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Browning breathes new life into A5 and Maxus shotguns Pg. 22

Words of wisdom from an old-time publicrelations pro Pg. 20





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EDITOR’S NOTE Customers who graze are a real challenge.

NEWS BRIEFS Browning turns the BAR into a hog gun; S&W adds to its M&P Shield line; how sealants enhance bullet precision. FYI Sage advice from a publicrelations pro.


FIRING LINE Breathing new life into the Browning Maxus and A5.

22 24

UNDERCOVER 22 SHOPPER Trying to find a gun along the Delaware River can be a trying experience.

FIRST RIFLE A hunter’s first centerfire rifle sets the stage for everything that follows. Smart retailers understand the importance of this rite of passage and strive to become a trusted source of information and equipment. BY CHRISTOPHER COGLEY


36 40

THE BIG PICTURE Vista Outdoor intends to follow active consumers wherever they go. BY SLATON L. WHITE

CHANGING THE FOOTPRINT The demands of a highly competitive marketplace required this Kentucky retailer to rethink how he does business. BY BARBARA BAIRD

GOOD STUFF Boyds’ hardwood stocks can help upgrade nearly any firearm.

44 46 50


NEW PRODUCTS Lowa Arco GTX Lo; D.T. Systems Master Retriever 1100 e-collar trainer; Morakniv Rookie; Duck Commander Pioneer.




FROM THE NSSF NSSF is working to cut through the background noise by delivering facts to help pass suppressor legislation.


YOU SHOULD KNOW SHOT Show funds work for the industry year-round, from new forums featured at the show to expanded communications with its members.



FROM THE COUNTER Green Top, an independent retailer celebrating its 70th anniversary, continues to evolve. RETAILER TOOLBOX The topics at the 2018 SHOT Show University and SHOT Week’s Retailer Seminars range from new media marketing to ATF compliance.




Dealing With Dabblers


ne of the retail world’s biggest challenges is trying to satisfy the sometimes exasperating sensibilities of the Millennial generation. These consumers, the numbers of which just surpassed that of the Baby Boomers, are huge social influencers. Of that there is no doubt. But they’re also strapped financially, which obviously negatively impacts their buying power. “Used to be, if you got into a sport, you went deep,” says Jessica Klodnicki, vice president and general manager of the outdoor recreation division of Vista Outdoor (a group that includes Camp Chef and CamelBak). That meant not only buying a lot of gear, but often graduating to more expensive gear. “The Millennials are changing that. What’s happening now is they’re dabbling. They’re grazing across multiple sports and multiple categories,” she says. This dabbling, Klodnicki believes, is causing some softness in outdoor categories. Because these guys aren’t specializing, they’re not buying a lot of gear. Instead, they’re trading, renting, or borrowing. “Now, if that is how the consumer behaves,”she says, “you have to be spread across multiple categories to pick up the slack.” Klodnicki acknowledges that these Millennial purchase-and-use decisions are requiring manufacturers and retailers to adapt. This inevitably creates friction, as some operations don’t wish to alter their business model. One way Vista Outdoor is meeting the challenge is by looking into complementary product lines, like ATV accessories. To delve a bit deeper into this issue, see “The Big Picture” (p. 36). One shooting sports retailer who clearly sees “the big picture” is Patrick Hayden, owner of


Kentucky Gun Company. As you’ll see in “Changing the Footprint” (p. 40), Hayden recently made four significant changes to bolster the profitability of his retail operation. The boldest move was to diversify by acquiring an ATV outlet. “In my region, there’s a 96 percent chance that an ATV owner is also a firearms owner,” he says. So, when the local Honda Powersports dealership came up for sale, Hayden didn’t think twice. “It was a good time to jump in with Honda,” he says. “It’s been advantageous and has diversified us.” Hayden also notes that while summer is historically the slowest time for gun sales, it happens to be the busiest time for powersports. To bolster that end of the business, he added a service bay for maintenance and repairs of not only the Hondas he sells, but of any other type of powersports vehicles. He also offers a gunsmith shop on the premises. “We don’t want to just sell you the product,” he says. “If you offer service, it gives customers another reason to walk through the door.” Which leads us full circle. Even in a fast-changing world, customer service still rules.

Slaton L. White, Editor

SLATON L. WHITE, Editor James A. Walsh, Art Director Margaret M. Nussey, Managing Editor David E. Petzal, Shooting Editor David Maccar, Special Projects Editor Judith Weber, Digital Content Producer Hilary Ribons, Editorial Assistant CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Larry Ahlman, Barbara Baird, Scott Bestul, Philip Bourjaily, Christopher Cogley, Jock Elliott, Tim Irwin, William F. Kendy, Richard Mann, Peter B. Mathiesen, Brian McCombie, Tom Mohrhauser, Robert Sadowski, Robert F. Staeger, Peter Suciu, Wayne Van Zwoll

ADVERTISING: 212-779-5316 Gregory D. Gatto, Senior Vice President, Managing Director Jeff Roberge, Advertising Director Brian Peterson, Western Sporting Goods Sales Katie Logan, Southern Sporting Goods Sales David Hawkey, Northeast Sporting Goods Sales Amanda Gastelum, Integrated Marketing Director Ingrid Reslmaier, Marketing Design Director

BUSINESS OPERATIONS Tara Bisciello, Business Manager

MANUFACTURING Michelle Doster, Group Production Director Stephanie Northcutt, Production Manager

BONNIER Chairman, Tomas Franzén Head of Business Area, Magazines, Lars Dahmén Chief Executive Officer, Eric Zinczenko Chief Financial Officer, Joachim Jaginder Chief Operating Officer, David Ritchie Chief Marketing Officer, Elizabeth Burnham Murphy Chief Digital Revenue Officer, Sean Holzman Vice President, Integrated Sales, John Graney Vice President, Digital Operations, David Butler Vice President, Public Relations, Perri Dorset General Counsel, Jeremy Thompson

SHOT Business (ISSN 1081-8618) is published 7 times a year in January, February/March, April/May, June/July, August/September, October/ November and December by Bonnier Corporation, 2 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10016-5695, and is the official publication of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Flintlock Ridge Office Center, 11 Mile Hill Road, Newtown, CT 06470 (203-426-1320). Volume 25, issue 7, Copyright © 2017 by the National Shooting Sports Foundation. All rights reserved. Editorial, circulation, production and advertising offices are located at 2 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10016-5695 (212-779-5000). Free to qualified subscribers; available to non-qualified subscribers for $25 per year. Single-copy issues are available for $5 each. Send check, payable to NSSF, to: SHOT Business, c/o NSSF, 11 Mile Hill Road, Newtown, CT 06470-2359. SHOT Business accepts no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts and photographs. All correspondence should be accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Requests for media kits and advertising information should be directed to Katy Marinaro, Bonnier Corporation, 625 N. Michigan Ave., Ste. 1270, Chicago, IL 60611. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY, and at additional mailing offices. Printed in the USA. For Customer Service and Subscription questions, such as Renewals, Address Changes, Email Preferences, Billing and Account Status, go to: shotbusiness .com/cs. You can also email, in the U.S. call toll-free 866-615-4345, outside the U.S. call 515-237-3697, or write to SHOT Business, 2 Park Ave., New York, NY 10016. For editorial inquiries, write to Slaton L. White, SHOT Business, 2 Park Ave., New York, NY 10016 REPRINTS: E-mail POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to SHOT Business, P.O. Box 6364 Harlan, IA 51593.


Customers who graze create challenges as well as opportunities




NSSF’s mock OSHA and ATF “ The audits are valuable tools that have helped us build a repertoire of business best practices. And the NSSF’s research and reporting has made us a smarter competitor for new shooters in our market.

Jared Sloane, Operations Director Shoot Smart Indoor Range & Training Center Fort Worth | Grand Prairie | Benbrook Texas

NSSF Members like Jared receive benefits such as:

Representation in Washington and State Capitals Compliance Support Industry Research SHOT Show Benefits

...and much more Go to or call 203-426-1320 ext. 209 for more information on membership categories and find out how NSSF can work for you.





Bits & Pieces Hall-N-Hall Promotion Hall-NHall Consulting, a family-based shooting-sports consulting firm, recently announced the promotion of Sam Hixson to strategy officer. Hixson’s primary responsibility will be to help the CEO develop, communicate, execute, and sustain corporate strategic initiatives. “Sam has been a key part of our success, and we were thrilled to promote him to this important position,” says Stephen Hall, president and founder of HallN-Hall. Hixson joined the company in 2016 as a consultant and quickly rose to several supervisory and management positions. He has years of retail experience, especially in purchasing, receiving, and merchandising. “Our focus is to help retail, services, and manufacturing businesses become more organized, more productive, and more profitable,” says Hall. (





Ideal Combo Hog hunters have never had it so good


ut a bunch of gun writers together at a manufacturer seminar and very quickly their competitive juices start flowing. That’s exactly what happened last summer at a Browning seminar in southern Utah. There were long-range targets set up for centerfire rifles, and an abbreviated sporting clays layout for the

Browning and Leupold have teamed up to create a rifleoptics combo for hog hunters.

Remington Appoints CEO Remington’s Board of Directors has unanimously elected Anthony Acitelli as chief executive officer (CEO) and to the Board of Directors. Acitelli is a respected industry veteran with more than 20 years of leadership experience. In addition to successfully leading sales and marketing organizations, Acitelli most recently served as CEO of Taurus Holdings.

This product is from sustainably managed forests and controlled sources.



shotguns. The second morning someone got the bright idea to set up a contest to see who could hit the sporting clays rabbit using the Browning BAR MK 3 DBM (detachable box magazine) fitted with a Leupold Hog Hunter scope. It took numerous tries, but finally one shooter nailed it. He was instantly saluted with a loud chorus of cheers. While I was shooting, I realized this setup would make for an ideal hog gun. It would also do quite nicely as a truck gun. No need to formally introduce the BAR to you. Anyone in this business knows its storied heritage. But the MK 3 DBM in .308 (SRP: $1,469.99) is a recent entry to the line. “The sporting BAR’s contemporary design offers shooters and hunters a lightweight semi-automatic rifle with refinements not present in most popular modern sporting rifles, including a gas-piston design,” says Scott Grange, Browning’s director of public relations and shooting promotions. “The gas-piston design mitigates shooter-perceived recoil and reduces excessive carbon residue that other modern gas-impingement designs vent into the moving parts of the action. Like most modern sporting rifles, the BAR utilizes a multi-lug rotary bolt—a component that allows for a lightweight alloy receiver.” Grange also notes that the BAR MK3 feels and handles like a hunting rifle because “it is a hunting rifle. It’s lightweight, quick to shoulder, and quick to point,” something we all experienced while trying to track that crazy rabbit as it rolled across the hard-packed dirt in front of us. The Leupold VX-HOG 1–4x20mm scope (SRP: $324.99) on the MK 3 DBM features what Leupold calls the “Pig Plex” reticle. It has been designed to provide quick target acquisition, something hog hunters need when they’re tracking a moving animal in thick cover. Many hunters are now showing a decided preference for combo packages; it simplifies the entire buying process for them. This is an ideal combination, mating two brands known for durable, quality products. (;

— Slaton L. White 8 ❚ SHOT BUSINESS ❚ DECEMBER 2017

First Lite and Leupold are partners in a joint conservation effort to support Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.

Partners In Conservation First Lite, a brand whose passion for building premium hunting apparel is rivaled only by its commitment to conservation, is now partnering with Leupold & Stevens, a leader in the premium optics category and longtime conservation advocate. The companies are donating 5 percent of sales from all new Leupold BX-4 Pro Guide HD 10x42 and 12x50 binoculars with First Lite Fusion body armor to Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. The program highlights the brands’ shared commitment toward protecting and conserving America’s public lands for current and future generations of sportsmen and women. Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is a non-profit sportsmen’s organization that looks to preserve

North America’s outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing through public education and advocacy. “Like so many of our peers in the industry, including Leupold, we recognize that not only our livelihoods but our way of life depends on access to public lands on which to hunt, fish, and recreate,” says Ryan Callaghan, First Lite director of conservation and public relations. “This collaboration is one part of a concerted effort by First Lite to support those in the trenches, like BHA, who are giving a voice to our public lands, waters, and wildlife.” The BX-4 Pro Guide HDs are built around the Leupold Twilight Management System. The specialized lens coatings allow users to glass longer during the early predawn hours to well past dusk, while an open-bridge

design and durable aluminum body, wrapped with First Lite’s proven Fusion camouflage pattern, is both comfortable to hold and lightweight enough for easy carrying. Completely waterproof, BX-4 models are backed by Leupold’s Full Lifetime Guarantee. “No other optics company does more for sportsmen’s rights and conservation across the U.S. than Leupold & Stevens Inc.,” says Zach Bird, observation product manager for Leupold. “We’re committed to protecting and conserving our nation’s public lands and are honored to team up with First Lite to create an outstanding product, with 5 percent of all proceeds going directly to Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. This partnership is just one of many steps we’re taking to advance this important cause.” (first;

A Step Up


epeatability and consistency are two key factors that help determine a shooter’s satisfaction with the ammo he uses. The last thing any hunter or competitive shooter wants is a surprise, and ballistics engineers work tirelessly to produce reliable ammunition that will perform the same way shot after shot. One often-overlooked part of ammo consistency is bullet pull strength—the force necessary to separate a bullet from the cartridge casing. Inconsistent pull strength around the circumference of the bullet can often affect downrange trajectories, which leads to poor terminal performance. Traditionally, the primary method to control bullet pull strength when designing a cartridge has been to make physical alterations to the casing and bullet to adjust the bullet fit—for example, crimping the case mouth. External ammunition sealants, such as those offered by Hernon Manufacturing, present an alternative method for ammunition manufacturers to use when setting bullet pull strength. In this case, pull strength is set by bonding the projectile to the casing. Hernon says its sealants reduce bullet deviation, which in turn helps improve precision. Hernon’s sealants are applied via noncontact precision jet valves to both the cartridge case mouth/bullet and primer

Hernon’s sealants help reduce bullet pull strength deviation, which helps improve precision.

cap. The sealants are specially formulated to exhibit very low viscosity and to wick around the case mouth and primer. The result is a smooth, consistent distribution of sealant. The sealants are then cured in place using an array of UV LED curing lights. Further subsurface curing occurs anaerobically. Historically, sealants have been asphaltbased (bitumen) and were heavily dosed with solvent to keep the mixture’s viscosi-

ty low during application. Once applied, the sealant would need time to become tack-free as the solvent evaporated. This evaporation of solvents resulted in toxic fumes. Hernon has developed UV LED curing sealants and ammunition sealing systems to modernize this process. Its sealants do not use solvents, which saves an ammunition manufacturer time on the line. This is truly a step up. (


Relentless Focus Accu-Tac has set its sights on building a superior product and providing greater customer service BY PETER SUCIU

Bushnell AR Optics Line Bushnell’s AR Optics line offers laser lighting systems in Haste, Chase, and Rush models. Each is a purpose-built laser sight with advanced features and highperformance output. “More and more MSR users are finding the benefits of laser sighting systems impossible to ignore,” says AR Optics line manager Bryan Parrish. Waterproof, ergonomic, and ready for every MSR—including AR pistols—the Bushnell AR Optics Haste is the epitome of a forward-grip laser. Available in red or green laser options, the Haste mounts under the bore and provides a bright, continuous, long-lasting beam with the push of a single button. The AR Optics Chase is two sights in one. Push a button for a bright, continuous laser beam available in red or green. Then flip up the post for a physical sight. The Chase mounts over the bore, allowing for a seamless, accurate transition between multiple targets. The back-up sight is ideal for longer shots, and integration saves valuable space on the accessory rail. The AR Optics Rush is a high-rise optics mount with a built-in laser sight for close-quarter environments. The integrated, offset laser saves space on the rifle. It is available in red or green, and projects a continuous, powerful beam with one push of a button. It replaces standard optics mounts, and is compatible with any optic that can be mounted on a Picatinny rail. ( 10 ❚ SHOT BUSINESS ❚ DECEMBER 2017


iven the numerous restrictions on firearms in California, not to mention the state’s overall political climate, it might seem like an odd place to set up shop for anything related to firearms. But Upland-based Accu-Tac has successfully carved out a niche in the Golden State, in part by ensuring that every step of the process used to produce its firearms accessories is as American as the heartland.

“Everything is made in our Upland, California, facility,” says Katrina Whitney, the company’s director of marketing. “Everything is assembled in the U.S., and all the machines we use are also made in America.” The firm has grown steadily in just three years, and it all began after the company’s founder, Felipe Salazar, decided he could build a better bipod. Salazar, a longtime shooting enthusiast, found that many of the products on the market didn’t meet his expectations. So, he set out to make something better. With input from other shooters, as well as his own eye for detail, Salazar creat-

ed a line of short-range bipods designed specifically for the AR platform. The company’s SR-5 QD (SRP: $276) has been among its top sellers. Made from highquality aircraft aluminum billet, it provides a wide stance along with ratcheted leg extensions. It was designed to attach to a 1913 Picatinny rail, which means it can be attached in seconds to provide needed stability at the range. Since rolling out the SR line, the company has introduced its LR products, which are designed for those who use .50-caliber and other extreme longrange firearms. But the new FC product line, including the FC-10

QU, is what could truly help Accu-Tac hit the mark with competitive and tactical shooters alike. This line was designed with the ability to pan. At the same time, the leg design allows shooters to quickly adjust to five different positions, with the advantage of being able to position each leg as needed. The idea was to provide greater customization for shooters at all levels. “This was really important to Felipe,” Whitney says. “He puts a lot of time into designing these bipods, and it took a full year to bring out the F Class. He was tired of the problems that shooters were having and sought to solve them.” (

Accu-Tac’s SR-5 QD is a precisioncrafted bipod.


At the SHOT Show, you’ll get the most up-to-date, industry-focused information on customer trends, regulations and business-building insights to bring back to your operation. You’ll see the latest products from every firearms manufacturer as well as the equipment, tech and shooting sports accessories that will help drive sales. SHOT Show is the single best resource for store owners and range operators who want to stay competitive and successful.

SHOTSHOW.ORG/SB The SHOT Show is a trade-only event. Professional affiliation is required. AN OFFICIAL EVENT OF:


Smith & Wesson Adds to M&P Shield Line

The First Choice For Wholesale Firearms, Ammunition & Reloading Supplies Supplying Retailers, Gun Clubs & Ranges

Smith & Wesson Corp. recently launched its new M&P Shield M2.0 pistol series, including the M&P Shield M2.0 pistol with an Integrated Crimson Trace Laser. Available in 9mm and .40 S&W, the M&P Shield M2.0 pistol family builds upon the popular M&P M2.0 platform, delivering professional-grade features and proven performance in a slim, lightweight, and easy-to-carry profile that incorporates the enhanced M2.0 feature set. “When we launched the M&P Shield pistol, it quickly became the pistol of choice in the concealed-carry market,” says James Debney, president and CEO of American Outdoor Brands Corporation. “Having recently shipped

Great Prices, The Best Selection Multiple Warehouses For On Time, Every Time Delivery Iowa • Nevada • North Carolina


S&W’s enhanced M&P Shield M2.0 now includes an integrated Crimson Trace laser sight.

our 2,000,000th M&P Shield pistol, we are now excited to build upon its success by introducing our newest Shield in the popular M&P M2.0 series of products. As personal protection continues to be a leading driver for consumers purchasing a handgun, the M&P Shield M2.0 pistol and M&P Shield M2.0 pistol with an Integrated Crimson Trace Laser both provide an allin-one package for those looking for an everydaycarry firearm.” The M&P Shield M2.0 pistol builds upon the success of the best-selling M&P Shield pistol line through improvements such as a lighter trigger pull, a tactile and audible trigger reset, and aggressive grip texture for enhanced control. Those familiar with the M&P Shield product line will

recognize the familiar, slim profile and 18-degree grip angle for a natural point of aim. Available with or without a manual thumb safety, the M&P Shield M2.0 pistol series features a 3.1-inch barrel in both 9mm and .40 S&W. It is available with both whitedot sights or tritium night sights, and ships with one standard and one extended grip magazine. The M&P Shield M2.0 pistol is also available with an Integrated Crimson Trace Laser, providing consumers with an out-ofthe-box concealed-carry solution that features two laser modes and ambidextrous laser activation for user confidence and reliable performance day or night. SRP: $479; $579 with tritium night sights; $499 with the Integrated Crimson Trace laser. (

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Background Noise Suppressor legislation is cutting through the noise


lot of noise was made in 2017 about a device designed to make guns a little quieter. Legislation to regulate suppressors like the average pumpaction shotgun or bolt-action rifle was introduced before last year’s SHOT Show and, as expected, it was hit with a chorus of false claims, outright lies, and unexpected criminal events that opponents have attempted to exploit in order to derail the effort.

The Hearing Protection Act of 2017 (H.R. 367) was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) with more than a third of his fellow congressmen and women signing on to support the bill. A similarly titled Senate bill (S. 59) was introduced by U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and has the co-sponsorship of 16 senators. Anti-gun politicians immediately attacked, blaming suppressors for every imagined evil and predicting a crime wave if the measure was signed into law. It was wrapped in Hollywood myths and fears born of ignorance. One senator claimed suppressors would completely silence firearms, that they would be undetectable by crime-fighting tools and even to human ears, allowing criminals to evade any detection. Others falsely claimed they would be completely deregulated. Another perennial anti-gun senator claimed that gunfire noise is a safety feature. These are among the same politicians who favor restrictive European gun laws but ignore the ones from that continent that allow easy retail purchase of suppressors and even require them in order to allow recreational ranges to reduce noise and be better neighbors. 14 ❚ SHOT BUSINESS ❚ DECEMBER 2017

NSSF has been busy busting myths and delivering truths about suppressors, working on Capitol Hill to reduce the background noise and focus on the clear truth about suppressors. Our elected officials are learning that suppressors reduce the noise associated with gunfire from a level that causes instant and irreparable damage to one of safe hearing levels, though still about as loud as a jackhammer. They’re learning suppressors are already legal for ownership in 42 states, and that 40 states permit them for hunting. They are also finding out that suppressors will continue to be regulated through FBI background checks, but that the proposed legislation will reduce buyer administrative burdens and waiting periods, freeing ATF resources to focus resources on fighting violent crime. In April, NSSF hosted a media day in cooperation with Sig Sauer, Daniel Defense, Olin Corporation, and Elite Shooting Sports of Manassas, Virginia. Journalists were invited to fire rifles and handguns with and without suppressors. That effort was repeated, with assistance from NSSF, for both congressmen and women and senators at the Capitol Hill Police Range. Members of both chambers were invited by Sen. Crapo and Rep. Duncan to fire suppressed and unsup-

pressed firearms so they could literally hear the truth for themselves. Both the House of Representatives and Senate bills gained steady support. The House version was slated for a hearing as an amendment to the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act on June 14, 2017. That morning, though, America awoke to learn that a criminal had targeted and attacked Republican congressmen and senators at a charity softball game practice. That attack left House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) fighting for his life, and wounded three others, including two Capitol Hill police officers who had engaged the criminal. Those events shelved the bill and the Hearing Protection Act until September, when it was passed on to the House Natural Resources Committee, the last stop before a vote by the full House of Representatives. Then the tragedy in Las Vegas struck. Firearms critics immediately jumped into the argument, claiming suppressors would have made the crime worse, despite the fact that suppressors were not involved and long before even the most basic facts were learned. Out of respect for the families and the ongoing law enforcement

investigation, NSSF declined comment in the days following. The SHARE Act, with the Hearing Protection Act amendment, is still pending a vote in the House of Representatives. NSSF continues to deliver facts to Congress, ensuring it knows truth from lies. Setting the record straight in the media has also been a priority. NSSF has authored op-eds and letters to editors, and provided media interviews to spread the word that suppressors are more heavily regulated than actual firearms. NSSF is showing Department of Justice studies proving suppressors are hardly the accessory of choice for criminals, being found in only a fraction of less than 1 percent of firearms crimes, even though the number of suppressors owned by lawabiding Americans now exceeds 1.3 million The idea of reducing wait times and administrative burdens for suppressors was introduced early in 2017, and in less than a year is ready for vote in the House of Representatives. Work with senators continues, but in a town where legislative progress is measured in years, the Hearing Protection Act is churning ahead. NSSF is confident the device to make firearms quieter will be raising the volume in the year ahead.

Lawrence Keane NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel




Leading the Way SHOT Show funds work for the industry year-round


y the time this December issue of SHOT Business hits your mailbox, we will be less than eight weeks away from the 2018 SHOT Show. This show is our 40th—quite a milestone, and one that underscores just how important this weeklong event is to our industry.

It’s no secret that SHOT Show is the one place each year our industry members can reunite with old friends, make important new connections, and conduct essential business that sets the tone for the months ahead. SHOT Show is also the one singular event that generates the majority of funding for NSSF’s numerous industry-centric initiatives and campaigns. As the firearms industry has worked to change its game plan in the wake of the 2017 presidential election upset, NSSF has led the way with efforts dedicated to connecting new firearms owners and recreational shooters with the retailers and shooting ranges in their areas. The goal: Increase active, enthusiastic participation in the shooting sports by helping to build dependable, comfortable, and educational relationships between millions of consumers and our frontline, consumer-facing retailers and shooting ranges. Our most significant accomplishment in this effort was our inaugural National Shooting Sports Month. Throughout August, hundreds of retailers and ranges held special events, sales, classes, and other promotions. We built a dedicated website, implemented a massive communications and social media campaign, provided marketing support for participating ranges and retailers, and hosted a sweepstakes to encourage

shooter participation, all of which resulted in thousands of shooters across the country dusting off their guns and enjoying the shooting sports. All of this was possible because of SHOT Show. Next, we reinvigorated the StepOutside brand. Its brandnew website,, functions to directly link a wide array of outdoor activities—hiking, biking, ATV trail riding, kayaking, camping, hunting, and target shooting, to name a few—to the user’s zip code. Not only does the site instantly answer the question, “What can I do in my area this weekend?” it strongly encourages crossover participation by exposing visitors to shooting and hunting while providing them with granular how-to, where-to, when-to information. With StepOutside, outdoor lovers have unprecedented access to resources that directly enable their passions and engage them in new activities—and when participation goes up, our industry thrives. All of this was possible because of SHOT Show. In 2017, NSSF expanded its communications efforts to better provide timely and highly useful information to our industry members. Our monthly From the Counter column—in which industry media veteran Peter Mathiesen interviews retailers small and large across the country that are not only surviving but thriving thanks to innovative

marketing and customer recruitment efforts—is one example. Jeff Swanson’s advice on best range practices and NSSF Security Consultant team member Jon Bocker’s pieces on FFL store security are also some of our most widely read and appreciated items. Our weekly Bullet Points and Government Relations newsletters got slick makeovers, which increased readership substantially. Oh, and they all appear on the completely revamped site, with a design that’s modern, easier to use, and far more interactive than its predecessor. All of this was possible because of SHOT Show. Speaking of challenges, NSSF’s Government Relations Team, led by my friend and colleague Larry Keane, continues to spearhead enactment of legislation that can improve business for our industry while working diligently to fight the bills that do us damage. This year we helped pass legislation that widened rifle use on private property in Indiana and added two new firearms categories for us in Pennsylvania Special Regulation Areas. We also continued our work to help Wisconsin remove its minimum age restriction on hunting, implement the Hearing Protection Act, fight the repeal of the Protection of Lawful Commerce Act, resist smart-gun legislation, and implement the Federal Firearms License Protection

Act of 2017 on the federal level, while also working with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to expand public land access to outdoorsmen. All of this was possible because of SHOT Show. The 2017 SHOT Show featured two new forums. The first was our Supplier Showcase, which featured more than 260 OEM suppliers demonstrating their products and services to our industry manufacturers. The event was such a success—more than 3,000 CEOs, procurement specialists, engineers, and designers packed the event’s ballroom— that we expanded the Showcase to two days for the 2018 Show, where nearly 500 vendors have reserved space. The second was our Executive Management Seminar. This event garnered so much attention that we received hundreds of requests for other function-focused educational forums. As a result, we hosted our first CMO Summit. That event took place in late September and earned high praise for its focus on digital, social media, and influencer strategies. All of this was possible because of SHOT Show. We’re looking forward to seeing everyone in Las Vegas come January. There’s much more to celebrate than our 40th anniversary, and much for our industry to look forward to in the months and years to come. Thanks for your continued support of NSSF and SHOT Show. DECEMBER 2017 ❚ SHOT BUSINESS ❚ 15



70 Years Strong Green Top is a retailer that continues to evolve


pened in 1947, this independent dealer is located in the northern suburbs of Richmond, just off I-95 above I-295. Of the facility’s 60,000 square feet, 40,000 are dedicated to retail floor space. The store sells a diverse mix of fishing, outerwear, camping gear, and, most notably, firearms—they stock an average of more than 3,000 new guns and an additional 1,000 used guns. In the last calendar year, this retailer turned more than 15,000 firearms. Quite the way to celebrate its 70th anniversary this year.

Green Top staffs about 130 full- and part-time employees. Open seven days a week, its hours are 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on weekdays, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Saturdays, and 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays. IN THE BEGINNING—A HORSETRADING HISTORY ➤ Green

Top was first established as a gas station, grocery, and fireworks stand. One single event changed the future for this retailer. “One day, my uncle had a customer who couldn’t pay for his gas. The man offered him a .45 revolver in exchange for payment of the fuel. My uncle took the gun in trade and sold it by the end of the day,” says Pat Hopkins, Green Top vice president. While Hopkins’ uncle knew nothing about firearms, the gas station owner did know a profitable experience when he had one. In less than a year, the fireworks were replaced by an array of rifles, shotguns, and handguns. The rural retailer grew in tandem with the rapidly increasing population surrounding Richmond. In response to that growth, the store emphasized used firearms. In the 1950s and ’60s, it turned to purchasing new firearms from the hardware store wholesalers who controlled the


lion’s share of the gun distribution business during that era. Green Top continued to expand and respond to the changing landscape in the ’70s and ’80s, including becoming a wholesaler to smaller retailers in a four-state region. By the 1990s, it closed the wholesale business to focus on its growing retail store. MINING USED-FIREARMS PROFIT MARGINS ➤ Though

many things have changed for Green Top over the years, used guns—the very thing it was founded on—have

remained a critically integrated linchpin in its business today. Although the new-gun business is a significant part of the sales pie, Hopkins tells me the used-firearms side rings the register at a minimum of double the margin of new guns. The key to strong used-firearms sales, he says, is creating trusting relationships on both ends of the used-gun cycle. “In my experience, it’s not just the sale of the used gun in the store. What may be more important is the acquisition of the firearm from the original seller,” Hopkins says. “We

look at numerous gun collections each quarter. Frequently, the sale is the result of a death in the family, with an understandably emotional seller. We are always patient and respectful, and gently foster the sale. “It is not uncommon for us to make an offer that is set to reasonable margins. If the gun is worth $1,000 at retail, we tell them the retail value even if they think it’s only $200,” he continues. “The goal is transparency while creating trust. Our used-gun manager has spent nearly a quarter of a century communicating with these kinds of customers and is highly skilled at these buys.” TURNING THE CORNER ON TRADITIONAL LONG GUNS ➤ If

Empowering employees and treating them well are two of the most important keys to success at Green Top.

2017 is known for anything at this store, it’s the year that traditional hunting long guns turned the corner. “As soon as the election was over, we quickly turned our attention to the hunting gun market,” Hopkins tells me. “We sourced multiple sale items, bolt-action rifles, and traditional shotguns. Then we aggressively promoted our increasing inventory,” says Hopkins. Rebate-driven processes involved strong participation from manufacturers. SKUs were selected based on new products combined with a mix of older, regional favorites. The response has been notable. With fall 2017 in full swing during this interview, Green Top’s turns for long guns are nearing 20 percent

B Y P E T E R B . M AT H I E S E N

higher than previous seasons. Notable is that the demand for long guns has nearly replaced the falling MSR category sales. TYING SEASONALITY TO SALES ➤ Advertising

has been a constant part of Green Top’s marketing mix. The store uses cable television, radio, and digital email blasts, as well as a 28-page, four-color, direct-mail circular. Tied to seasonal sales and mailed out up to five times a year, the circular targets 30,000 customers. Hopkins acknowledges the cost is high. “We look at the circulars every year. We question if the time has come for the digital age to replace them. To date, they have proven highly effective at turning a sale,” says Hopkins. EMPOWERING EMPLOYEES— KEY TO UNLOCKING SALES ➤ One

aspect of Hopkins’ management style is the store’s unwavering commitment to its employees. “We have more than a thousand customers walk through our door on a weekday. This can be a stressful place to work and requires long hours. We believe that all the pricing, inventory, and sales pale in comparison to a happy, knowledgeable employee. We want our workers to want to come to work happy every day. It’s critical that they get along with each other,” says Hopkins. Over the years, the store’s second-in-command has found that a new hire’s personality must fit in. “It’s imperative that they are flexible, have excellent listening skills, and are simply friendly people. If we find that we made a mistake, we release them quickly. I learned the hard way not to put off the decision,” Hopkins says. He also reveals that most of his full-time employees have been with the store well into two decades. The company offers a 401(k) plan and

health benefits to anchor the store’s strong position in the local retail marketplace. “We take care of our employees, and, in turn, they take amazing care of our customers. Our customers always get a quick, accurate response to a question. And, most important, the customer never feels taken for granted,” he says. Hopkins has one hard and fast rule that speaks volumes when employees communicate with a customer: “You are not here to win an argument with a customer.” LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE COUNTER ➤ While

changing trends require knowledge and planning, the ability to react promptly to a major market shift has been critical in today’s changing political landscape. Pointedly, this retailer brought marketing prowess and retail space to the traditional longgun market with measurable results. The second thing this store has done is to remain unafraid of sticking with what works, even when those ways seem to be old-fashioned. Green Top recognizes that while digital marketing may appear to eclipse traditional communications, monitoring results across all marketing avenues and understanding their audience has been key to keeping the register humming. Experimentation should also be part of a retailer’s marketing plan as it works to remain relevant with a changing customer base. Finally, your employees are your company’s ambassadors. They hold the master key to unlocking success. Choose wisely and invest in your staff, and you’ll reap rewards. Green Top’s employees meet the Gold Standard: This store received a win from SHOT Business magazine’s always-revealing Undercover Shopper column in the October 2017 issue.

NSSF Government Relations Team Member Emily Dahl Emily Dahl does what many consider to be a minor miracle: She keeps one step ahead of NSSF’s Larry Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel. And she does it in high heels. With a smile. Dahl, 33, from Lincolnshire, Illinois, is Keane’s executive assistant. She’s also the keeper of board minutes, legal updates, meeting notes, and a Rolodex of contacts for congressmen and senators, heads of federal agencies, and leaders in the firearms and ammunition industry. She’s a newcomer to the world of firearms but is quickly proving that she’s a powerhouse on the NSSF Washington, D.C., office’s Government Relations team. “Before I came to NSSF, I’d never shot a gun. I’ve never gone hunting,” explains Dahl. “The first time I went shooting was at an indoor range on Father’s Day in Illinois. I was very nervous. I made the person who was coaching me load only one cartridge at a time.” Just like her baptism into the NSSF team, Dahl jumped into shooting with both feet. “I liked it after I got used to it,” she adds,

noting she subsequently shot several firearms during NSSF’s summer outing. Such enthusiasm isn’t unusual for Dahl. After graduating from Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, she jumped into the political arena, working at the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minnesota. Next came Senator Mark Kirk’s (R-Ill.) campaign, followed by a position in his Senate office. She pursued a career path that took her off Capitol Hill with work for a lobbying firm, then a trade association, before the opportunity arose to work with NSSF. Now, she’s found a home in which she and her coworkers share Capitol Hill and political campaign experience. “There’s a greater sense of purpose,” Dahl says of the team’s camaraderie. “There’s a shared passion for a goal. Everyone is always looking beyond their own tasks to the bigger picture.” That bigger picture has expanded horizons for Dahl beyond her first visit to a shooting range. Within steps of her office door is a fullmount black bear, teeth bared, blankly watching over her daily routine.

© 2017 National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc. All Rights Reserved. SHOT Business®, SHOT Show® and all other trade names, trademarks and service marks of the National Shooting Sports Foundation appearing in this publication are the sole property of the Foundation and may not be used without the Foundation’s prior express written permission. All other company and product names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.




Class Is in Session A home-run lineup of 2018 SHOT Show retailer education


s the senior director of retailer services for NSSF, I, along with my team, spend months curating the topics for SHOT Show University and SHOT Week’s Retailer Seminars, and then recruiting top-level speakers who can pass on their subject-matter expertise to our retailers and range owners. Both educational forums are always sell-outs (with many of the Retailer Seminars at standing-room only), and they both have overwhelmingly positive reviews post-show. That makes each year hard to improve upon—but we think we’ve done just that with the 2018 lineup.


always, there are four learning tracks to SHOT Show University: ATF Compliance, Retailer 101, Range Operations, and our advanced Master’s Class. Anyone can participate, either fully in a dedicated track or pick and choose sessions across the tracks that best suit their needs.


is a great one for startup FFLs and recently on-board FFL counter staff and records keepers who will regularly handle Form 4473s and A&D books. It is also a great refresher for experienced FFLs. All four sessions will be moderated by NSSF Compliance


Consultant team members Wally Nelson and Harry McCabe and include: THE 4473 AND YOU 9:4510:45 a.m. THE NEXT PIECE OF THE COMPLIANCE PUZZLE: THE A&D BOOK 11:00 a.m.-


designed for FFLs of all experience levels, from startup to well-established, this track focuses on best business practices. Sessions include: DEALER LIABILITY FOR FIREARMS-RELATED INJURIES 9:45-10:45 a.m.

Moderated by Kutak Rock, LLP’s Joe Kavan.


12:00 p.m. Moderated by small-business expert Robbie Brown. TECHNOLOGIES, TRENDS, SERVICES, AND TOOLS EVERY FFL NEEDS TO KNOW 1:00-2:00

p.m. Moderated by technology consultant Gene Marks. EVALUATE THE HEALTH OF YOUR BUSINESS 2:15-3:15

p.m. Moderated by smallbusiness expert Robbie Brown. RANGE OPERATIONS

Whether you’re a veteran range operator, looking to establish your first, or adding on and expanding your current firearms range, this is the place you want to be. Sessions include:


9:45-10:45 a.m. Moderated by veteran firearms retail expert and NSSF Range Committee member Doug VanderWoude. EVOLUTION OF THE MODERN RANGE 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.

Moderated by the managing member of NexGen Range Consulting and NSSF Range Action Specialist team member Jeff Swanson. GROWING YOUR MEMBERSHIP BY HARNESSING THE POWER OF TECHNOLOGY 1:00-2:00 p.m.

Moderated by EZFacilty product manager Mike Vidal and best-selling author and membership expert Erik Charles Russell. DATA COLLECTION FOR SMALL BUSINESSES 2:15-3:15

B Y J O H N M C N A M A R A , N S S F S E N I O R D I R E C T O R , R E TA I L E R S E R V I C E S

p.m. Moderated by professional range consultant Bryan Stear. MASTER’S CLASS Designed for established retailers and range owners, especially those who’ve “seen it all, done it all,” this track features four sessions sure to innovate and invigorate, including: LEADERSHIP THROUGH INFLUENCE 9:45-10:45 a.m.

Moderated by Pete Smith, professional development coach and owner of the leadership development firm SmithImpact. NEW MEDIA MARKETING

11:00 a.m-12:00 p.m. Moderated by internationally sought-after technology and social media speaker Frank Furness, CSP. MAINTAINING RETAIL RELEVANCY 1:00-2:00 p.m.

Moderated by AcuSport’s director of retail development/business consultant Hank Yacek. YOUR EXIT: HOW SMART BUSINESS OWNERS ARE RAPIDLY BUILDING THEIR ORGANIZATIONAL VALUE

2:15-3:15 p.m. Moderated by perennial SHOT Show University speaker favorite Gene Marks. Taking place Monday, January 22, the day before the show opens, the forum begins with an impactful keynote address by shooting superstar and industry ambassador Julie Golob, who will be discussing employee engagement and retention. Closing out the 2018 SHOT Show University will be keynote speaker John O’Leary, author of On Fire: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life, which became an instant numberone national bestseller when it sold 30,000 copies in its first week of publication. Some people know how to grab your attention. Others

know how to grab your heart. John O’Leary does both. And once you hear him speak, you’ll know there’s almost nothing in your life you can’t overcome. RETAILER SEMINARS ➤ We

know that not everyone can attend SHOT Show University, just as we know there are more opportunities to learn than we can possibly offer in the University’s single day. The solution to both is our lineup of Retailer Seminars taking place throughout Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of SHOT Show: TUESDAY, JANUARY 23 NAVIGATING THE NICS BACKGROUND SYSTEM 9:00-

10:00 a.m. Presented by FBI NICS professionals Marc Chamberlin and Eric Moore. USING YOUTUBE AND DIGITAL PAID ADS TO GROW YOUR SMALL BUSINESS 10:30-11:30


1:00-2:00 p.m. Presented by Solutionary Hip Hop artist, founder of Black Guns Matter, and Second Amendment advocate Maj Toure. HANDLING THE GOOD AND BAD OF TODAY’S MEDIA 2:30-

4:30 p.m. Presented by Baldwin Media Marketing, LLC, owner Ann Baldwin and Patriot Outdoors president Stephen Powell. WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 24 BUILDING A COMPANY CULTURE THAT SETS YOU APART FROM THE COMPETITION 9:00-10:00

a.m. Presented by Blackstone Shooting Sports


10:30-11:30 a.m. Presented by NSSF Compliance Consultant team member Wally Nelson and Renzulli Law Firm partner Chris Renzulli. THE 21ST CENTURY ROLE OF THE LAWYER IN RETAIL FIREARM COMPLIANCE 1:00-

2:00 p.m. Presented by FFL Guard National Coordinating Counsel Chris Chiafullo. ATF TOWN HALL MEETING


a.m. Presented by humanresources consultant Wendy Christie and staff management expert Thomas “Mack” Brennan. UNDERSTANDING THE CURRENT CUSTOMER BASE VIA NSSF RESEARCH 10:30-

11:30 a.m. Presented by Jim Curcuruto, NSSF director, research and market development. OPERATION SECURE STORE

1:00-2:00 p.m. Presented by NSSF Security Consultant team member Bill Napier and chief of ATF Special Operations Division Thomas Chittum.

Seminars. When you’ve completed registration to attend the show, just log in to your account at and add the courses you need to your shopping cart. Many sessions are nearly sold out now, as is SHOT Show University, so it’s important to make your reservations now. We’re looking forward to seeing you in Las Vegas!

John O’Leary, author of On Fire: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life, will be a keynote speaker at University.


2:30-3:30 p.m. Presented by Orchid Advisors CEO Jon Rydberg and Philip Milks, Esq. We encourage everyone reading SHOT Business to visit, click in the “Education” heading at the top of the page, and peruse the complete session details and speaker biographies for both SHOT Show University and our Retailer DECEMBER 2017 ❚ SHOT BUSINESS ❚ 19




Gary Giudice, founder and CEO of Blue Heron Communications.

Spreading the Word The founder of Blue Heron Communications looks at the key elements of marketing


ary Giudice, founder and CEO of the longstanding marketing firm Blue Heron Communications, knows the value of good planning. Considering the many avenues corporate communications can travel these days, it’s a bad idea to launch a product without one. “It’s like a map to get to a fishing spot,” he says. “You’ve got to have a plan!”

Upon getting a new project from a client—and Blue Heron’s clients include Benelli, Stoeger, and National Hunting and Fishing Day—Giudice and his team consider all the angles: the broadcast possibilities, trade show presence, social media, magazine coverage, etc. “All these things come into play, and, limited by budget, you put it all in a pile and try to formulate a plan.” As you plan your PR strategy, here are some tactics to employ.

ple,” says Giudice. “An agency should have good connections. They should know the outdoor press, how much influence individuals have, and so forth.” A healthy list of media contacts helps in two areas in particular: hosting events and sending out products for testing. “I’ve seen a lot of people that waste money on writers who don’t have a lot of influence,” says Giudice. “If your budget is limited, be really careful about that.”


Tests and Evaluations


considering an agency, check its media connections. “People do business with peo20 ❚ SHOT BUSINESS ❚ DECEMBER 2017

“It’s not like we’re sending out a bunch of free stuff,”

says Giudice about his evaluations packages. “We don’t do that.” Nonetheless, there’s still a need to get gear into a writer’s hands, and to make the experience as seamless as possible. “When we send out a rifle, we try to have the optics sighted in. We also provide the ammo and even the targets,” says Giudice. “And then when they’re done with their testing, they send it all back.” The easier you make a job for media folks, the more likely it’ll be prioritized. And the more of the testing you control (optics, ammo), the better the chances your product will shine.

The same holds true for events that you invite the press to—hunts and shoots. “We make sure that it’s a turnkey deal,” says Giudice. “First, we call up editors and make sure they’re interested in the story. Then the writer doesn’t worry about anything until he gets back to his door. We try to find unique locations or animals that would spotlight our product.” This gets expensive, but the returns are often worth it. “You get a gun on the cover of one of the big magazines, and you’re going to sell that thing out. But if you get something all over Facebook or Twitter, you need to get tons of it to sell out a product. I think a lot of companies are demanding too much of social media. I think they forget that print is still here and still a pretty good deal.”

Press Releases ➤ On the cheaper side of things is responding to press requests for product information and photos. It’s important to know what they’re looking for, and to meet those expectations. “If it’s just for an article where they list a bunch of different fishing lures and they’ll be writing 30 or 40 words on each, why give them 200?” If they just ask for a clean product shot, that’s what you should send them.

Videos ➤ “Our purpose is to sell product—it’s not to entertain,” he says. “Make the videos shorter than you think you should, and you’ll do well. Don’t rattle on. Stay on point.” Ultimately, the key is to remember your job: selling product. With social media, sometimes it’s hard to measure success. Sales figures are the ultimate signal that your message has been heard.





In 1990, a Navy SEAL was navigating a minefield when his pack failed. As his gear tumbled to the ground, he vowed that if he got out of there alive he would make gear the right way. That vow is at the core of our strategically designed apparel, constructed to perform at mission-ready level. To never fail you. See the new line at


© 2016


B Y S L AT O N L . W H I T E

Wicked Cool Browning breathes new life into the A5 and Maxus


t’s called “product freshening,” and it’s a process that manufacturers employ to spruce up an existing line so it will appeal to new customers. Doing so saves the time and expense of creating a whole new line, while allowing that manufacturer to extend the life of a time-tested product.

That’s the basic idea behind Browning’s Wicked Wing program for the A5 and Maxus semi-auto shotguns. These guns feature an intriguing burnt bronze Cerakote coating on the receiver and barrel. If you look closely, you’ll

see an embedded Buckmark “tattoo” on the receiver as well. Both definitely have the cool factor, which, according to Scott Grange, Browning’s director of public relations and shooting promotions, was what they


were shooting for. “The idea behind this program was that these guns have been in our line now for quite a few years, and we know that consumers are always looking for something new and exciting. We have a lot of Millennials

coming into the market, and we know these young people love a cool look. So, we got together and decided to make those guns look cool.” Which they have certainly done. Grange also says the guns feature enhanced functionality through an enlarged operating handle and action-release button, as well as something Browning calls Speed Load Plus. “Both guns employ a two-piece carrier, which is a Browning design,” he says. “Folks familiar with our lines through the years will recognize it. The Gold semi-auto shotguns had it, as well as the old A5 Auto. This is a speed-load feature where you can load with the action open. You load a cartridge into the magazine, activate the release, and the shell is fed automatically into the chamber.” Both guns, which I shot recently, are attractive to the eye. They also shoot well and will perform admirably in the marsh. This latter point is important, as research shows that Millennials are getting interested in waterfowling. “They are,” Grange says. “Think about it. Big game is becoming very difficult to hunt in this country, given the value of big game and the process of drawing a permit. Waterfowl is different. There are a lot of refuges in the country, as well as public hunting grounds, where people can hunt ducks and geese.” Grange also notes that the Wicked Wing program is another way in which Browning is

trying to reward its dealers. “Our dealers are pretty savvy, and they find these niches out there, whether it’s in the target-shooting world or the hunting world. Bringing in new shooters and hunters is important, and these products are designed specifically for those dealers who are smart enough to recognize what these young people want.” Given that the Wicked Wing Maxus and A5 carry the Browning name, customers need to recognize that these guns come at a premium. They won’t go out the door cheaply. “We don’t choose to enter into the bargain basement battles out there because that’s not where Browning is,” Grange says. “The Wicked Wing Maxus and A5 are priced under $2,000, which is a lot of money for a shotgun. But if you look at what the guns deliver, they become very attractive.” Both guns are available in Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades camo, in 3- and 3 ½-inch versions. The Maxus offers 26- and 28-inch barrels, while the A5 offers barrel lengths of 26, 28, and 30 inches. Both guns also feature the Inflex Technology recoil pad. SRP: Maxus, $1,739.99–$1,869.99; A5: $1,829.99–$1,979.99. (

Besides being attractive to the eye, the guns shoot well.


The Browning A5 (left) and Maxus semi-autos get a makeover with the addition of a burnt bronze Cerakote finish.


Odd Notions Shopping for rifles and shotguns along the Delaware River proves to be a revealing experience


am a father with young sons. You can bet rimfires and sub-gauge shotguns are pretty popular among my brood. Hunting squirrels, upland birds, and coyotes, as well as plinking and target shooting, are some of our best bonding times. We are always in the market for a new stick for our arsenal, and often we just window-shop. Browsing in the area of Trenton, New Jersey, and eastern Pennsylvania, just across the Delaware River, reveals that some retailers have odd notions regarding customer service. STORE A

ANSWER MAN ➤ Located in New Jersey, this store is one of those that has seen better days. There were dusty corners and some holes on shelves where

products weren’t restocked. It contrasts dramatically with the look of new bigbox stores. Yet there is something charming and homey about it. I walked to the back of the store, which held

a lot of general hunting and fishing goods. There were about 200 long guns, both new and used. I didn’t have to wait long at the gun counter before a middle-aged clerk asked if he could help.

I asked him about accurate, bolt-action rimfires. He handed me a Savage B-Mag in .17 HMR and then a Savage .22 Mag. He said he loved the Savage triggers right out of the box. One of the guns had a signature from a TV show star written on the forend, and that gave the clerk a chuckle and he rolled his eyes at the popculture marketing. I handled the rifles, and asked a few questions about actions, magazines, and accuracy. He had all the answers. I asked if he had any subgauge shotguns, and he showed me three 20-gauges: a Stoeger, a Remington 870, and a Benelli Nova. I asked him about the Stoeger, and he said he was familiar with the 870 and the Benelli but not so much the Stoeger. I asked if they were reliable. “We sell a bunch, and they don’t come back,” he said. STORE B ➤ This store, also located in New Jersey, looked promising. It was bright and had a lot of neatly organized hunting and outdoor gear. There were enough customers to indicate it was a popular place, but not too many to make you think shopping here would be a hassle—until I got to the gun counter. There were plenty of new guns, and I was excited to see several of the kind I was looking for. Each of the three clerks was talking with customers, so I waited for my turn. But then things got confusing as several other customers walked up to the counter area as well, each of whom obviously wanted the attention of the clerks, just like I did. I stood there listening to the banter about 9mms vs. .45-calibers and palm swell and striker-fired guns for about 15 minutes.




Once in a while I’d catch another waiting customer glancing at me, thinking, I wonder if he’ll be next or I’ll get my turn first. Sure, it’s all conjecture, but that’s what your mind does when it’s idle. Well, I never did find out who’d be next because I’d had enough and left. STORE C


clerk at this spacious box store in Pennsylvania brimmed with enthusiasm. He saw me coming a mile away and was ready with a smile and a “How can I help you, sir?” I asked him if he had any bolt-action rimfires, and he grabbed a standard Savage Mark 2. He asked me

if I wanted to hold it. He said he was partial to it because the first generation Mark 1 was the first gun he ever shot. He raved about the trigger, though I could not fire it because there was a trigger lock on it. I handed it back and he put a maplestocked rimfire in my hands. Then I asked if I could see a composite-stocked rimfire. “What’s that?” he said. “A plastic stock,” I said. “Oh,” he said, and handed me another Savage with a black composite stock. I also asked to see the several subgauges he had on the shelf, including a 20-gauge Remington, a Mossberg 500, and a Benelli Nova. He didn’t offer much information about the shotguns. He

may have been gun-shy after being caught flat-footed on not knowing what “composite” was. But he sure was pleasant and helpful to the best of his ability. STORE D


was greeted at the door of this big-box store in New Jersey and shown the way to the hunting section. While most of the store was cavernous, I felt claustrophobic in the hunting section. There was also a different tone here because someone was complaining about a price online being much less than the price in the store, and the clerks weren’t budging on the price. One clerk was consumed with trying to pla-

cate the customer, while the other clerk sat on a stool behind the gun counter and was determined not to be bothered by anything— including me. As I looked at the 200 or so new guns on the racks, he nodded at me. After a few minutes, he asked if he could help. I was encouraged and asked to see a .22 LR bolt-action. “Got your New Jersey Firearms ID card?” “No,” I said. “I don’t.” “Then you can’t buy a gun here,” he said. “I am just looking,” I said. “Do I need one to handle and look at the guns?” “Yes,” he said, and he turned his back to me and sat down again. So, I left.

How’d They Do? Customer Service STORE





Product Knowledge

Product Availability

 Knew a little about every gun, but no deep knowledge about any one in particular.

 A few decent models to check out.

no stars Waited for 15 minutes, but no one talked to me.

 They sure knew about handguns, which they were selling to other people.

 Several bolt-action rimfires, plus a half-dozen sub-gauge shotguns.

 Quick to help, and personable.

 My confidence plummeted when he didn’t know what a composite stock was.

 They had 150 new guns.

 Friendly and helpful.

no stars Awkward to get a cold shoulder.

no stars Hard to tell after the cold shoulder from the ID-card exchange.

SCORING SYSTEM: Outstanding: 

 About 200 or so new guns, with a few rimfires and sub-gauges.

Very Good: 

Winner: STORE

A The Sportsmen’s Center in Bordentown, New Jersey, has a lot to offer hunters and shooters. It’s also got an extensive bow and fishing section. It’s a bit worn, yes, but the staff seems to have the information needed to help customers with their triggerpulling purchases. With a good number of guns to choose from, and a friendly, knowledgeable staff, it’s a winner. The Sportsmen’s Center 69 Route 130 Bordentown, NJ 609-298-5300 sportsmenscenter .com






december 2017

Set the stage for success by helping fit -time hunters with the right rifle first-time By Christopher Cogley

shot business first rifle


The Ruger American All-Weather is available in left-handed versions across the line.

Although this stage is incredibly symbolic on many levels, there’s also a fundamentally practical aspect to this progression that should never be underestimated: The right rifle helps provide a young hunter with a rewarding experience that will serve as the foundation upon which a lifetime of learning can be built. The wrong rifle, however, can easily create a negative reaction that might cause this hunter to look elsewhere for the kind of rewarding pastime he was otherwise hoping to find in hunting. As more new hunters are coming from families without hunting traditions, they are turning to their local firearms retailers for advice

on which rifle would make the best choice to take afield. By encouraging your staff to take the time to listen to the needs and reservations of these first-time hunters and then help them find the right rifle to fit their unique situation, store owners can not only help get new people passionate about the heritage we all care so much about, they can also create loyal, lifelong customers who will turn to them for advice at each stage of their hunting evolution. SHOT Business surveyed several rifles that would all make good selections for these hunters. To help retailing staff determine which ones might be the best choice for the different shooters who might walk



december 2017

through their store door, we evaluated these rifles on the attributes that most concern first-time hunters.

Ruger American All-Weather



ruger .com

Overview: The Ruger American All-Weather is a solid choice for a first hunting rifle, for a wide-range of shooters. The stainless-steel rifle with a synthetic stock is durable enough to handle nearly anything nature might throw at it. The rifle weighs only 6.3 pounds, barrel length is 22 inches, and the overall length is 42 inch-

es, all of which ensures the American All-Weather isn’t too cumbersome for young hunters to handle. The rifle has a smooth trigger pull, even without adjusting the factory setting, and provided good accuracy right out of the box. The shape of the stock allowed for a solid, steady grip good for shooters with smaller hands. The butt pad provided adequate recoil reduction, but the lighter weight also meant it still had a bit of a kick on the 7mm-08 we tested, something retailers should take into consideration with younger and smaller-framed customers, perhaps offering them a different caliber. The rotary magazine was easy to detach, load, and reattach, and the cartridges fed into place without trouble. The bolt itself wasn’t as smooth as that on some of the other rifles tested, and it took a while for some testers to begin working it efficiently. The American was one of the least-expensive rifles we tested, which means that first-time hunters won’t have to make a large investment to get started. The rifle comes in seven of the most popular calibers, from .223 to .308, and all of them are available left-handed. Pros: The American AllWeather is a versatile, durable, go-nearly-anywhere, donearly-anything kind of rifle. The availability of seven popular calibers for both right- and left-handed shooters means that nearly everyone can find the one to fit their body and hunting style. Cons: This might not be the

rifle to show hunters who

have more traditional tastes. What it exudes in functionality it lacks in aesthetic appeal for people who typically view firearms as more of a work of art. The action could be smoother but will likely cause no issues once a shooter gets accustomed to the amount of effort required to work the bolt. Bottom line: The American

All-Weather seems to be made with first-time hunters in mind. Combine its admirable accuracy, bulletproof construction, and lightweight, easy-to-handle design with its reasonable price tag, and it’s hard to imagine a more practical rifle anyone could carry on his or her first hunt.

Savage MSR 10 Hunter



savagearms .com

Overview: The debate about whether modern sporting rifles (MSRs) are actually practical hunting rifles might still carry on in the distant corners of some gun shops and obscure online chat rooms, but it seems most people in the hunting and shooting community have recognized the benefits of these firearms and accepted them as the next evolution of the hunting rifle. That acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean that the community embraces these rifles enough to sling them over their shoulder Ruger’s American All-Weather has a stainless-steel barrel and a synthetic stock.


shot business first rifle The Savage MSR 10 Hunter has been designed for quick follow-up shots.

when they take to the field. When it comes to a first hunting rifle, an MSR might seem a little intimidating to a shooter who hasn’t practiced with one on the range. That doesn’t mean it isn’t the right choice for a first hunting rifle—rather just that retail sales staff might have to spend a little more time explaining the benefits of carrying an MSR on any hunting excursion. For those first-time hunters receptive to the idea, the Savage MSR 10 Hunter is one to consider. Available in .308 Winchester, .338 Federal, and the trendy-hot 6.5 Creedmoor, the MSR 10 Hunter will work for a wide range of game. At roughly 8 pounds, it might be a bit on the heavy side and a little cumbersome for smaller shooters, but the reduction in felt recoil might make up for the larger size, especially when they’re running rounds through it at the range in preparation for the season. The adjustable stock and nearly endless options for personalizing the rifle will also allow hunters to use a rifle that adjusts to them rather than a rifle to which they must adjust. The trigger pull on the MSR 10 Hunter was stiff but can easily be adjusted to fit each shooter’s preference. One of the most attractive features for firsttime hunters, however, might be the ability to quickly reacquire the target for a follow-up shot without having to worry about

working a bolt or leveraction, and the Savage was incredibly responsive in this regard. The accuracy of the rifle was also especially admirable in the 6.5 Creedmoor we tested, with respectable groupings at 100-plus yards from four different shooters. Pros: The option to cus-

tomize the rifle for a comfortable fit, combined with the ability to quickly reacquire a target and place a follow-up shot, is a significant benefit of the Savage MSR 10 Hunter that firsttime hunters should seriously consider. The pistol grip allows shooters to pull the rifle tightly into their shoulder, and the accuracy of the MSR 10 Hunter shouldn’t be underestimated. Offered in .308 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, and .338 Federal. Cons: For shooters who

aren’t used to an MSR, the platform can be a little intimidating, and the size and shape can seem a little awkward and cumbersome to carry, especially for smaller shooters. At nearly $1,500, the MSR 10 Hunter presents a pretty serious financial commitment that might also be daunting. Bottom line: For first-time hunters open to the idea of carrying an MSR into the field, the Savage MSR 10 Hunter is a great choice. It is a solid, well-built rifle that will withstand years of use. While much of it might come down to personal preference, the significant benefits of hunting with this rifle should be discussed with potential purchasers.






shot business first rifle

Browning BLR Lightweight ’81



browning .com

Overview: The resurgence of the lever-action as a viable, long-range, big-game hunting rifle has not yet gone mainstream. But one look at the Browning BLR Lightweight ’81, and it becomes instantly apparent that there are some significant benefits to this timeless hunting rifle style. At 7 pounds 4 ounces, the BLR isn’t a heavy rifle, but it feels impressively solid in hand. The polished walnut stock and classic checkering give the rifle a traditional feel that will immediately impress upon new hunters a strong sense of hunting’s heritage. The most obvious benefit of the BLR is, of course, the action. It was smooth and crisp through the entire test, and allowed for a quicker The Weatherby Vanguard Camilla has a crisp trigger pull and a smooth action.

response and reacquisition of the target than is possible for most shooters using bolt-action rifles. Although not as well-suited for lefthanded shooters as a lefthanded bolt, the BLR does present an attractive option, especially in families where the rifle might be shared

among multiple hunters. The oversize hammer provided a solid purchase for the thumb and was easy to release, even for young shooters. The .270 we tested had impressive out-of-the-box accuracy; nearly all the shooters were able to tally an admirable grouping. Smaller

shooters, however, did seem to feel the kick more than with the other .270s we tested. For shooters who are used to working a boltaction, the BLR might take some getting used to, but those who can make the adjustment might never want to hunt with anything else.




Browning’s BLR Lightweight ‘81 is a modern take on an american classic—the lever-action rifle. It comes with iron sights, but it is drilled and tapped for a scope.

Pros: The BLR’s performance is just as impressive as its looks, and the leveraction can make it easier for first-time hunters to reload and reacquire the target once they get used to working the action. The rifle is smooth, accurate, and easy to operate. Offered in 16 popular calibers.

al benefits that will be especially appealing to new hunters.

Cons: The BLR is a rifle that could easily be passed down for generations, but it will need to be well cared for in order to maintain peak performance. Although it’s hard to argue that it isn’t worth every penny, the price tag might be a little steep for many first-time hunters.

Overview: One of the crucial attributes of a first hunting rifle is its perceived value, which doesn’t always mean price. It is in this area of inherent value that the Winchester XPR Hunter excels. With a $600 price tag, it isn’t the least-expensive rifle on the market, but the value it provides is undoubtedly among the best. The XPR comes with a polymer stock that will stand up to years of rugged use, and the addition of Mossy Oak Break-Up will help keep a hunter concealed in the field. The blued barrel and receiver will require a bit more maintenance than would stainless steel, but that provides an opportunity to help young

Bottom line: The BLR is a solid, well-crafted rifle that definitely lives up to the standard of quality for which Browning is known. The rifle immediately instills admiration for the tradition of hunting and an appreciation for the heritage of sportsmanship. This would be a fine addition to anyone’s collection, but the lever-action provides sever-

Winchester XPR Hunter



winchester .com

hunters develop good habits when it comes to taking care of their firearm. The .270 we tested performed as well as any of the rifles in the review. It was accurate, and the thick buttpad helped soften the recoil enough that even the younger shooters didn’t notice it. The bolt wasn’t necessarily the smoothest, but it was consistent, allowing shooters to adjust the amount of force needed to work it quickly and effectively. The plastic magazine felt a little cheap, but it was easy to detach, load, and reseat. At 6 pounds 5 ounces, and with an overall length of 44½ inches, the rifle was neither the smallest nor the lightest rifle we tested, but it provided a good balance and never felt heavy or awkward. Pros: The XPR is a durable

rifle that is both accurate and easy to shoot. The recoil pad helped protect The Winchester XPR Hunter features a camo polymer stock and a blued barrel.

shot business


first rifle ments made for women and the overall quality of the rifle certainly didn’t go unnoticed, or unappreciated, by our women shooters, who were extremely reluctant to put the Camilla back in the rack.

Winchester’s XPR Hunter is a durable, accurate rifle that also has a good recoil pad.

y young shooters’ shoulders and helped to minimize the flinching that so often leads to inaccurate shots. The camo stock is a big plus from both an aesthetic and a practical standpoint. Cons: If the bolt operation

was a little smoother and the magazine a little sturdier, it would be hard to find much of anything to complain about with the XPR. Bottom line: The XPR Hunter might not be the cheapest gun a first-time hunter could buy, but it’s hard to believe that it wouldn’t be among the best values on the market. It’s easy to use, easy to handle, and easy to maintain, making it a great option.

Weatherby Vanguard Camilla



weatherby .com

Overview: The Weatherby Vanguard Camilla is a rifle designed by women hunters for women hunters. It features a long list

of modifications designed to make the rifle a better fit for female shooters. These include a slimmer forearm and grip, a higher comb, and a recoil pad that’s situated to fit better into a woman’s shoulder pocket. While these modifications certainly make the Camilla distinct, they aren’t the only attributes that make it special. The Camilla is, first and foremost, a very fine hunting rifle, offering the same kind of quality for which Weatherby built its reputation. The rifle has a Turkish walnut stock with a rosewood forend and grip caps and a checkering pattern that is as attractive as it is functional. The grip has a palm swell on the right side and a curved indentation on the other that provides for sure handling. The bolt slides like it’s on rails and moved effortlessly even after several consecutive rounds were run through it. The Camilla seemed to nestle perfectly into the shoulders of the female shooters in our test group, and seemed to be the only rifle that didn’t cause them to twitch and adjust to find a comfortable, natural shooting position. The combination of the design ele-

Pros: The Camilla might just be the ideal choice for any woman hunter, but especially for those who are first-time hunters. In addition to the Weatherby quality and the modifications made for female shooters, the Camilla had a crisp trigger pull, a smooth action, minimal felt recoil, and the kind of accuracy any shooter would appreciate. Cons: The only downside to

the Camilla seems to be the lack of available chamberings. Right now the rifle is offered only in .243, 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm-08 Rem., and .308 Win. Hopefully, more calibers will be offered down the road, as that will help to broaden the appeal of the rifle. The use of a detachable magazine instead of a hinged floorplate would also be a welcome feature. Bottom line: Judging by the response of the women shooters who tested the Camilla, the modifications Weatherby has incorporated into the design were much needed and well appreciated. The quality of the rifle makes it easy to shoot, and the women-specific features make it all the more enjoyable. The Camilla is without a doubt a rifle worthy of the women who carry it. The Weatherby Vanguard Camilla is a bolt-action designed by women for women.




• LL-807G • LL-807






ig BY S L AT O N L . W H I T E




in the wake of the formation of Vista Outdoor, I spoke with the company’s executive leadership about the direction of the new enterprise. It was clear they intended to nurture the many well-known brands—Savage, Bushnell, Federal Premium, to name but a few—under the new Vista umbrella. But while we were talking, I got the sense of a much bigger picture, one that included outdoor companies that weren’t in the immediate orbit of the shooting sports. These executives were much too savvy and experienced to have tipped their hand, but it was obvious at the time that Vista Outdoor wouldn’t be a company that merely tended to its current brands. The company clearly wanted to add to its portfolio, especially with outdoorrelated brands that complemented its existing lineup. 38 ❚ SHOT BUSINESS ❚ DECEMBER 2017

And so it came as no surprise when Vista announced the acquisition of CamelBak in August 2015, Giro and Bell bike helmets and Blackburn cycle accessories in April 2016, and Camp Chef, a leading provider of outdoor cooking solutions, in the summer of 2016. Those acquisitions all fit into Vista Outdoor’s strategy, which is “to deliver longterm value through acquiring complementary, marketleading brands that will benefit from Vista Outdoor’s balance sheet, distribution network, and sales and marketing expertise.” Camp Chef seemed to be a particularly good fit for Vista Outdoor because it has a nimble and responsive product-development process. Another key factor is that outdoor cooking has changed dramatically in the past few years. Outdoorsmen of all stripes now expect to eat well in camp. The days when a can of cold Vienna sausages and a box of Saltines constituted the major meal of the day are long gone. Camp Chef also held appeal to a wide range Camp Chef allows Vista Outdoor to tap into the market for well-prepared food in the outdoors.

of consumers who pursue a variety of outdoor sports. “Camp Chef continues to grow its market share in the outdoor cooking category, and the brand serves many of our current consumers who are engaged in a wide variety of outdoor pursuits,” says Dave Allen, president of the outdoor products segment for Vista Outdoor. “Acquiring Camp Chef strengthens our leadership position in outdoor recreation, and allows us to enter the growing camping and outdoor cooking market.” That’s what’s known as “synergy,” an often misused word in corporate-speak. But Vista Outdoor seems to grasp its true meaning. When employed correctly, synergy can become a force-multiplier for the brands involved. “Whatever your individual outdoor recreation pursuit— be it mountain biking, skiing, golfing, camping, hunting, going to the range—we know there is synergy between the brands under our tent that allows us to leverage expertise from one to the other,” says Amanda Covington, Vista’s senior vice president of communications and government relations. A runner, hiker, and skier, Covington has also enthusiastically embraced hunting,


hree years ago,

and has found the experience has helped broaden her appreciation of the outdoors in all its varied forms. As an example of the synergy found at Vista Outdoor, Covington cites the launch of the Savage A17 semi-auto rimfire rifle and the simultaneous co-development of the A17 Varmint Tip .17 HMR cartridge for which it is chambered. As a standalone firearms manufacturer, Savage engineers had never been able to work together with ammunition engineers on a joint project. But as part of Vista, they now had access to CCI, the engineers of which pride themselves on building specialty ammunition. Working together, the two companies created something truly special. Covington sees similar synergies elsewhere in the company, and these can help Vista Outdoor deal with the ever-evolving vagaries of the business. One such vagary is selling to the Millennial generation. “Used to be, if you got into a sport, you went deep,” says Jessica Klodnicki, vice president and general manager of the outdoor recreation division of Vista Outdoor (a group that includes Camp Chef, CamelBak, and Jimmy Stykes standup paddleboards). “In essence, they would say, ‘I’m going to identify myself as a hunter or a cyclist, and I’m going to go deep. I’m going to buy all the gear, and I’m going to buy the most expensive stuff.’ Well, the Millennials are changing that. What’s happening now is that they’re dabbling. They’re grazing across multiple sports and multiple categories.” This dabbling, Klodnicki believes, is causing some

The synergy between Savage Arms and CCI helped create a pair of innovative products.

softness in outdoor categories. “Because these guys aren’t specializing, the gear they do buy is a less-expensive version. They’re also trading, renting, or borrowing. I think this is because they don’t expect to be doing any particular activity for a very long time. Now, if that is how the consumer behaves, you have to be spread across multiple categories to pick up the slack.” Klodnicki admits Millennial purchase-and-use decisions may also be driven by their particular economic circumstances. “They may live in a small apartment with no storage or work in jobs that pay less,” she says. Either way, their behavior requires manufacturers and retailers to adapt. This inevitably creates friction, as some operations don’t wish to alter their business model. But where some see only challenges, Vista sees opportunities. Covington stresses

that Vista’s acquisition strategy isn’t focused on simply buying any brand, but on buying brands that are leaders in their field. “We look for companies that are top performers and market leaders,” she says. “Bell and Giro [helmets and goggles] are strong brands, and when you think hydration, you think CamelBak. I think you’ll see that our brands are coming together with ways to package things to enrich a consumer’s outdoor experience.” The growth of the ATV and side-by-side market is another category that interests Vista. “Given that this business is blossoming, we’re really exploring the category for Bell,” says Klodnicki. She believes CamelBak is ripe for broader market exposure. “We’re exploring beyond the current categories. It really is all about connecting with an active consumer who could benefit from hands-free hydration.”

Klodnicki also notes that Vista Outdoor can give a brand access to customers and partners it may not have had on its own. “As part of Vista, you now have a deeper relationship with customers and partners that makes exploring those options more readily available.” All too often in corporate acquisitions, the acquired company is forced to adopt the corporate philosophy of the parent—for better or worse. That’s not part of Vista’s DNA. “Our acquisition model is to let those brands maintain their brand ethic and be true to who they are to their consumers,” Covington says. “That’s important. At the same time, the value of being part of a large portfolio is a pool of strong talent and resources that allows us to plug in to something new, allowing us to create additional opportunities for organic growth.” DECEMBER 2017 ❚ SHOT BUSINESS ❚ 39


retailer profile: Kentucky Gun Company december 2017

Changing Footprint the

Patrick Hayden, owner of the Kentucky Gun Company in Bardstown, Kentucky, saw firsthand what Walmart and Kroger did to the financial health of a general store that had been around since 1946. He was the owner of that store. But rather than close the doors, he diversified by filling it with guns. The tactic was so successful that he abandoned the general store concept, and 15 years ago renamed the enterprise Kentucky Gun Company. But he didn’t stop there. Hayden continues to think about the changing nature of retail and how to attract customers to the 32,000-square-foot facility, located in the heart of By Barbara Baird Bourbon Country, USA. The demands of competition keep one retailer on his toes


retailer profile: kentucky gun company december 2017

Exclusive Deals At the time of my visit to Hayden’s store, he was running a combo package deal that paired a T/C Compass rifle with a Vortex riflescope. “We go directly to the manufacturer to get a good price point,” Hayden says. “Most centerfire rifles don’t come with optics, so we wanted to put together an attractive The addition of a Honda Powersports dealership has helped the store weather the inevitable ups and downs of business.

package with reliable products at a decent price point. It had to be a package deal, so that the consumer couldn’t go on the open market and buy that scope at a better price.” Hayden notes that consumers who opt for his combo will save “hundreds of dollars on that package.” He continues to search for other exclusive deals that benefit him and his customers. The search is ongoing, he says, because some deals are seasonal, while others are special opportunities from particular manufacturers.

The Bourbon Factor Bardstown is about 40 miles south of Louisville, the epicenter of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, a winding tour of the state’s famous distilleries.

The tour has attracted nearly 2.5 million visitors over the past five years, generating more than $125 million in tax revenue per year. Hayden appreciates the busloads of tourists who stop by to see American guns while in Kentucky for the tour, and he takes full advantage of this opportunity by offering firearmsthemed T-shirts and hats along with an inventory of thousands of firearms. Visitors also get to see a beautiful collection of full-body trophy mounts, purchased by Hayden when a local wildlife museum shut its doors a few years ago. “The Bourbon Trail provides employment for thousands of people in our area,” Hayden says. He notes that those jobs also provide the people who live in the area with

disposable income. “I have a store that’s full of wants, not needs,” he says. “It’s not like I’m selling bread, milk, or other essentials. Anytime you have more disposable income, you’re going to have customers who will support a store like mine.”

Complementary Product As any firearms retailer knows, politics (on national, state, and local levels) can have a profound effect on sales. When Hayden pondered this issue, he determined to diversify yet again, this time pivoting to something that would complement what he was already offering. “In my region, there’s a 96 percent chance that an ATV owner is also a firearms owner,” he says. So when the local Honda


Here are four ways Hayden has changed the footprint of his gun store in order to remain competitive. Each is food for thought for any retailer challenged by a fastevolving retail landscape.


Powersports dealership came up for sale, Hayden didn’t think twice. “It was a good time to jump in with Honda,” he says. “It’s been advantageous and has diversified us. The gun market is so politically driven. The powersports market is more stable.” Hayden also notes that while summer is historically the slowest time for gun sales, it’s the busiest time for powersports sales. He added a service bay for maintenance and repairs of not only the Hondas he sells, but for any other type of powersports vehicle. He also offers a gunsmith shop on the premises. “We don’t want to just sell you the product,” he says. “If you offer service, it gives customers another reason to walk through the door.”

Range Time Thursday night is “Date Night” at the store’s indoor range. Your date shoots for free. “It’s really a buy-one, get-one-free option,” says Hayden. The eight-lane range, which uses a state-of-theart ventilation system, can accommodate guests who want to shoot pistols, shotguns, rifles, or even machine guns. In fact, they rent machine guns, as well as other popular guns. “We have 15 NRA-certified range-safety officers on staff, and people can try before they buy in a safe setting,” he says. “It’s been a great tool to make sales.” Finally, Hayden says none of the above could have been accomplished without “the dedication and hard work of our employees. We have a good team.”

Patrick Hayden, owner of the Kentucky Gun Company, believes retailers need to keep up with changing times.

Hayden says he doesn’t want his store to “have a factory atmosphere.” I saw evidence of that on my visit when I stopped by the employee lounge and saw a notice on a whiteboard for a company barbecue. There was also a note about farm-

fresh eggs for sale. That’s not just a team; that’s family. For an operation so very modern in how it approaches business challenges, it has retained an old-fashioned touch with its employees. And that’s the best of both worlds.



Good Wood Boyds’ hardwood gunstocks can help upgrade nearly any firearm


redit the Second World War with my introduction to Boyds Gunstocks, manufacturer of new and replacement rifle and shotgun stocks. I’m a WWII history buff and have always wanted to buy a military rifle from that era. I had a chance to purchase a Mosin-Nagant Model 93 sniper rifle recently, and I did so. I then discovered it was manufactured in 1943, and therefore most certainly saw action as Soviet soldiers fought off the invading Wehrmacht. I wanted the rifle for hog and deer hunting, so I decided to upgrade it.

First, I replaced the original trigger. Then I found a mount to install a scout-type riflescope. That done, I purchased the scope. Now, was there an aftermarket stock that would fit the rifle? Indeed there was. Boyds Gunstocks of Mitchell, South Dakota, had one. In fact, it had dozens of options, all made to order. “We offer stocks for 255 different gun brands, and within those brands we have more than 1,200 models,” says company spokesman Richard Hoffart. “And we add new gun brands regularly.” Launched in 1981 by gunsmith Randy Boyd, Boyds sells directly to consumers via its website. Hoffart talked me through the easy online ordering procedure. Less than two weeks later, I had my new Mosin stock—finished in Zombie Green, no less—and with an adjustable, raised comb, aggressive checkering, and a nice recoil pad. For retailers, Boyds offers a nice sales opportunity, too. “We have a good number of retailers who sell our stocks,” says Hoffart. “There’s a nice profit margin for them

when they sell our line.” Some retailers keep an inventory of Boyds stocks on hand, especially the more popular models like those for Remington 700s, supplementing with online orders as needed. Other retailers take the orders and then go to the website with their dealer code and enter the information. Boyds’ stocks start in the $130 price range and go up from there. Special sale items can go as low as $99, and most stocks are ready in two weeks. If retailers desire it, Hoffart says, Boyds will work with them to create signage and display setups. Boyds can also supply advertising materials for individual stores to use in sales and promotions. Although it offers new stocks made from solid pieces of wood, the company’s main claim to fame is its super-rigid laminated stocks that won’t twist or shift under recoil for precision shooting. Given that rigidity, and the many custom options (length of pull, various checkering patterns, thumbhole options), it’s no surprise that benchrest shooters are among Boyds’ top customers. Second


place goes to hunters. Recreational shooters are next—including those who, like myself, own and upgrade vintage military rifles. Boyds is in the tactical game, too, making furniture for modern sporting rifles. “Our engineers are always working to keep up with new gun models that come onto the market, to design what we think are some better, more comfortable options for shooters,” says Hoffart. “But we also go a step further and create new stocks from the ground up for a wide variety of rifles.” Case in point: Earlier this year, Boyds introduced the At-One adjustable gunstock. It allows you to easily adjust the butt pad for length and the comb for proper cheek fit. And no tools are required; each change is made with the simple push of a button. The modular forearm and grip can be quickly swapped out, too. At-One stocks even come equipped with a single-point sling mount that—with the push of another button—can be moved to either side of the stock in seconds. (boydsgunstocks. com)

The laminate process that creates the At-One stocks bonds together more than 30 layers of hardwood with special resins.

+ Improved elevation ram for better target acquisition

+ Ergonomic lateral adjustment for a perfect fit

(for most firearms)

+ Advanced recoil shock absorbing pad for increased recoil reduction

+ Dual frame design to accept most detachable magazine rifles, as well as lever-action rifles

W H AT ’ S S E L L I N G W H E R E

West Sporting UT Al’s Goods, Logan Keeping an average of 900 firearms in 1,900 square feet of display space, this retailer also has an attached NSSF Five Star Range. Sales of handguns are steady and equal to last year’s overall tally. This retailer forecasts a slight increase for the approaching winter season. “We consider sales to be good. Not what they were pre-election, but they are steady—with the exception of MSRs,” said buyer Dustin Smith. Smith notes that price-point MSRs are moving. At the handgun counter, Smith Shields and Ruger SR22s lead the sales charts. Other strong SKUs include Smith & Wesson K-frames. Pre-holiday sales of .22s are projected to be strong. There are plenty of Henry Golden Boys and Ruger 10/22s in stock.

Gun ID Boise Company, Boise Established in 1995, this store stocks as many as 4,000 guns. It has two locations, both specializing in hunting and home-defense firearms. Recently, the store has seen good numbers of Tikkas and Ruger Americans cross the counter in a variety of calibers. That said, the 6.5 Creedmoor is attracting the most attention. Holiday sales look strong. Traffic is up on gift certificates, with plenty of turns on bulk .22 ammo. “We really sell an amazing amount of .22 ammo as gifts. It’s a relief to see such impressive availability,” said counter salesman Alex Riley. MSR sales are slower but steady, with a mix of price-point and highend models. Handgun sales are steady, with high demand for Taurus

PT 111s and Smith Shield 2.0s. Glock 43s and 19s are also moving.

Mountain View AK Sports, Anchorage

This general sporting goods store stocks 150 guns and keeps three employees busy at the firearms counter. Even though big-game seasons have wrapped up, bolt-action rifles continue to turn, mainly Kimber Montanas and Montana Rifle Company in a mix of .30/06 and .300 Win. Mag. The handgun counter is experiencing the heaviest traffic in its history. “We have seen an exceptional rise in crime, mostly drug-related,” said owner John Staser. Big sellers for personal-defense customers include Kimber Micro 9s, Ruger LC9s, Smith Shield 2.0s, and Sig 328s.

Midwest Guns, IA Davenport Davenport

Just yards from the banks of the Mississippi River, this 3,500-squarefoot retail space sports an additional 12 indoor shooting lanes. Keeping 600 firearms in stock, this shop will celebrate its third anniversary next month. Although the store has seen a reduction in firearms turns, Davenport has found a way to push margins in an upward trajectory. “We are only down 3 percent, but our base profit margin is up 6 percent. That’s all because of promoting increased training to women,” said owner Jeanelle Westrom. Handgun sales remain brisk, with Glock 43s and Springfield XDSs pulling excellent numbers. Sig 238s will keep the counter warm this holiday season. Sales of MSRs are down, turning


as few as two per month. Two popular choices here have been ArmaLite and Civilian Force Arms. Bolt-action gun sales are flat.

the Tikka T3 and Savage Model 220 Combos are still pulling good numbers. The store is seeing high traffic in .22s.

Cabin Fever MN Sporting Goods, Victoria

Little Joe’s Pawn KS & Gun West, Kansas City

Located in western suburban Minneapolis, this 6,000-square-foot storefront stocks bait, tackle, propane, and more than 600 firearms. It is open seven days a week, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Handgun sales have been ticking upward over the last three months. The high-demand leaders are Sig P320s and Smith Shield 2.0s. MSR sales are steady with pricepoint Sports and Oracles. “When it comes to MSRs, $500 is the magic price point. It hasn’t been brandspecific,” said owner Jeff Byrne. Sales of sporting rifles have slowed, though varmint versions of

Keeping about 200 guns in stock, this family-run pawn and gun shop has two locations and specializes in used rifles and handguns. Glock Model 43s and 19s are holding the top spot for new and used guns. Smith Shields are moving quickly, and demand is increasing for the new 2.0. Traditional hunting rifles are crossing the counter, with Remington 700 Varmint specials and a few .270 BDLs leading. Sales of Smith Sport MSRs are picking up. “MSRs are always slow for us. They have to be at a low retail price to move,” said manager Sean Boyd.

B Y P E T E R B . M AT H I E S E N

East Gun Sales, NYA&K Corfu

Using the old town post office, this 2,400-squarefoot storefront keeps an average of 700 guns in stock. This retailer services all the firearms it sells. Sales of MSRs have slowed at this location, but Stag Arms and Windhams do well. “It’s nice seeing more companies responding to our New York State compliance regulations. Our customers are actually getting a selection to choose from,” said owner Ken Wahl. Pistol sales are almost equal to those of last year. Glock 43s, SCCY CPX2s, and LCP2s are turning constantly. Though sales of bolt-action rifles have slowed down, the store reported 2017 was an excellent year overall for long guns. Weatherby Vanguards, Savage 111s, and Tikka

.308s are at the top of the sales chart. Pre-holiday sales are strong for general accessories.

Firearms, PA Island Pittsburgh

At the handgun counter, activity is down by less than 5 percent compared to last year. Glock 43s and 19s hold the high ground, along with Sig P320s and Smith Shields. Ruger SR22s are also moving well.

Located on an island in the Ohio River basin, this retailer maximizes 800 square feet of floor space and even the ceiling to display more than 500 firearms in the store. Although handgun sales are only slightly off at this retailer, traditional long gun sales are at a standstill. “We are seeing the worst long-gun season in our history. We attribute it to the recent spread of a viral disease in whitetails called EHD [epizootic hemorrhagic disease]. Our customers are trying to trade in long guns. We’re responding and converting our hunting inventory to handguns into the next year,” said owner Wayne Lyken.

This small-town fishing, hunting, and clothing store stocks more than 400 guns in 5,000 square feet. Waterfowl and deer slug guns are moving. Sales of handguns have increased slightly. Yet, compared to last year, sales at this shop are down 20 percent. “We are used to the process and are skilled at our state’s requirements. However, our wait times and the required paperwork are simply not conducive to impulse sales around the holidays,” said general manager Tim Carey.

of Glock Gen 5s. MSRs are turning daily. Sig 516s and M&P Sports hold the top spots.

Paducah KY Shooters Supply, Paducah

Woods and NJ L&H Water, Wall

South Final Flight TN Outfitters, Union City

Resting on the eastern edge of the Mississippi flyway, this western Tennessee retail store has more than 25,000 square feet of retail floor space. On average, it sells more than one million pounds of steel shotgun shells annually. Waterfowl season is peaking at this location, and shotguns are attracting plenty of attention. Benelli Super Black Eagle IIIs and Winchester Super X4s are topping the sales charts. Beretta 400 Extremes and Browning A5s are turning daily. “Our shotgun sales are yearround and are as strong as ever,” said counter salesperson Addison Hazelwood. Handguns continue to move steadily, with Sig P320s and Smith Shields leading, along with plenty

Arms, TNClassic Cordova

Located in suburban Memphis, this store stocks a wide variety of classic hunting, home-defense, and antique firearms. It keeps nearly 1,000 guns in inventory. The past year has been slow. “We had an extraordinary retail run with the politics of the last decade. Although we are down across the board by 20 percent, we have adjusted well and are operating with strong profits,” said manager Greg Richardson. MSRs are turning at a rate of four to five units a week, with Smith Sport IIs pulling the best numbers. However, Richardson said any gun priced under $550 turns quickly.

This western Kentucky shop has an 11,000-square-foot facility that includes an indoor archery and outdoor rifle and pistol range. This retailer just reopened in late October after a fire seriously damaged the store. “Our customers have been great. They have shown us amazing support when we reopened our doors,” said counter salesman Jeff Mathis. December is still waterfowl time, and the store is moving good numbers of Benelli Super Black Eagle IIIs, Franchi Affinitys, and Winchester Super X4s. Savage Axis and Ruger Americans have staked the high ground in the traditional boltaction rifle slot.


NEW PRODUCTS Yeti has designed to complement this “super bucket.” The Loadout Utility Belt (SRP: $39.99) features a QuadPocket design that can hold a variety of gear, from shotgun shells to sunglasses. The belt also has HitchPoint Grid webbing that fits any MOLLE accessory. The inside of the bucket can be customized with a three-tray Loadout Caddy (SRP: $19.99). So equipped, it will make a dandy accessory for dove hunters. Finally, there is the lid. This is no ordinary snap-on lid. The see-through, water-tight Loadout Lid (SRP: $29.99) uses a hex pattern for increased durability. (

(Continued from page 50)

D.T. Systems now comes in Mossy Oak camo.

D.T. Systems ➤ The

new D.T. Master Retriever 1100 e-collar trainer in Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades camouflage is built with rugged durability for those long days in the marsh. It’s waterproof and boasts a range of more than 1,000 yards, and the controller incorporates a sleek new design that fits right in your pocket or blind bag. Other features include 16 intensity levels of Gentle Touch Nick and Continuous e-Stim, Vibration Assist (no shock, vibration-only training

stimulus), and a lockout option on the remote to prevent accidental stimulation. SRP: $199.99. (

Morakniv ➤ The

Rookie features a stainless-steel blade and has a completely rounded safety tip and finger guard to prevent slippage, all of which makes it a good choice for a child’s first knife. In addition, the barrelshaped birch handle is designed for small hands. And since it weighs only 1.8 ounces, it is light enough for younger users to safely handle and use. SRP: $19.99. (


ALPS OutdoorZ ➤ The Vital X rangefinder accessory pocket is joining the 2018 Extreme line of pack accessories. Constructed of durable, 1,680D nylon ballistic fabric, the Vital X rangefinder pocket is specifically designed for ease of use and versatility on the hunt or at the range. A simple, one-snap attachment system makes the Vital X compatible with the Bino Harness X, as well as a wide variety of ALPS OutdoorZ packs. The padded main compartment provides a safe, compact storage space, and the quiet magnetic lid allows for quick and easy access to the rangefinder. SRP: $19.99. (outdoorz.alps

➤ Be

Yeti’s Loadout accessories include a hex-pattern lid for added durability. 48 ❚ SHOT BUSINESS ❚ DECEMBER 2017

it ever so humble, the 5-gallon plastic bucket is an outdoor workhorse, used to haul all sorts of gear to deer camp or simply to store the pellets that feed a pellet grill. When Yeti took a close look at it, though, the manufacturer decided it could use some improvement. And as the company is known for over-engineering products such as coolers and coffee cups, the inevitable result is the Loadout (SRP: $39.99). But what really shines are the accessories that

Browning Tactical ➤ Five new folding liner-lockstyle knives, all designed by Jared Wihongi, have been added to the Black Label line. The Equal is built with a hollow-ground, drop-point blade made of 7Cr17MoV stainless steel. The blade is a flipper-assist-opening design with a black stonewash finish and anti-skid grooves in the spine. The handle is made of textured black G-10 scales

ALPS’ rangefinder accessory pocket is designed for use on the range or in the field.

secured with flush-fit fasteners. A Buckmark pocket clip keeps the Equal within easy reach. Overall length is 8 ½ inches. SRP: $24.99. The Eradicate has a hollowground, tanto-style blade made of 440 stainless steel and features flipper-assist-opening, anti-skid grooves on the spine, a thumb stud, a blood groove, and matte black stonewash finish. Two models are available, and both feature a black G-10 handle. One model incorporates a contrasting tan G-10 handle insert; the other model includes a carbon-fiber insert. A glass-breaking point is on the end of the handle, and a metal pocket clip keeps the knife securely held in a pocket or on a belt. Overall length is 8 ¾ inches. SRP: $39.99, black/tan; $55, black/carbon fiber. The Freeze Point features a hollow-ground, compound, tanto-style blade made of 7Cr1MoV stainless steel with a matte black stonewash finish and an ambidextrous thumb stud. The handle is made from sturdy G-10 laminate, with machined slots for an improved grip. Flush-fit fasteners secure the handle. The blade spine and frame both have anti-skid grooves, and a metal pocket clip features the Buckmark logo. Overall length is 8 ⅛ inches. SRP: $29.99. The folding liner-lock-

equipped Blind Spot features a slender-profile hollow-ground, drop-point blade made of 7Cr1MoV stainless steel with a matte black stonewash finish. The blade also has antiskid grooves on the spine. The handle is made of a mottled hemp Micarta laminate and is secured in place with flush-fit fasteners. Overall length 8 ¾ inches. SRP: $39.99. The Hysteria is a folding liner-lock knife with a hollow-ground 7Cr1MoV stainless-steel deep-belly, tanto-style blade with a

Duck Commander’s Pioneer mimics a mallard hen.

matte black stonewash finish. The blade has an ambidextrous thumb stud to allow easy opening with one hand. The knife is available with either black or tan G-10 laminate scales and is attached using flush-fit fasteners. Both the frame and blade spine of this knife have anti-skid grooves. A metal pocket clip and lanyard eye round

out the features of the Hysteria. Overall length is 6 ½ inches. SRP: $34.99. (

Duck Commander ➤ Built

off the Jase Robertson Pro Series reed design, the Pioneer is easy to blow, has a short barrel to maintain call pressure, and produces crisp and smooth sounds that mimic a mallard hen. SRP: $34.99.

Firearms Business Insurance Wholesalers & Distributors Retail Sales Manufacturers & Importers Ammunition & Bullet Manufacturers Indoor & Outdoor Ranges Gunsmiths Firearms Instructors


With its rounded safety tip, the Morakniv Rookie is safe for a child to use.

31 Parker Road • Elizabeth, New Jersey 07208

800.526.2199 • •


P H O T O B Y S L AT O N L . W H I T E

Lowa Designed as a lightweight hiker, the Arco GTX Lo serves competitive shooters as well—especially those who have tired of the tactical look. Features include a split-grain leather upper with TPU toe and heel-abrasion guards, a Gore-Tex lining, a climatecontrol footbed, and the Lowa Elika sole made of soft rubber. The cushioning provided by the rubber sole increases walking—and standing—comfort. Another big plus: The Arco GTX Lo can be re-soled. SRP: $210. (


(Continued on page 48)


Meet your next rifle.

Experience 3-inch groups at 100 yards, from a crossbow measuring just 6 inches from axleto-axle. Introducing Ravin with HeliCoil™ technology, a revolutionary cam design that fires arrows downrange with deadstraight nock travel and zero rail friction – for devastating precision. See the crossbow that shoots like a rifle at



PEDERSEN BLOCK DESIGN Dissapates recoil energy for reduced felt recoil

LOW BORE AXIS Significantly less muzzle rise for faster follow-up shots and reduced felt recoil OPTIMIZED GRIP ANGLE Reduces felt recoil and points more naturally

TWO SEMI-FLUSH 7+1 ROUND MAGAZINES For concealability and backup firepower


The perfection of a truly groundbreaking design. Point instinctively. Recover instantly. Re-engineered from the ground up and rigorously tested to deliver maximum reliability, the all-new R51 gets you on target faster and more intuitively than any other subcompact on the market. Add to that its dramatically reduced felt recoil and muzzle flip, and it’s exactly what you need to perform at your best when things are at their worst. #LiveReady



NSSF SHOT Business -- December 2017  

NSSF SHOT Business -- December 2017

NSSF SHOT Business -- December 2017  

NSSF SHOT Business -- December 2017