January 8, 2020
Long-Gun Accessories Bolster Profits
With a rise in the sale of long guns for home defense over the last decade, a concomitant rise in the sale of accessories is a given. This has been the case, especially with high-tech products. Retailers across the country are seeing their bottom lines benefit when they have lots of accessories in stock.
Lee Murphy is one of the managers at Omni Arms in Albuquerque, N.M. Murphy shared in the world of ARs, the M-LOK modular locking mounting system has taken over.
Introduced by Magpul in 2014, the M-LOK system has emerged as a go-to option for many manufacturers.
“Magpul gave it to the industry for free, open source, so anyone can use it,” he said. “It’s been adopted by USSOCOM, so now there are a lot of M-LOK accessories, including sling mounts, grips, bipod adapters and even Picatinny rail sections for when you have to mount them. Red dot optics are a big deal, too.”
One thing driving the trend to the M-LOK system is it’s a big improvement over Picatinny rails, according to Murphy.
“Picatinny is heavy, large and sharp,” he observed. “It’s hard on people’s hands. M-LOK is an answer to that, as well as the shortcomings of the KeyMod system — which is expensive to produce and not very strong. It’s thinner without any sharpness and there are a lot of things you can mount to it, and it’s also not directional like KeyMod.”
Even though they have a strong presence in ARs and other tactical firearms, Omni Arms still does a decent business in bolt-action rifles.
“Most of the bolt-action rifles we sell are set up for long-range shooting,” Murphy maintained. “The most obvious thing people put on them is a riflescope appropriate for long-range shooting.”
The next thing customers buy for long-range rifles is bipods.
“We sell a fair amount of Magpul bipods,” Murphy informed. “We also sell Caldwell and Champion; those are less-expensive options for long-range shooters.”
When it comes to shotguns, most Omni Arms customers just buy a carrying case and ammunition.
“We don’t sell a lot of shotguns, or what goes with them,” Murphy added.
The top two sellers in the store (besides optics) are iron sights and magazines.
“We sell a lot of ARs, and a lot of them don’t come with sights,” he said. “We sell a lot of Magpul sights.”
If it sounds like Magpul is a big part of the business at Omni Arms, well, it’s indeed the case.
“Magpul is a huge player in the world of ARs and in our store,” Murphy confirmed.
What Customers Buy Depends On End Use
Jane Gustafson is the owner of Goods For The Woods in Durango, Colo. When it comes to accessories for rifles, what customers buy depends very much on what they’re doing.
“If they’re varmint hunters, they want multi-round magazines,” she confirmed. “For rifles they can’t add multi-round magazines to, they just want a lot of ammunition.” (These customers also purchase riflescopes from Nikon, Leupold, Vortex and Redfield.)
In ARs, Gustafson relayed customers buy a lot more accessories than they do for traditional hunting guns.
“For hunting guns, they’re buying slings and scopes,” she said. “There’s not a world of stuff you can do to them. In the AR world, they put anything they can buy on the gun. They like red dot scopes, extra magazines, lots of things.”
Gustafson doesn’t sell a lot of shotguns, whether for hunting or for home defense.
“We’re not in shotgun country,” she stated. She does sell a few, however, and sometimes customers purchase choke tubes to go with them.
“The only choke tubes we sell are Carlson’s,” Gustafson informed.
Key point here: It’s important to find out what the intended use is — so you can help customers accessorize their new purchase appropriately.
Lights, Pistol Braces On Point
At Wade’s Eastside Guns in Bellevue, Wash., assistant manager Jon Duralde highlighted the biggest trend he’s seeing with self-defense long guns is lights.
“Customers are buying different kinds of weapon-mounted lights,” he said. “Another thing we’re seeing kind of a trend toward, especially on rifles, is customers who want to purchase suppressors. I wouldn’t say it’s to the level you see with flashlights, but the benefit you get out of a suppressor in a home-defense situation is to take some of the ‘bite’ out of shooting in an enclosed space. It’s kind of a big deal.”
For lights customers are buying SureFire at Wade’s.
“It’s the go-to brand,” Duralde disclosed. “Another thing people are putting on their long guns is red dot optics.”
AR pistols are also continuing as a popular option for customers, according to Duralde.
“We’ve also seen a boon in AR pistol sales. They’re shorter, a little easier to use indoors and people like the idea of a shorter gun for whatever reason,” he added.
When it comes to stabilizing braces for AR pistols, customers are buying those made by SB Tactical.
“They’re adjustable, so you get a lot of the benefit you get from a stock,” Duralde noted. “You can adjust it to your length of pull and that sort of thing. Pistol braces are the number-one accessory customers are buying in our store; the one they buy the most is the SBA3 from SB Tactical.”
The situation with shotguns is somewhat different than with rifles.
“When you talk about self-defense shotguns, a lot of people are moving away from them,” Duralde said. “In our experience, they’re moving into ARs. The AR gives you an easier round to handle; it’s less recoil than a shotgun. You have a little less penetration with the right load.”
Another benefit, Duradle pointed out, is the AR is faster to reload than a shotgun, and it holds more rounds.
“With an AR, you can have 20 or 30 rounds,” he said. “You can’t do that with a shotgun.”
One of the driving forces behind the move to ARs, Duralde suggested, is education; as people learn more about the capabilities and versatility of the AR platform, they buy more of them.
With the political climate being what it is today, it’s difficult to make predictions for next year.
“It’s just hard to tell what the new ‘hot’ thing is going to be,” he admitted, “especially here in Washington State.”
Marna Miller Tracy, owner of Tampa Tactical in Riverview, Fla., mentioned the biggest trend she sees is customers buying red dot scopes.
“They’re loving red dots on rifles,” she noted. “My concealed carry instructor is a big fan of HOLOSUN. We sell a lot of HOLOSUN and NcSTAR.”
One thing driving the trend to red dot optics, Tracy added, is the speed of target acquisition when using one.
“It’s much faster than traditional scopes, and you’re not going to get scope kiss,” she said.
Mirroring the trend at Wade’s on the opposite side of the country, flashlights on rifles are another hot category at Tampa Tactical.
“High-powered lights are getting much less expensive than they were,” Tracy observed. “Thermal optics also are getting to be more popular. If you have a varmint problem and you need to take care of it at night, thermals are the way to go. It’s especially true here in Florida where we have such a hog problem; hunting hogs at night is a much more effective means of controlling them.”
Agreeing with Murphy in New Mexico, Tracy also is seeing a move toward the M-LOK system.
“I’m definitely seeing more M-LOK than KeyMod these days,” she observed. “M-LOK is cleaner. A Picatinny rail is either machined or it’s a part added, like a bolt-on rail. If you’re using M-LOK, a lot of times you can get accessories bolted directly to the firearm. M-LOK rails tend to be lighter weight, and they’re more modern looking; with them, the circumference on the forend of an AR is leaner and lighter. I think it makes the gun easier to handle.”
Tampa Tactical customers also are purchasing a lot of SB braces.
“Instead of having an adjustable stock, now you have an arm brace you can shoulder,” Tracy said. “You can put that on a pistol, and now you can have a .300 Blackout with a 10″ barrel and not have to file for a $200 tax stamp, because it’s technically a pistol and not a rifle.”
Tracy added Black Aces Tactical makes a cool rail kit for shotguns.
“It has a saddle — an ammo holder — on it so you can add extra ammunition,” she added.
Customers also are adding lasers and flashlights to shotguns, although not as commonly as they are to rifles. Tracy expects the trend toward thermal imaging scopes to continue and be even stronger in the future.
“Prices are coming down,” she noted. “There aren’t a ton of manufacturers in this category right now, but they’re getting better at it. I really see thermal coming up in the next couple years.”
According to Tracy, two of the manufacturers leading the market now are FLIR and ATN.
“I don’t doubt other big optics manufacturers are going to get into it,” she concluded.
Online Impact: A Double-Edged Sword
While restrictions are still present on social media platforms, they continue to represent a capable avenue for connecting with customers. Omni Arms in New Mexico uses social media to market standout products.
“Any time we get something new and exciting we haven’t seen before, we put it out on social media,” Murphy relayed. “We also send out emails using Mailchimp to several thousand subscribers. We do that with all our new and innovative products.”
At Wade’s Eastside Guns in Washington, Duralde highlighted the online impact has enabled customers to be more educated today.
“With the internet, everybody can go online and find out what’s the best for right now, and all the reviews about products,” he stated. (It’s a double-edged sword, of course, as these same customers can also shop on price.)
Where do accessories for long guns go from here? Murphy doesn’t have any predictions.
“I don’t see anything earth-shaking on the horizon,” he mused. “Then again, companies come up with things to sell that are surprising.”