Modern Sporting Rifle, Not Weapons, Among Top Tips For Gun Retailers

Modern Sporting Rifle, Not Weapons, Among Top Tips For Gun Retailers
By Jim Shults
Shults Media Relations, LLC

A pile of Weapons
A pile of BaseBall Bats or a pile of Weapons? What do you say?
AmmoLand Gun News
AmmoLand Gun News

Grand Junction, CO –-( Prior to my running firearm and military magazines and now a firearms industry public relation company I was literally raised in retail sporting goods operations.

Early on in my dads store I learned that customer relations is certainly key.

Later in life (after some significant PR and personnel positions in corporate management) I managed a large (at that time) sporting goods store for a major retail chain.

I still like going to gun shops and sporting goods stores to just see how they do what they do. While in the particular store I listen in on the interactions between customers and sales people and check out the store operation in general. I wish I could say things are better than my retail days, but I think there is a lot of room for improvement.

Years ago most store management typically would do some training of sales clerks; nowadays they hire someone who may know about guns, stick them behind a counter and let them loose. Yet that person may have no idea how to sell or merchandise the operation and selling and merchandising are different from just knowing about guns.

Weapons or Guns
They (and unfortunately many in the firearms industry and our media) still use the term “weapon” rather than rifle, pistol, revolver, shotgun, gun or firearm. Years ago I pitched and pressured the NRA and NSSF to start some type of reeducation program to reposition the term “assault rifle” when referring to “semi-automatic military look alike rifles” (my term).

Both “assault rifle” and “weapon” are consistently used by anti-Second Amendment people and groups. Why those of us in the industry still use these inflammatory and more importantly, inaccurate anti-gun terms is beyond me.

After all a baseball bat is just a baseball bat until it is used against a human; only then does it become a weapon.

An assault rifle is a government issued carbine sized combat firearm that is both semi- and full-auto capable which fires a mid-power cartridge. For example the Springfield M1-A is not an assault rifle and its military brother the M-14 is classed as a main battle rifle due to the gun’s size and full power caliber.

A semi-automatic AR-15 type rifle is not an assault rifle or a weapon; it is a semi-automatic rifle or carbine; a M-16 is an assault rifle.

The NSSF (which runs the SHOT Show) to their credit coined and now promotes their term “Modern Sporting Rifle” when referring to lookalike military rifles. And this is accurate as these are modern rifles; now available in many calibers other than the .5.56mm NATO round and they are used for plinking, competition, hunting, etc.

So let’s all of us, gun writers, PR people, publications, bloggers, newsletters, retailers, shooters, gun companies and the firearm and sporting media in general stop using the terms “weapon and assault rifle.”

These terms are incorrect, inflammatory, and play into the hands of anti-gun people.

Additional Retail Tips
Some additional suggestions that might help with retail store sales. Never have empty shelves. If you don’t have the items then spread your inventory. I realize that when it comes to displaying ammo or gunpowder you can’t fill that possibly tagged spot but you could put in a box with a label that suggests when you might get more. I have gone into stores that have several feet of linear shelf space empty—this makes the store look vacant (like they are going out of business), slip shod and discourages sales of other products. Spread the inventory even if it is only one item deep.

Keep your inventory, displays and shelves dust free. If you want to present a perception to customers you have old stuff and kill sales in a New York second, have dirty or dusty merchandise and displays. A new box of ammunition with a coating of dust is seen as an old box of ammunition and shows the store does not maintain their merchandise. Automobile dealers work like crazy to keep their cars clean because it helps sales, creates a good image and reflects positively on their business—firearm retailers should do the same.

I watch employees not busy with customers milling around chatting it up with each other or in smaller operations the counter guy is reading a magazine or just hanging around. When not busy, these folks should be dusting merchandise, working displays and merchandising. Store management should educate them in the correct use of dust rags and feather dusters (if they know themselves).

When selling to a customer who is unsure of what they should purchase, ask questions of the customer—lots of questions. For example, who is the gun for: are they experienced: how often do they shoot: how big are they; what do they most want the gun for; what is their second use; what is their budget; etc. Then a sales person can begin intelligently and patiently explain what he might suggest and why by detailing certain applicable calibers, firearm size, finish, grips, power, ease of complication of operation to them, etc.

The key in talking to gun buyers is not to try to be superior; they have tried it with me. It is the clerk’s mission to sell merchandise, not be a jerk. Superior selling is insulting and I have no patience for it. I have been in some stores where a clerk has tried that with me and I am able to quickly put them in their place by going far beyond what they tell me right back at them—I am not new to firearms. In cases like this I must admit, I like watching the faces of these guys with superior demeanors collapse.

A clerk should have patience in pointing out the key features and know how to explain the benefits of those features. The new gun owner is relying on knowledge and patience; they should not have to apologize for needing help. And should the customer apologize the clerk should quickly counter with something like “Don’t apologize, none of us is a born shooter, we all had to learn about guns, I am here to help you.”

Bottom line, retailers are in business to service customers. By doing a good job of doing just that they get the sale and they will also get the repeat business because caring about the customer means business and happy customers will pass on the word.

Jim Shults understands shooting and has a strong background as an experienced shooter. He has won hundreds of NRA local, state, regional and national shooting championships and set four national records. He is DCM/NRA Distinguished Rifleman, NRA Master in multiple-disciplines, outdoorsman, and has trained and consulted SWAT and counter-terrorism units around the world.

For more information please contact:
Jim Shults
Shults Media Relations, LLC

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Larry Arnold


One more hint. Never never ever ever presume a woman doesn't know how to shoot.