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The airgun option.

NOT JUST FOR KIDS, THESE GUNS OFFER ADDITIONAL MARKETS AND IMPRESSIVE PROFITS

Should you sell airguns? Before you give a resounding "No!" read on.

By not including airguns in your offerings, you're missing out on profits that could surprise you. There's money to be made in this growing market.

Airguns are part of the American gun culture. Many a youngster's first shooting experience is with an inexpensive BB gun. This often is followed by a more expensive, more powerful, and more accurate pellet rifle with a rifled barrel. Eventually the youngster graduates to a .22 rimfire. Other guns follow.

This natural progression is effective in teaching safety and shooting skills. Unfortunately, it also leaves the perception that airguns are inexpensive, unsophisticated, and "not real guns."

Nothing could be further from the truth. High-quality, high-performance airguns are just as sophisticated and expensive to make as high-quality firearms, and can cost just as much if not more.

Air rifles and pistols are shot in serious competitions all over the world, including the Olympics. This year, Daisy Manufacturing Co., Marksman Products and Sigarms (Hammerli) are corporate sponsors for the airgun squad of the U.S. Shooting Team.

Competitions with airguns are also conducted and sponsored by the NRA, Boy Scouts, 4-H, National Guard, American Legion, and many other organizations. Each year, Daisy, in conjunction with the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce, sponsors the Daisy/Jaycees Shooting Education Program. It involves more than 250,000 boys and girls.

Dealers should consider contacting such organizations to see if their shops can support them. This helps introduce dealers to another segment of the community. In turn, it's sure to result in the future sale of products, including those outside the airgun field.

Airgun Education

Successful airgun dealers stress the importance of becoming knowledgeable about airguns as the first step to successfully marketing them. Crosman Corp. offers a free publication, Airgun News, that's extremely valuable. A recent edition covers how to design and build your own airgun range, selecting ammo, fundamentals of rifle shooting, and an interesting interview with Launi Meili, the 1992 Olympic gold medalist and an avid air rifle competitor.

The Beeman Precision Airguns catalog also has a wealth of information on airguns.

The Market

An informal national survey showed that dealers selling the most airguns are centered around large urban areas. This is not surprising. One of the major appeals of airguns is that they are relatively quiet to shoot, and their limited range and penetration allow them to be safely shot in confined spaces like suburban backyards, basements, or hallways. While shooters in urban areas often find it difficult, expensive, or time consuming to go to a safe place to shoot firearms, they can shoot airguns in their own home or yard.

Indeed, airguns have many advantages over conventional firearms. In addition to those already mentioned, airguns can be extremely inexpensive to operate, ammunition is lightweight and very compact, there is no need to wear hearing protection when shooting (eye protection should still be mandatory), and there's no federal paperwork required.

In addition, shooting airguns hones all the skills necessary for the accurate shooting of regular firearms: sight picture, trigger control, follow through, and safe-gun handling.

Successful Sales

In Dundee, Ill., G.A.T. Guns Inc. is a large operation located near a major metropolitan area. The shop does a handsome airgun business.

"It is unbelievable how many I sell," said Gregory Tripino. To sell a lot of airguns, Tripino points out, "it's important for your sales staff to be knowledgeable about airguns and to offer a good selection."

Tripino avoids carrying the same airguns inventoried by the mass market chain stores. Instead, he concentrates on the higher-end, more-sophisticated, high-performance models in the $150 to $500 range. He typically inventories 100 different airguns.

His best sellers are the Dynamit Nobel-RWS line, particularly Models 34 and 45, along with several models in the Beeman Precision Airguns line.

"Our airgun sales also lead to the sale of accessories like scopes, iron sights, and portable bullet traps that are made for airguns," Tripino said.

In contrast is the Betz Sport Shop in rural Arkville, N.Y. Since Russ Betz' customers can easily find places to shoot, they are less inclined to spend their money on high-end airguns.

"Since the nearest mass-market chain store is 50 miles away, I can carry the lower end Crosman and Daisy lines of airguns and still be competitive," Betz said.

However, Betz still tries to avoid specific models that are carried by chain stores. This seems to be an almost universal guideline for dealers who are successful in selling airguns.

S&M Gun Shop is located in the medium-sized city of Eugene, Ore.

"We've always had consistent airgun sales," said Randy Patterson, one of S&M's chief salesman. "However, they've been almost completely in the high end of powerful air rifles that are capable of shooting pellets at 1,000 feet per second."

Such airguns are excellent for informal target practice and small-game hunting. Patterson reports that the Dynamit Nobel-RWS line is particularly popular with his customers.

Airgun Ranges

A high percentage of dealers who handle airguns report they have a miniature airgun range in their shops. The ranges prove to be great sales tools. Once a customer gets a feel for how airguns shoot and handle, they're more likely to make a purchase.

In addition, an airgun range in the gun-shop leads to a lot of informal competitions. One dealer reports he even uses his airgun range as a negotiating tool. If he and a customer are within $10 or so in the negotiations for an item, instead of just splitting the difference this dealer challenges his customer to an informal airgun match. The winner gets his negotiated price tag. Since this dealer is an extremely good offhand shot, he wins more than he loses. It also gives him an opportunity to introduce customers to airguns who may not have been interested in them before.

A Growing Opportunity

The field of airguns has been one area in the shooting field that has undergone continued and extensive growth in recent years, particularly in the medium to high end. It is a natural outgrowth of the continued urbanization of America and the loss of places to shoot. It just makes sense for dealers, particularly in or near major population centers, to develop this end of the gun business.

RELATED ARTICLE: Selling Airguns

A CHECKLIST

* Educate your staff on the advantages, applications and peculiarities of airguns.

* Emphasize that airguns are "real guns" even though they are not firearms.

* Set up a small airgun range using an appropriate bullet trap.

* Carry a good selection of airguns in the low, middle and high-end models.

* Avoid airgun models carried by mass-market chain stores.

* Carry airgun accessories: aperture sights, airgun scopes, pellet pouches and portable bullet traps suitable for airguns.

* Emphasize high performance airguns that achieve 1,000 fps.

* Support airgun competitions and training by local organizations.
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:Karwan, Chuck
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Jun 1, 1996
Words:1161
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