velocities than the mainline factories. Then there is exotic ammo like Glaser and MagSafe. All have the potential for profit, but selling this type of ammo requires some in-depth product knowledge.

New Stuff

At the SHOT Show in Dallas this month, there will be some innovative products. Federal is introducing a line of High Energy ammunition that gives velocities up to 180 fps higher than standard loads without exceeding pressure limits.

Speer is getting into the rifle ammo business with a line of ammo using their excellent Grand Slam bullet. It will be known as Nitrex Premium Rifle Ammunition. They've also got an innovative new packaging plan. Within each 20-round box will be four sturdy, pocket-sized, five-round boxes that are marked so they can be sold separately. There is also counter material to display five-round boxes. The idea is to make it easy for shooters to try the ammo without buying an entire box. It's also a marketing tool for the dealer who can offer the sample-size to the cost conscious customer.

After a long absence, Sako ammunition is again available through Stoeger Industries. In addition, almost every ammunition manufacturer will have a number of new items this year.

Handgun Ammo

Centerfire pistol and revolver ammunition is second only to rimfire in sales volume. Within the category there are three distinct classes of ammo: generic, brand name and premium. Each serves a different need.

Defensive handgun ammo is a hot item, but it's also the most costly. This presents a smart sales opportunity: generic ammo. Any gun that is going to be used for defense should be thoroughly tested with "duty" ammo, but it really isn't necessary to shoot the expensive stuff during everyday training or practice.

There are a lot of misconceptions about generic ammo. Some believe that since it costs less, it must be inferior. Actually, it's often the same ammo that goes into brand-name boxes. The economies of volume, less expensive packaging. and slightly less costly bullets usually account for the price difference. Very often the generic ammo will have an FMJ bullet, but the bullet style doesn't matter for practice ammo. Generic ammo is loaded on. exactly the same equipment and to the same standards of quality and safety as the brand-name ammo, but generally costs about half as much as the premium loads. It can be a very good deal for both dealer and shooter.

Centerfire Rifle

Ammunition for centerfire rifles also comes in generic, brand name and premium grades. A big-game hunter, isn't likely to shoot generic ammo to get ready for a hunting trip; he's probably going to look at either premium or brand-name ammo.

In many ways, the opinions concerning which brand of ammo is better is very much like the endless Ford/ Chevy debate. In reality, it's difficult to prove that one brand is better than another. However, the customer will probably have a strong preference based upon personal experiences or what he's heard.

Bob Day, who operates The Powderhorn Gun Shop in San Antonio. Texas, says that many of his customers come through the door with their minds made up. They ask for a specific brand. based on someone's recommendation, but don t realize there are other specifications that are important when selecting the right bullet. The customer, Day points out, is usually totally confused when asked about bullet weight. Again, this is when a handy chart can be used to quickly explain to the customer the different characteristics of ammunition. Then he can make the right decision based on the right information.


Again, there are three categories: generic (or promotional), brand name and premium shotshells. It's taken some time, but waterfowl hunters have accepted the reality of steel shot and the manufacturers have had time to develop loads that solve some of the problems associated with the first steel loads.

Buckshot and slugs also continue to benefit from research and there will be some new offerings this year. We're seeing premium shotshells with plated, buffered shot, new wad designs and improved water resistance. Target loads continue to proliferate with special loadings for sporting clays, reduced recoil loads for skeet and trap, and improvements in small gauge shells, too.


A major key to selling a lot of ammo, according to dealers from across the country, is knowing the local area's most popular type of shooting. Most regions have a dominant type of shooting. It may be handgun, silhouette, high-power rifle or shotgun.

A dealer can boost his ammo sales by catering to local shooting trends. It can also be helpful if the owner or a staff member is an active participant. Contacts made on the range or in the field can be converted into generous sales.

The bottom line: It's possible, and profitable, to sell a lot of ammo.



* Place ammo so it can be examined. Make ammo easy to buy.

* Information sells premium ammo. Place charts so customers can easily examine them.

* Increase your ammo knowledge to better answer customers' questions.

* Use sales aids to explain ammunition performance.

* While a customer may prefer premium ammo, offer generic brands for training. It can be very profitable.

* Know the shooting trends of the local area.

For more information about these ammunition companies and their products, please circle the following numbers on the Reader Service card.
3-D Ammunition 401
A-Square Co. Inc. 402
American Ammunition 403
Barnes Bullets 404
Bismuth Cartridge Co. 405
Black Hills Ammunition 406
Blount Inc. 407
C.P. Bullets 408
Cor-Bon 409
Federal Cartridge Corp. 410
Fiocchi of America 411
Jack First Inc. 412
Glaser Safety Slug Inc. 413
Hansen Cartridge Co. 414
Hornady Mfg. Co. 415
M&D Munitions 416
Nevada Cartirdge 417
New England Ammunition Co. 418
Oklahoma Ammunition Co. 419
PMC-Eldorado Cartridge 420
Pro Load Ammunition Inc. 421
Remington Arms Co. Inc. 422
Sako 423
Star Ammunition 424
Triton Cartridge 425
Valor 426
Weatherby Inc. 427
Winchester/Olin Corp. 428
Zero Ammunition Co. 429
COPYRIGHT 1996 Publishers' Development Corporation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Petty, Charles E.
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Jan 1, 1996
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