The retail firearms business is very competitive, with shops attempting to lure customers away from their competitors through sales and other promotions that cut into already-low profit margins on firearms. Selling product lines your competitors don’t offer is a good strategy, and one of those lines might be loading equipment made by Dillon Precision.
Beginning in Mike Dillon’s garage, Dillon Precision
now has a reputation for making perhaps the finest progressive cartridge loaders in the world. Dillon grew his business selling direct to the consumer, bypassing the retailer. While that was a very successful strategy and Dillon continues to sell direct through its catalog and online, the company also sells through a network of retailers the company wants to expand.
I’ve been in a lot of gun stores, and surprisingly, only a few carry reloading equipment and supplies. Dillon Precision reports that it has about 210 dealers in the U.S., while the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms says there are about 56,000 licensed firearms dealers in the country. So less than 1 percent of all U.S. dealers carry Dillon Precision reloading equipment, creating a real opportunity for the savvy retailer.
The BL 550 Basic Loader is the least expensive reloading machine offered by Dillon at $287.95, but it still is a progressive. Some functions that are automatic on the more expensive models are done manually on this machine. It is faster than a single-stage press and is a good way for a person new to reloading to get started. (Dillon Precision photo)
There are millions of guns and millions of gun owners in this country. But not all of those owners shoot regularly or spend a lot of money on guns, accessories and ammunition. While a good retailer will develop strategies to attract all buyers, the most profitable customers are usually those who make regular purchases. Those customers generally own multiple guns and shoot often. Probably the most enthusiastic of that subset of customers are those who load their own ammunition, and one way to attract them is to carry loading equipment and supplies.
“What we are looking for are quality dealers, those who extend the same professionalism and courtesy that we do and can help the customer make an informed buying decision,” says Eric Harvey, dealer program manager for Dillon Precision. “The Dillon Precision loading machine sells itself, and the retailer will sell a lot of powder, primers, bullets and brass because of it.”
Not many products sell themselves, but in the case of Dillon loaders, that may not be just a boast. I remember years ago wanting to upgrade from a single-stage press to a progressive reloader. I would ask people what equipment to buy, and almost every time the answer was Dillon. It seemed then, as it does now, that Dillon has a reputation for making the best progressive reloaders.
The company has worked hard to create that reputation. The primary business of Jim Schmidt, the owner of Arizona Ammunition (arizonaammunition.net
), is developing accurate, high velocity loads for other people’s rifles. People send him their rifles to test with various custom loads, and then he returns the rifle with new custom loaded ammunition matched to the rifle. These are demanding customers who are well off and expect quality, so Schmidt is very careful about meeting their expectations and delivering a good product.
“I’ve worked with the Dillon equipment for probably 19 years,” Schmidt said. “The equipment is just unsurpassed as far as I’m concerned. I don’t expect failures when I’m doing a run with them. They are just incredibly reliable and they keep coming out with new improvements.
“I push people towards the Dillon equipment all the time,” he says.
With a lifetime warranty on all hobby-level equipment, except for a few items that everyone knows will naturally wear out over time — like depriming pins, electronics, electrical equipment or textiles — owners of Dillon equipment know that getting fast and courteous help is easy.
The warranty follows the equipment if it gets sold to a new owner. No warranty cards, registration or serial numbers are needed to get help. If a part breaks, gets damaged or wears out, it will be fixed or replaced. For a retailer selling the equipment, there aren’t going to be any worries about the company backing them up. Retailers can also handle warranties on the customer’s behalf, which helps strengthen customer relationships.
To help protect dealer margins and level the playing field, Dillon Precision has a Minimum Advertised Pricing (MAP) policy. Such a policy can be very important when the manufacturer also sells directly to consumers through catalog sales or online. Essentially with the MAP, the retailer is not competing with the manufacturer on prices. And the retailer offers advantages to the customer that the manufacturer can’t. The buyer can see and touch the loading equipment before buying and get face-to-face advice. The buyer also saves shipping costs and doesn’t have to wait for the equipment to arrive — just take it home and get some instant gratification.
The Square Deal B is a slightly smaller reloading machine that is designed to load some of the common straight walled pistol calibers from .32 S&W Long through .45 Colt. Retail price is $426.95. (Dillon Precision photo)
It helps to have at least one loading machine on display in the retail shop so customers can see how it works. And having the equipment on display can be a conversation starter, especially for shooters who are not familiar with reloading. About 15 inches of space on a sturdy bench or stand is all that’s needed, and having the equipment set up and functional can help make a sale by showing the customer the basic steps in the loading process. According to Eric Harvey, most retailers who sell Dillon equipment posses a basic understanding of the loading process before adding the Dillon line to their inventory, but a Dillon sales representative is always available to offer information and advice if needed.
Dillon Precision makes five hobby level reloaders: the Square Deal B with an MSRP of about $427, the RL550C at $480, the XL650 at $590, the SL900 Shotshell Reloader at $1,040, the BL550 Basic Loader at $290 and the BFR 50 BMG for .50 BMG cartridges at $1,120. For commercial applications, Dillon also offers the Super 1050 for $1,811.95. Additionally, Dillon makes other equipment like scales, case cleaners and case trimmers.
Dillon loaders are all progressive rather than single stage, so volume shooters can quickly produce large quantities of ammunition. And there is a Dillon Precision machine for nearly every cartridge up to and including .50 BMG — although the .50 BMG loader is not sold through dealers. All are made in the U.S.
If your customer is an avid pistol shooter or competitor, the Dillon equipment can turn out a lot of ammo in a short time. If your customer is a rifle shooter — even one who likes to shoot long-range precision rifles — Dillon’s equipment can also load cartridges for that application.
The old notion that precision rounds can be loaded only on a single-stage press is dying. According to Harvey, about one-third of the long-range precision shooters are now using Dillon progressive loading machines, and that number is growing each year. And Schmidt, when asked about using Dillon progressive equipment for loading precision cartridges, said that he believes eventually most long-range shooters will move to progressive reloaders.
“The Dillon progressive equipment is very accurate in seating the bullet and installing the primer,” says Schmidt, who makes a living producing accurate ammunition. “There’s nothing magical about a single-stage press in doing those two things. And then, depending on the powder selected, the metering system that Dillon has developed is very good for most gun powders. There are some powders though that even single stage presses have a challenge with just because of their configuration.”
Increasing profit margins for a gun store is not easy. Margins on gun sales in particular are very slim and sale prices on guns are often barely more than the dealer’s cost, but the larger margins on reloading equipment and supplies can help offset that. Shooters who reload are among the most active shooters and spend a large amount of money on their hobby. They also buy more guns, ammunition and shooting accessories in addition to loading components like powder, primers, brass and bullets. So if you carry these items, it stands to reason that you are going to get more traffic and make more sales.
Retailers interested in learning more about carrying Dillon Precision equipment can go to Dillon’s website, dillonprecision.com, and complete an online dealer’s application or call Dillon Precision at 480-948-8009 and speak to Lucas.