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Zero in on varmint hunting: put on the coffee and stock these products for success.

Russ Haydon knows his varmint customers. Their devotion to his store, Russ Haydon's Shooters' Supply in Gig Harbor, Wash., is a major factor in his success. He also credits much of his success to having the coffee pot on whenever the open sign is displayed on his storefront.


"My first advice to a gun shop would be to have coffee available to customers at all times. They'll sell more stuff if they have coffee, because it keeps customers in the store longer for the possibility of a sale," Haydon said.

Haydon, a benchrest- and varmint-shooting expert, was invited to the 1984 tryouts for the Olympic shooting team. Advice from the shooting coach helped him establish a philosophy about what to stock in his own future store.

"I remember the coach telling us that it was better not to clean our rifles at all than to use a cheap aluminum cleaning rod," Haydon said.


Using the philosophy of always providing the best, Haydon established Shooters' Supply.

Coffee alone won't make your store a varmint hunters' headquarters, but Haydon believes that by focusing on five main areas, you will lure the varmint crowd in and validate your store's pledge to serve varmint-hunting enthusiasts.

Varmint Rifles

lf you want to attract the varmint crowd, Haydon says, you need to stock a variety of varmint rifles from the .17 Remington Fireball to heavy-barreled rifles in 6.8 SPC. Haydon also believes many dealers sell firearms too cheap.


Dealers know how hard it is to make money selling guns because of low profit margins. Remember though, today there are a lot fewer FFL holders than 10 years ago. We don't have to sell a gun $30 over cost now. There's less competition. And you need to carry quality firearms, because a majority of the varmint crowd is into precision shooting," Haydon said.

Besides customizing his own line of rifles, Haydon also carries firearms from various companies, and although his shop caters to the shooter willing to spend more money, he also realizes he has to keep rifles in stock for the budget-minded crowd.

"I carry the Cooper line of rifles, which are built in Stevensville, Montana, because they are accurate and high quality," Haydon said. "I'm also very, very impressed with the Savage selection of centerfire rifles with the AccuTrigger. I hope the guy who designed and developed the AccuTrigger got more than just wages. That trigger really put Savage on the map and their firearms are reasonably priced."

Haydon does his own gunsmithing and recommends providing such services as another way to lure the varmint crowd into your store. He still questions whether there are good profit margins in doing overall firearm repair, but he definitely advocates the building of custom firearms.

"Building guns is very profitable and a good business to get into, whether as a side business or your major income. It's expensive to tool up and purchase a lathe, mill and tooling equipment, but your education will certainly pay off," Haydon said.

Varmint Optics

After a varmint rifle, the next major component varmint hunters want is optics, with an emphasis on riflescopes. Haydon recommends stocking high-quality optics from Swarovski, Nikon, Leupold, Nightforce and Sightron, without neglecting varmint hunters who are on a budget with brands like Bushnell and Tasco.

"I like to stock variable power scopes and I push just as good of quality as a customer can afford," Haydon said. "We sell fairly high-quality scopes like Leupold and Sightron because of their new lineups and innovations."

In addition to riflescopes, Haydon advises stocking a selection of binoculars, spotting scopes and rangefinders. These tools have applications in all hunting activities, but varmint hunters utilize them to guide precision shots at long range.

"Fitting optics to match the budget of customers can lead to a large inventory," Haydon said. "I've made up my mind to carry the best and avoid cheap scopes. My customers always demand the best and it avoids a lot of headaches. You get what you pay for and you really do get what you pay for in optics."

Varmint Ammunition

Varmint hunters vary on their ammunition demands. In prairie dog country you'll need to stock pallets of ammunition. Hunters may burn through 200 or more rounds per day on a prairie dog hunt. The same isn't true in groundhog country where hunters may only get several shots a day. Unless the varmint hunters are plinking with .22 LR at gophers, expect them to look for the best in ammunition their budget will afford.

To cater to the long-range crowd, you'll have to stock everything from the .17 through .243. Hot calibers include the .223 and .22-250, but always be on the lookout for the "next greatest thing."

"Right now there is a very large interest in the .204 cartridge," Haydon said. "I don't recommend one caliber over another, but we're certainly selling a lot of .204 ammunition and the components to reload that caliber."

Since many varmint hunters migrate from the benchrest crowd who are devoted to accuracy, you can increase sales by including reloading components. Haydon favors reloading products from Redding Reloading Equipment.

Haydon also reserves shelf space for cases, primers and powder. With the high cost of raw materials increasing the price of ammunition and components, he's discovered many reloaders like to buy in bulk, especially if they find a bullet that works for them.

"I stock a lot of the plastic tip bullets by Sierra, Nosler, Speer and Hornady. When a customer finds a bullet that shoots well from their rifle, I recommend they put some away for themselves, because copper prices keep going up and up. We sell a lot of 500 packs of bullets just because of that."


Cleaning Supplies

Remember the advice the shooting coach gave Haydon? Varmint hunters and the accuracy crowd like clean rifle barrels. Benchrest shooters are so finicky most clean their rifle barrel after every group, and it's not at all uncommon to see prairie dog shooters cleaning their barrels at midday.

In cleaning rods, Haydon recommends the nylon-coated models from J. Dewey Manufacturing.

Haydon also has seen a strong following in Butch's Bore Shine (Lyman) and Sweet's Copper Solvent (OK Weber). He stocks these along with a variety of others such as Shooter's Choice and Bore Tech. Haydon also urges retailers to stock bore guides, cleaning patches and bronze brushes to round out the equipment needed to keep a rifle shooting accurately.

Rests & Benches

Finally, you'll want to offer a variety of shooting aids so accuracy fanatics can achieve their goal of a tight group. Portable shooting rests, bipods, shooting sticks, sandbags and even cleaning caddies that double as a rest are items that will increase your profits. They'll also set you apart and keep the varmint crowd coming back.

Haydon carries a selection of shooting-rest bags including the Tuller leather bag and the Bumble Bee custom bag, both from Protektor Model. He also stocks rests from R.W. Hart, including the Varmint Rest and the Competitive Varmint Rest.


Since varmint shooters often take long shots, Haydon inventories wind flags to help shooters judge wind direction and speed. Small items like wind flags may seem miniscule, but they're not if they help a hunter calculate bullet drift precisely. While Haydon makes and sells his own flags, shooters' flags are available from a number of companies, including Sinclair International and Graham Wind Flags.

To round out his advice to attract customers, Haydon reminds dealers to "always keep the coffee on."

Alliant Powder 298
ArmaLite Inc. 299
Barnes Bullets 300
Beretta USA 301
Berger Bullets 302
Black Hills Ammunition 303
Bore Tech 304
Browning 305
B-Square 306
Bushmaster Firearms 307
Bushnell 308
Butler Creek 309
Caldwell Shooting Supplies 310
Charles Daly 311
Cooper Arms of Montana 312
CZ-USA 313
DPMS/Panther Arms 314
Federal Cartridge Co. 315
FoxPro Inc. 316
Graham Wind Flags 317
H & R 1871 318
Henry Repeating Arms Co. 319
Hodgdon Powder Co. 320
Hornady Mfg 321
Hunter's Specialties Inc. 322
J. Dewey Manufacturing 323
Kimber Mfg. Inc. 324
Leupold & Stevens 325
Lyman (Butch's Bore Shine) 326
Marlin Firearms 327
MTM Molded Products 328
New England Firearms 329
Nightforce 330
Nikon 331
Nosier 332
O.F. Mossberg & Sons 333
OK Weber (Sweet's Copper Solvent) 334
Primos Inc. 335
Protektor Model (Bumble Bee/Tuller) 336
Redding Reloading Equipment 337
Remington Arms 338
R.W. Hart & Son Inc. 339
Savage Arms 340
Shooter's Choice 341
Sierra Bullets 342
Sig Sauer 343
Sightron 344
Sinclair International 345
Speer 346
Springfield Armory 347
Stoney Point Products 348
Sturm, Ruger & Co. 349
Swarovski 350
Tasco 351
Taurus International 352
Thompson/Center Arms 353
Uncle Mike's 354
Weatherby Inc. 355
Winchester Ammunition 356
Winchester Rifles & Shotguns 357
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Comment:Zero in on varmint hunting: put on the coffee and stock these products for success.
Author:Kayser, Mark
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Nov 1, 2007
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