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The airgun bonus.

Don't Overlook This Profit-Building Segment of the Industry.

Can a gun dealer really make any money selling airguns? The answer is yes, with one important condition: the dealer's attitude about airguns.

Airguns often don't get any respect: "I run a gun shop and they aren't guns!"

While there's room for debate, let's not. The question is: can you make money selling airguns? Yes. It's also likely that those who ridicule airguns probably had one as a youth and likely still do.

Airguns are fun. Airguns can be fired on simple indoor and outdoor ranges. Airguns don't require a waiting period or background check to purchase. Airguns are a great way to introduce young people to shooting. Airguns can make you money.

Nationwide, airgun sales are steadily increasing, particularly in the adult market. However, many dealers believe they can't compete against the mass-market chain stores, especially in the less expensive airgun market.

Randy Reynolds of Atlantic Guns in Silver Spring, Md., points out this is only true for a few models of BB-guns and low-end pellet guns.

"There are many inexpensive models the chain stores do not carry that can sell well for the gun dealer," said Reynolds. "Good examples are the Crosman 357 and the Daisy 45 C[O.sub.2] powered air pistols that are great for handgun training."

The Crosman 357 is an airgun version of a typical .357 or .38 revolver and the Daisy 45 is similarly styled after a Colt .45 semi-automatic pistol. Randy sees every owner of the above firearm models as a potential customer for the airgun versions.

Many dealers also believe customers won't pay the same kind of money for a high-end "adult" airgun that they will for a centerfire rifle.

Reynolds suggests dealers, "Stock a good selection of entry-and mid-level airguns to get customers started. Once they are hooked on airgun shooting they are ready for something better and will buy the high-end airguns."

Successful dealers who sell a lot of the more expensive airguns, offer these key sales points:

* It costs just as much to make an airgun with a high-quality barrel and a checkered walnut stock as it does to make a similar high-powered rifle.

* The average centerfire, big-game hunting rifle will be fired only about a dozen times a year in the fall, while the air rifle will be fired thousands of times over the entire year.

* High-quality airguns can be fired 100,000-plus times without parts breakage or service.

* With the possible exception of the C[O.sub.2] powered airguns, airguns are extremely inexpensive to shoot. The ammunition savings over even a .22 rimfire will eventually pay for even an expensive airgun.

* The more powerful airguns are fully capable of killing many varmints, pests, and small-game animals.

* High-quality airguns are incredibly accurate.

* Airguns are relatively quiet to shoot.

* Airguns are not subject to the same restrictions as firearms.

Once customers learn these points, they're much more likely to spend their hard-earned cash on more expensive airgun models.

The best way to educate customers, according to Herb Karawciw, of the Shooters Service Ltd. in Livonia, Mich., is, "To have a staff that is knowledgeable about airguns, how they work, and the features of the better models."

Ronnie Gulihur of Carter's Country in Houston, Texas, agrees. "It's important for the salesman to bring up the topic of airguns when he is talking to customers. This will lead to many more sales than waiting for the customer to ask about airguns," said Gulihur.

"Stock a good selection of airguns at all price points. We have at least 30 different models in stock at all times," said Mike Daley of Reed's Sport Shop, San Jose, Calif.

Airgun sales are fairly steady year round, although, "The Christmas season is very big for airguns in our shop mostly because many are being purchased as gifts," Gulihur said.

There's often less reluctance to buy an airgun as a gift because it doesn't require federal paperwork, waiting period or permits. Airguns can legally be shipped to another state without going through a licensed dealer. These are all strong selling points.

The .177 is the most liked caliber for pellet guns with the .22 nearly as popular in some areas. The .20 caliber (5mm) also has a strong following. Beeman also has several high-powered .25 pellet rifles that are gaining a following among those who hunt with air rifles.

What are the hot sellers today? Benjamin Sheridan Blue Streak is frequently mentioned as the top entry-level gun. The RWS 24 and 34 and the Beeman R7 and R9 are the most mentioned higher-priced air rifles. Among air pistols, the Crosman 1322 and 1377 are popular entry-level guns while the Beeman/Webley Tempest and Hurricane are the most often mentioned in the higher-priced category.

Dealers that carry higher-end airguns invariably report they favor the RWS and the Beeman lines.

"RWS and Beeman have fantastic factory service policies and warranties," said Karawciw. "If anything goes wrong with one of their products, they take care of it right away."

While the majority of customers buy airguns primarily for plinking and informal target shooting, many sales are generated by promoting airgun hunting.

"At least 50 percent of the air rifles we sell are for hunting either small game or pests," said Brian Angelmyer, of Welcher's Gun Shop in Tacoma, Wash.

To cater to this market, Welcher's carries a good selection of high-powered air rifles including the Beeman .25 caliber rifles.

Since they're not firearms, airguns are not subject to ordinances that prohibit the discharge of firearms within certain jurisdictional limits or within so many feet of a road or building. Certain small game can be legally hunted with airguns that cannot be hunted with firearms. Airguns are relatively quiet and unobtrusive, and don't attract a lot of negative attention.

Because of their relatively small energy, pellets fired from airguns are easily stopped with such basic backstops as a large phone book, a large block of clay, or small lightweight bullet traps. Thus, the customer can shoot in his backyard, basement, hallway or garage with minimal preparation.

Some dealers set up a small bullet trap in their shop so potential customers can try out their purchase on the spot. Even if there isn't room for such a setup in a shop, Randy Reynolds suggests keeping some quick-clean pellets handy so customers can safely try the trigger pull of the airgun he is thinking about buying. These are non-metallic pellets that are designed to be fired through the bore of an airgun to clean it. The reason for using the quick-clean pellet is that dry firing a spring-piston airgun can damage it, and the quick clean pellet can be fired into a waste basket.

Can you sell airguns in your shop? Yes. They may not be the big ticket items that will drive your sales through the roof, but airguns are steady profit builders. In today's market, that's a bonus.
COPYRIGHT 1997 Publishers' Development Corporation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:firearms industry
Author:Karwan, Chuck
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Jul 1, 1997
Previous Article:Firearms business analysis.
Next Article:Justice Department proposals threaten gun dealers.

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