How to Capitalize on the Precision Rifle Trend

The precision and long-range markets are not saturated. Customers are shopping and trading up. Gear up and reach out to those precision pursuit customers to make the cash register ring.

How to Capitalize on the Precision Rifle Trend

Long-range precision rifle shooting could be anything from competition at an established range to wide-open property with friends. PRS enthusiasts are diehard about their gear and setups so be ready for questions about specific products. (Photo: Michael D. Faw)

Speak with anyone about rifles and shooting these days, and you can rest assured the topic of long-range shots will enter the conversation — it’s all the rage. Folks continue buying precision rifles, taking classes, and going to shooting ranges in hopes of reaching what for many is today’s holy grail in the shooting world — sending a bullet 1,000 yards to punch a hole in a bull’s-eye or ring a gong. There are also special competitions for those who master the 1,000 distance, such as the PRS Precision Rifle Series.

The real news is folks who thought they could simply shoulder a rifle — maybe a rifle sitting in their gun vault — and ring a gong at most any distance beyond 500 yards have found their faults. Many have gone home with their hat in the hand to eat a serving of humble pie. Are you prepared to help customers reach out and touch something in the long-range game?

While the key focus for precision shooting is on the rifle, there are other items that need to be acquired or used when going the distance. Among those are a rest or bipod, a top-grade riflescope, a rangefinder up to the task, along with spotting scope and tripod, wind meter and more. You are starting to see the picture — and the selling opportunity—when a customer says the key phrase — “long range.” Then you also need to mention ammunition and bullets. Yes, going the distance is a technical challenge. Many stores now place long-range shooting gear — scopes, targets, gongs and stands, wind meters, etc. — in specific areas. The only thing missing in those long-range centers are rifles that are still generally positioned behind the gun counters in most retail shops.

It’s also important to note that while 1,000 yards is the rage, most shooters can only place targets at 50 and 100 yards at their normally visited shooting ranges. For those near-target shooters, however, 500 yards would be a top starting distance for them to practice precision shooting and hone their skills. You and your staff should be able to point them to ranges that offer 500- and 1,000-yard distances — if they are available. One retailer I know provides customers with a guide to area ranges complete with maps, contact information and hours of operation so customers can find a range with long-range shooting opportunities. There, however, are not that many 1,000-yard ranges. You can also point customers to the NSSF guide at

The great news is the long-range challenge or experience is selling, and you can grab a piece of the pie if you and your staff properly prepare to serve customers.

The Rifles

While many customers and your staff can discuss MSRs with ease, long-range rifles and shooting could be a foreign language. Look at the precision rifles you sell and ask your visiting rifle manufacturer’s reps for those lines to possibly give a seminar to you and your employees on the pointers and features that sell long-range rifles. Most will be glad to help, and this is a great step to educate employees, especially with the brands you sell. Once you and your team can speak the language, you’ll need to communicate — and listen — to customers.

“It is imperative to question the customer about how and where he is going to use this rifle,” notes Patrick Hayden, owner of the Kentucky Gun Company in Bardstown, Kentucky. “Many of my customers dream of having a 1,000-yard rifle. The 1,000-yard mark seems to be the “holy grail” that customers seek. In reality, most will never have a place to shoot 1,000 yards and will never learn to shoot 1,000 yards. If that is the case, then we are going to put that customer in a different set up (rifle, scope and accessories) than an individual who truly has the range and desire to shoot extreme long range.”

The features on many long-range rifles include special heavy contoured barrels, adjustable stocks and cheek pieces, threaded muzzle brakes and barrel crowns, adjustable triggers, special recoil pads and possibly custom or extended bolt handles. Some rifles have special stocks with flat, lower forends. Another thing to note is that in nearly all cases, the magazine is even with — or recessed into — the bottom of the stock so it does not come in contact with a rest or the bench. Long-range rifles are designed unlike most other rifles that your customers are familiar with or own — and they often need an education on what they are looking at.

While your employees will probably not have to discuss rifle slings with the precision shooting enthusiasts, they should discuss cases — hard cases. Anyone dropping $2,000 or more for a top-grade rifle, plus another $2,000 on a premium riflescope, will not want to simply slide their new firearm into a soft case and drive away. In fact, since some of these rifles tip the scales at 9-plus pounds, a case with built-in wheels may be a good choice to steer customers toward. When they toss in some boxes of ammunition, binoculars and wind meters, the pounds quickly add up, so carrying the case is a chore. Wheels turn traveling with a heavy gun case into a much easier task. Remember also when it comes to packing and moving a mountain of gear, range bags and those growing-in-popularity packs are another line of accessories your store should stock and have visible to precision shooting shoppers.

Have Answers About Ammo

You and your employees will also need to prepare the on-the-shelf ammunition supplies to meet the long-range market. Forget most deer loads and think big and boattailed. Today’s popular calibers are the 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Win., 7mm Rem. Mag. and.300 Win. Mag. If there’s a deer or elk on the ammunition box, it may not be the best choice for your long-range shooting customer. Good examples of premium ammunition designed for the distant target shooting enthusiast include Remington’s High-Performance cartridges and Federal Gold Medal MatchKing series. There is a reason this ammo retails for about $55 a box compared to about $25 for regular hunting and practice ammunition.

Be prepared to also give customers a lesson in bullets and ballistics. Great teaching aids are available online with the FREE bullet, caliber and ballistic selection guides many ammunition manufacturers provide on their websites. Just have a laptop that can find and show the information and you help guide customers to the perfect match to the rifle they are buying or own.  Note, also, that some of these ammunition manufacturers now offer ammunition selection apps, so be prepared to help customers upload the information to their phones. Apps and iPhones have become today’s TV remote struggle—not everyone can operate them. The more your customers know, the more they will enjoy precision shooting—and the more they will shop.

Take a Closer Look

Riflescopes play a very critical part in long-range challenges and the final bullet placement.  Many long-range and precision shooters place 10X, 12X or 24X riflescopes atop their rifles from leading manufacturers. These optics can cost $3,000 or more. Glass is expensive and quality glass ground to perfection and coated for this market carries a premium price.

“Once a client has selected a rifle, we stress the importance of quality optics,” continues Patrick Hayden. “We have found that ‘eyes on’ experience is the best way. We take a quality, entry-level riflescope and a true long-range capable riflescope outside the store for the customers to compare with their own eyes. We have them look at objects 700 to 1,000 yards away. They will easily see the difference and why they need to invest in a long-range-style riflescope.”

Most precision shooting designed riflescopes offer tall turrets that are easy to adjust and begin at zero and go up — and over — based on distances and guesstimations for atmosphere and wind. Remember that since some riflescope models are now built on 30- and 34mm tubes, you will need to offer those rings and the bases. In fact, if you have those in stock, you are far ahead of your competitors. Here’s an advantage you can let customers know and their word of mouth advertising — i.e. talking to their friends or other shooters at the range — can help sell those difficult-to-find rings. If you have the larger rings in stock, tout it on Facebook and your website also. Many shoppers have been told by some retailers that those are special items that have to be ordered. Get ahead of the pack!

More Gear to go the Distance

Long-range precision shooting can be a gear-intensive sport. Your customers will possibly need bipods, bench bags and sturdy portable benches along with mats for shooting prone. You could possibly secure a bigger sale by offering rifle, riflescope and some of those accessories in a package.

Then there is the question of what will the customer shoot at? You should strive to display and sell the larger paper targets plus the gongs and stands they hang or swing on. It’s a top marketing idea to place your store’s contact information on those targets, gongs and stands when possible—or have some steel targets special built with your store’s contact information painted onto the front, backs or a side. Some top retailers have special foil-backed stickers made with all the contact information—including address and phone number—so the advertising reaches ranges and the shooters on-site there. 

Folks gawk at gongs, and when they see one, they like and must have, your retail business’ information on display on the stand or gong could work to bring additional customers to your front door. You can find other places on additional gear where you can place those contact info decals. This is an advertising method car dealer from coast to coast exploit all the time, so get in the game!

Many precision shooting programs and events now add pressure on the shooter by timing the shot placement window of opportunity. Plan to stock a selection of timers (possibly the same ones used in many 3-gun matches) in case there are competitors in your customer base. One of the new electronics categories everyone wants are long-range target cameras. These small camera units are placed down range near the target and send an image back to a laptop or cellphone. Most systems come complete with durable carrying cases and stands to hold the camera. A small bullet-punched hole is impossible to see at 1,000 yards even when using top quality optics. Most of those down-range cameras work on iPhones, so be prepared for customer questions. 

An additional range-useful item to consider stocking and selling when it comes to electronics for precision shooters is a rangefinder and wind gauge package that gives wind direction information. The user must enter the rifle and ammunition data. About as high-tech as they come. 

The More They Know

While precision shooting has become more mainstream and average firearms enthusiasts are taking up the challenge, there are still gray areas where customers want to know how to do something. This is the perfect opportunity to offer books and videos for sale. Here is a chance to beat up Amazon and the online e-sellers. If you have the book, the customer can place it in her or his hand and see the pages and inspect the words and information, then you are well on your way to making a sale. Place these books and videos near your precision shooting supplies display and not on the bottom shelf of the magazine rack that’s often in an overlooked corner in the front of the store. Out of sight here means out of sale. 

Finally, those very riflescope, rifle and ammunition brands that you offer customers to purchase can also often provide staffers or pros who will come to your retail center and offer seminars for customers. All you need are a classroom and place for speaker displays. If those groups can’t fit your schedule, consider hiring speakers to give presentations. There are some top precision shooters who are also rifle-builders and speakers—and they draw a crowd when they arrive if you work to spread the word. 

The precision and long-range markets are not saturated. Customers are shopping and trading up. Gear up and reach out to those precision pursuit customers and you can generate rings at the cash register.


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