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Better the 2nd time around: putting your used gun department to work.

Putting Your Used Gun Department To Work

Although times have been hard for consumers all around the country, that doesn't mean that gun enthusiasts don't want to purchase more guns. It just means that they must stretch their firearms dollar as far as possible when they go out to buy their next gun.

Firearms retailers who haven't yet identified this "I wanna buy another gun" syndrome and evolved a strategy for attracting the "low end" firearms customer are probably losing a lot of sales. If you don't understand that syndrome, perhaps a bit of reflection will help. Gun people like to buy guns, and they do it on a fairly regular basis. That's relatively easy to understand. We've all heard the words, "I need to buy a new gun," whether it came from a customer or one's own inner voice.

Well, if the truth be known, that person probably doesn't need to buy a new gun. Want is almost assuredly the more appropriate choice of words in this instance. If the cash isn't there for an imported wonder-nine with an $800 price tag, then that spiffed-up .38 Official Police with new grips and the $160 tag is going to get some serious attention.

Reading The Trends

Many firearms dealers have come to the basic realization that there is a market for cheap guns and are using some judicious used gun marketing with an emphasis on revolvers for the simple reason that there is an abundance of five- and six-shooters being traded in by law enforcement agencies and individuals who are hopping on the auto-loading express.

This is never more apparent than in the small retail quarters occupied by New York City's The Gun Shop, the storefront outlet of Sile Distributors. Next door is John Jovino, another joint retail and distribution operation, so there is a steady flow of police traffic along downtown's tiny Centre Market Place.

The Majority of New York City's 30,000 sworn officers are still issued 4-inch S&Ws and are limited by policy as to what may be purchased as back-up or off-duty ordinance. And as most gun dealers know, cops are notorious for their unwillingness to part with large portions of their paycheck, so the used revolvers display case gets a great deal of attention from the regular stream of badge-carriers looking for that 2-inch ankle gun or 4-inch second piece.

Buying And Selling Second Hand

At The Guns Shop, manager Dino Longueira trades or purchases secondhand revolvers which require minimal refurbishing before they are cleaned up and placed in the used display case.

"I check the timing and make sure the gun is in good operating condition," Longueira said. "With our trade, it doesn't pay to put in too much labor or parts. I just don't have the time to do it, and I make more money putting a set of sights on a Government Model. Most of our law enforcement customers don't want to spend a lot of money on a gun to begin with, so we only deal with mechanically sound firearms."

Andy Chernoff, owner of Uniondale, N.Y.-based, Coliseum Gun Traders, does have the time though, for although he is also in good "traffic" location, he has associates to staff the retail space while he refurbishes revolvers in a small area off to the side. In addition to his work bench, he had a bead blaster and an Enco drilling/milling machine that has proved a valuable adjunct to the custom of preparing revolvers for resale.

"Yes, I do gunsmithing also," Chernoff said. "But taking in a used revolver and fixing it up, rebluing it or bead-blasting and polishing the piece, and then putting it in our used guns case at a budget price -- that's good business. A lot of guys can't resist inexpensive used guns. Face it, a great deal of these used revolvers are classic guns, and have that certain appeal."

Based in Lebanon, N.J., Seligman Distributing Inc. (SDI) handles consistent-quality used guns. While most gun shops purchase used firearms over the counter from walk-in customers, SDI distributes a supply of police service revolvers to enhance a stocking dealer's inventory. SDI has serviced a market commonly overlooked by many in the firearms trade.

"Our primary product line now is revolvers," said SDI owner Bob Seligman. "But semi-automatics are in the pipeline as more departments trade up. What SDI offers is an inventory of basically Smith & Wesson revolvers -- K-frame 64s, and 65s and 66s, J-frames 60s and 36s. That's standard fare for departmental trade-ins. And there's the Ruger Security Sixes and Service Sixes. Occasionally you even pick up older service guns like Colt's Official Police, Officers Model revolvers."

Finding The Customers

According to Seligman, "Demand is generated through advertising in publications like Shotgun News whose market is targeted towards bargain and part-time dealers. I want to offer my product to dealers that have to satisfy the bargain hunters who can always get something cheaper somewhere else."

Seligman prospects for his customers primarily through mailing lists. Also, although Seligman is "not totally turned off" by the FFL hobbyist, he is extremely supportive of the stocking gun dealer.

"I do not advertise prices in Shotgun News or any other consumer accessible publications," he said. "I do not actively pursue business with the so-called |basement bandits.' But I think that many stocking dealers began their firearms business on a part-time or small-scale basis, so to entirely ignore those types of licensees would be wrong, I think. However, stocking dealers have stronger standards of practice, and they are the one who I really like to work with. I get a lot of repeat business from stocking dealers, because they see that the reconditioned product I offer moves for them and that they can make a good profit on quality used revolvers."

As SDI is a small operation, it is run from a computer and a single unit in a modest industrial complex. Seligman "desktop publishes" his inventory price sheets and makes regular mailings to established customers and prospects.

Asked if purchasing used law enforcement firearms by lots isn't a bit like buying a pig in a poke, Seligman says he's still learning the game. "SDI goes anywhere for its guns, but through experience I have an idea about what I'm getting . Also, I have a certain standard. On blued guns, if there's less than 60 percent of the blue, or lots of pitting or scratches, then it gets refinished. On the stainless guns which are predominant right now, SDI does all the refinishing in-house and we often get a better finish then that done by the factory. Any guns which leave SDI are 100 percent safe and serviceable."

SDI only uses original manufacturer parts, often difficult to acquire with some older models like the Colt's Pocket Police.

"You have to dig for them," Seligman said. "The hardest part of my job, though, is to sell to dealers who have been burned by used gun dealers before. When a customer receives a gun from SDI, they have 10 days in which to check it over. After that, they can return it for a no-question-asked refund, replacement or, in rare cases, repair of something that might have escaped my notice the first time through. There's no way a dealer's going to get |stuck' with an SDI gun."

The author wishes to thank Andy Chernoff of Coliseum Gun Traders in Uniondale, N.Y., Bob Seligman of SDI in Lebanon, N.J. and Mike Falk of Sile Distributors/The Gun Shop in New York City for their help in the preparation of this article.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Publishers' Development Corporation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Lydecher, Waldo
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Mar 1, 1992
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