THE TRIGGER TO MORE RIFLE SALES
Next to handguns and shotguns, rifles are the mainstay of the majority of gun stores around the world. But which niches are still increasing? And what opportunities are there for more sales? Gun Trade World looks at the current rifle market around the globe.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
On the hunting front, rifles are used to take game of all sizes, from rabbits, deer and wild boars right up to big game in Africa and further afield. The rimfire market, although notably smaller than the centrefire sector, is nonetheless significant and should not be ignored. Be it for backyard plinking, target shooting or pest control, the modest rimfire is not to be underestimated as a product category. Many makers also produce highly developed rifle models for target and practical disciplines. Reloading centrefire ammunition has always been popular and the interest in handloading has grown, especially recently with demand so high in some parts of the world and powder and bullet manufacturers struggling to meet demand.
GAME NUMBERS EXPLODING
With game species such as wild boar exploding in many parts of the world, these species are moving into new territories. A number of areas are experiencing an important influx of these species which calls for population control. These increasing game numbers open up a whole new market for the gun trade since many customers are first-time rifle buyers, thanks to the influx of these games species in their regions.
One of the eye-catchers in the industry this year are definitely bolt-action rifles with an integrated sound moderator such as the Blaser R8 Silence. The construction of these rifles is designed to protect the hearing of both hunter and dog, at any time, with every shot. Thanks to the even mass distribution of the sound moderator over the entire barrel, these rifles provide first-class balance and huntability. The outer contour of the barrel and silencer jacket boasts a smooth bull barrel design, giving them their low weight and an attractive overall appearance.
Meanwhile Steyr from Austria has introduced its Breeze model range, with a sound suppressor covering the full length of the barrel. More news from Austria comes in the form of their monobloc models. With these models, barrel and housing are made from one single piece of steel for optimal accuracy.
J.P. Sauer has also created a silencer and rifle in one unit – this is not only a visually extremely attractive combination, but also an optimally balanced one: The new S 404 Silence with integrated silencer is a rifle for hunters who would like to be in the field without hearing protection, but at the same time do not want to compromise in protecting themselves and their dog’s hearing while shooting.
The hottest rifle cartridge of the moment is the 6.5 Creedmoor. Originally from the USA, the story of its inherent accuracy and comfortable shooting is spreading around the world. Many, many rifle manufacturers have added this cartridge to their product range.
Another trend is the growth of chassis rifle systems. Both dedicated chassis manufacturers as well as rifle manufacturers are getting more and more traction for this kind of precision rifle platform. You can read more about these chassis rifle systems in this month’s Great Gear feature.
BLOOMING RIFLE SALES
This year’s survey of retailers around the globe – which took in everyone from the USA to Europe to New Zealand and beyond – indicates that rifle sales remain as healthy as ever. This year’s sales levels seem to remain on par with those of our last survey. The number of gun shops selling more than 300 rifles per annum has stabilised, according to our respondents. The retailers in our survey selling up to 50 rifles per annum remain the biggest part of the market meanwhile, with one third of respondents indicating this best suits their profile. What’s more, the share of retailers that claim to sell between 51 and 100 rifles per year has grown to a quarter of the total market.
It is not exactly a surprise when our survey shows that bolt-actions remain the most popular rifle type, with semi-autos claiming the second spot while lever-action and pump-action finish third and fourth. This shows that, although the market for AR-type rifles is booming, it still cannot compete with the popularity of bolt-action rifles.
Price remains the most significant selling feature for a rifle (40 per cent of respondents claim this to be so). Accuracy ties with brand/make on the second spot with one quarter each. This is rather important since it points out that price has lost ground to accuracy. People are willing to pay more for precision and quality. This might be explained by the current trend towards long-range precision shooting. When you want to reach out to 1,000 yards or more, you need the best equipment you can get and afford. Although handling qualities are only crucial in less than 10 per cent of sales, it still is an issue not to be neglected.
CENTREFIRE STILL REIGNS SUPREME
Obviously rimfire rifles are not to be neglected in a shop’s product line up. Their market remains largely stable with over 50 per cent of retailers claiming their rimfire sales stabilised compared with last year’s survey while about one quarter claims their rimfire sales have climbed. This trend can, at least partly, be explained by the growing popularity of high-powered airguns that are easier obtainable than rimfire rifles in certain parts of the world. In the centrefire rifle market, over 40 per cent of respondents claim sales were definitely up compared to last year. Centrefire rifle sales still claim the top spot in overall sales with the majority of gun dealers.
LADY SHOTS ON THE UP
The surge of ladies joining shooting sports and hunting remains a fascinating opportunity. Nearly one third of retailers state rifle sales to markswomen were up in their stores. Not content with just offering compact or youth models to the lady shots, many rifle manufacturers are clearly taking notice of this phenomenon as more and more are introducing rifles that are specifically designed for women.
A POSITIVE OUTLOOK
As always, the rifle industry provides us with a vast array of business opportunities. Whether for hunting or sports shooting, rifles probably account for more significant spending in gun shops across the globe than any other product. Adding to this, they also open the door to a vast array of upgrades, accessories, cleaning kits, optics and ammunition, which are all vital to the success of a shop and bring plenty of repeat business. As long as the trade keeps up with the latest trends and innovations, manufacturers, distributors and retailers alike will go on enjoying rich pickings.