Selling Precision: Get Into the Long-Range Game

Selling precision is big. Be prepared to help customers reach out and touch something in the long-range game.

Selling Precision: Get Into the Long-Range Game

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 bullseye or ring a gong. There are also special competitions for those who master the 1,000-yard distance, such as the PRS Precision Rifle Series.

But 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 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 necessities for 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 opportunity — when a customer says the key phrase — “long range.” Then you also need to mention ammunition. 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.

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 regular shooting ranges. For those near-target shooters, however, 500 yards would be an excellent starting distance 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 long-range shooting opportunities. You can also point customers to the NSSF guide at There are not, however, that many 1,000-yard ranges.

The great news is the long-range challenge and 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 your staff and many customers can discuss MSRs with ease, long-range rifles and shooting are likely less familiar. Look at the precision rifles you sell and ask your manufacturer’s reps to provide some in-store training to help you and your employees understand the features. 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 they are going to use this rifle,” says 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’s the case, then we are going to put that customer in a different setup (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, and they often need some 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. 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 make traveling with a heavy gun case into a much easier task. Remember also that range bags and packs are important when it comes to packing and moving a mountain of gear. Stock them and make them visible to customers.

Answers About Ammo

You need to stock ammunition specifically to meet the long-range market. Forget most deer loads and think big and boat tailed. 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 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 per 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. Be ready to pull up the information to help your customers find the perfect ammo for their rifle and objective.

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 — so getting customers set up can ingratiate them and keep them shopping. 

A Closer Look

Riflescopes play a critical role in long-range challenges. You no doubt know this but being able to explain the difference between the $250 scope that tops your customer’s .30-30 and the glass required for legitimate long-range shooting is important. Many long-range and precision shooters use 10X, 12X or 24X riflescopes. 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,” Hayden says. “We have found that ‘eyes on’ experience is the best way. We take a quality, entry-level riflescope and a true long-range 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 riflescopes offer tall turrets that are easy to adjust and begin at zero and go up — and over — based on distances and estimations 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. They’re special-order items at many stores, so if you have them in stock you’re already ahead of the competition. Tout it on Facebook and your website.

Stay on Target

Long-range precision shooting can be a gear-intensive sport. Your customers will likely need bipods, bench bags and sturdy portable benches along with mats for shooting prone. Packaging a rifle, scope and some of those accessories together can lead to larger sales.

Then there is the matter of what your customers will be shooting at. You should strive to display and sell the larger paper targets, gongs and stands. It’s a top marketing idea to place your store’s contact information on those items when possible — or have some steel targets special built with your store’s contact information painted onto them. Some top retailers have special foil-backed stickers made with all the contact information — including address and phone number — so the information reaches ranges and the shooters on site. 

Folks gawk at gongs, and when they see your retail business’ information clearly displayed, it could bring new customers through the door. You can put those stickers on all kinds of other gear, too. This is an advertising opportunity that car dealers from coast to coast exploit all the time.

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.

A rangefinder and wind gauge package is another useful range item to consider stocking. The user must enter the rifle and ammunition data — about as high-tech as they come.  

Learning Advantage

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 pick it up, see the pages and inspect the information, then you are well on your way to making a sale. Place these books and videos near your precision shooting 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 can also often provide staffers or pros who will come to your store and offer seminars for customers. All you need is 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 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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