Lock, Stock and Barrel
From the clay ground to crop fields, Olympic competitions to driven game shooting, shotguns are one of the cornerstones of today’s shooting world. For most gun shops shotguns remain a vital, not to be underestimated part of their business.
Whether enjoying a day out in the local fields with friends, the competitive spirit of a three-day clay shoot abroad, finding a rabbit for the pot with your dog or enjoying a day of driven game shooting, shotguns play a major role in the countryside for a wide variety of people. They come in a sheer endless variety of makes, models and price tags. From a really basic, no-frills over-and-under costing less than 4 figures to a best quality London side-by-side gun with an eye-watering 6 figure price tag, shotguns make up a significant part of the shooting landscape worldwide. With guns available for every budget and application imaginable, the only thing you have to do as a retailer is to pick the right product offering for your region and clientele.
OVERALL SHOTGUN SALES
Compared to last year’s survey, retailers claim shotgun sales are on the rise. The number of shops selling between 51 and 100 guns per year has increased to 33 percent while the number of shops respectively selling over 100 and 200 shotguns per annum has jumped to a healthy 8 percent each this year.
The number one most important feature for shotgun buyers remains price. Nearly half of retailers claim price is the most significant reason why buyers decide for or against a purchase. Handling qualities comes in second while the importance of brand and make is also very real.
Sales of clay target shotguns for last year have remained largely stable, with half of retailers claiming the number of clay guns sold is the same as the previous year. Over one quarter of retailers meanwhile claim their clay gun sales are definitely on the rise. The same rings true for the sales of game and field shotguns where the market seems to have settled through and through.
When considering shotgun types sold for game and field hunting, it appears the over-and-under still reigns supreme. Semi-automatics and pump action shotguns meanwhile account for over one third of sales while the venerable side-by-side only accounts for about 10 percent of sales. This will certainly vary from region to region. A lot depends on what type of guns is being used to teach you to shoot. When you learn to shoot with an over-and-under, as many people do nowadays, it is only obvious you will continue shooting over-and-unders and not switch type all of a sudden. Therefore, when considering guns for clay shooting, it does not come as a surprise that the over-and-under comes out on top. Gas-operated semi-automatic shotguns are still more popular than inertia-driven semi-automatics. The popularity of inertia-driven shotguns has risen however and nearly doubled compared to the previous year.
REASONS TO BUY
Looking at the main reasons people purchase shotguns, general field hunting definitely comes out on top according to our survey. Over 40 percent of respondents claim this is the main reason for buying shotguns followed by clay shooting for over one quarter of our respondents. Personal and home defence are another major reason for purchasing a shotgun. Tactical and practical shooting remains a smaller niche in the shotgun market, not even reaching 10 percent in the last survey.
SMALL GAUGES CONSOLIDATE
The trend for smaller gauges is definitely established by now. Guns from 20 gauge to .410 are in demand, from the budget to the luxury end of the market. In the medium to high end sidelock side-by-side market for example, 20 gauge is today's champion. According to our survey, the sales of smaller gauge shotguns is up 33 percent compared to the previous year, which also saw a significant increase. At the other end of the gauge spectrum, 3" chambers have become the norm in 12 gauge guns. Even 3 1/2" is in demand for those willing to pay the extra price of recoil and ammunition. Meanwhile 10 gauge guns and ammunition are being sold as well, be it in relatively small numbers.
More and more ladies start out clay shooting and/or hunting. Our survey confirms this as the number of ladies buying shotguns is up 50 percent compared to the previous year which saw an equivalent growth as well. With all these ladies heading to the shooting ranges and out in the fields, they obviously need guns tailored to their needs and body configurations, not to mention taste. Manufacturers are now designing and making guns with women shooters and nothing but women shooters in mind, without making any compromises.
ALTERNATIVES FOR PLASTIC SHOTGUN WADS
As we are all starting to rethink the use of plastic, the shooting trade is following suit. The trend to move away from plastic wads is slowly but surely gaining ground. Many a game shoot already prohibits the use of plastic wads as they pollute the environment. On the first of January of this year, the renowned German shooting ground of Dornsberg in Baden-Württemberg even banned the use of plastic wads altogether. Many have already attempted to come up with viable alternatives for non-degradable plastic wads. These tend to be either water soluble or photodegradable. As hunters and shooters, we are all responsible for the way we use, and preserve our surroundings. Which is why we should start to give at least some thought to the effects of traditional non-degradable plastic shotgun wads and their impact on the wildlife and the environment. Although still limited, equally well performing alternatives are already available on the market today.
JUMP-STARTING YOUR SALES
In an effort to promote hunting and shooting sports, while also trying to sell more guns, it is extremely important for potential customers to get as many opportunities as possible to hunt, shoot, have fun and try out new guns. Examples abound of brands, even individual shops, hosting clinics, clay shoots, workshops… at local shooting ranges, fairs… to allow their customers and prospects getting to grips with not only different makes and types of shotguns but the sport in general. Participating in these events makes your shop and your products come alive while giving customers the urge to try and buy.