Airguns 101

By Tracy Breen, Archery Business

If you own or work at an archery pro shop, you are probably constantly on the lookout for something you can sell that sets you apart from the competition. Whether you have another pro shop around or a major box store nearby, keeping a healthy bottom line can be difficult these days. Offering products that others don't have is often necessary.

One item to consider carrying is air guns. Yes, you read that right. I said air guns. Some pro shops sell guns; some don't. The shops that don't carry guns of any kind often don't want to sell guns because they don't want to mess with the paperwork required to sell firearms. The awesome thing about air guns is few states require dealers to fill out any paperwork to sell them. In the majority of the United States, an FFL is not required to sell air guns. If you want to sell air rifles, getting started is as simple as ordering a few guns.

There is a wide variety of air guns on the market. If you walk into a box store, you will notice everything from inexpensive air guns to middle-of-the-road air guns. What you often won't find in a box store are air guns that cost more than a couple hundred dollars. To separate yourself from the competition, it's best if you sell guns the box store doesn't carry.

Troy Blackall from All-Star Archery and Marine in Texas says offering higher-end air guns gives him something the competition doesn't have. "We carry the AirForce brand," Blackall said. "This brand isn't in many box stores. As a result, when people come in here and look at the guns, we have something different. These guns aren't designed for kids. These are adult air guns that look awesome and
can be used to plink and hunt with. People really seem to like them."

Eye-catching and an absolute blast to shoot, modern-day air guns are accurate, quiet (easy-on-the-ears) and provide your customers something different – something new they can plink around with.

Over the last several years, air guns have been gaining in popularity for several reasons. One of those reasons is the ammunition for these guns is readily available.

"As .22 ammo gets harder to find, people are getting fed up and buying air rifles because the ammo is inexpensive, readily available and the guns pack a punch like a .22," Blackall added. "These AirForce rifles can be used to hunt everything from small game to whitetails, depending on what type of gun a person purchases."

One benefit of selling air rifles is that they pack a good profit margin – without all the time and effort a compound bow takes to set up. "High-end guns like the AirForce brand start at about $899, so they are comparable to a high-quality bow," Blackall said. "The margin on them is good, and there isn't much setup to one, so it isn't like when you sell a bow and have to completely set the thing up. We mount a scope for the customer and send them home. The only thing we do is allow the customer to shoot into a bullet trap. These guns are quiet because they have a suppressor, so after they shoot one and see how accurate and quiet they are, they buy one."

Kerry Savant of Archery Outfitters in Louisiana says selling air guns fits into his business model perfectly.

Today’s top-end air guns pack a punch and give your shop a leg up on the competition. How? Air guns are a growing market as shooters can hunt big game and small, target practice and just plink around the woods with them. If your shop becomes “the place” for air guns, you will develop a new line of customers.

"We sell archery equipment and regular guns," he said. "What I have found is people who already have all the guns and bows they want will come in here hoping to find something different to take home. A high-end air gun is different, and most guys who shoot one here end up buying one."

When some people think of air guns, they often think of run-of-the-mill pellet guns. High-end air guns, however, have a different look. That can make them pretty eye-catching on the shelves.

"These guns look really cool," Savant explained. "So when people come in and seem them on the rack, many of them go over and check them out. When they realize they are pellet guns that can be used to hunt and plink, they are very impressed."

Most hunters and outdoorsmen are looking for ways to get their family and kids into shooting. Sometimes kids and women are afraid of the kick and loud bang a conventional gun produces. Savant says a quality air rifle is a perfect fit for the whole family.

"These guns are very accurate and extremely quiet," he said. "Everybody can have fun with them and hunt with them without worrying about much noise or having a sore shoulder the next day. They look cool and are fun to shoot. When you put these two things together, you end up with something that will sell."


Another selling point of air rifles is they can be used year-round, which appeals to most gun and archery enthusiasts. "Since they are quiet, we have people who buy them to shoot squirrels in their backyard and other varmints like hogs. They really are a versatile weapon," Savant said.

Savant also likes selling them because they appeal to people other than hunters. "The majority of our customers are hunters, but more people who don't hunt are getting into air rifles," Savant noted. "We have had a lot of new faces come in here that haven't been in our shop because they didn't hunt. They come in to check out the air guns. That can really help a business grow."

According to Keeva Segal from AirForce, the air gun market is a growing one. "Air guns are increasing in popularity right now, and we have found that they fit perfectly into the business model of archery pro shops because they don't require much paperwork," Segal said. "They cost about the same as a high-end crossbow or vertical bow. Customers who frequent pro shops and new customers who have never been in a pro shop understand that you get what you pay for. Most of them don't mind paying a little extra for an air gun that is super accurate and quiet that can be used for target practice and hunting.

"The archery pro shop is a growing market for us and we are glad so many pro shops are having success selling our air rifles."

If you're looking for something different to draw people into your store that can help you diversify and grow your business, look into stocking air rifles.

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