There’s a Market for Color

Firearm finishing services and supplies can open a whole new path to profit.

There’s a Market for Color

Firearms racks typically aren’t filled with vibrant colors. Black dominates, with some camo, earth tones and blued steel mixed in. But there are other options that will interest your customers. 

In the early days of their military deployment and private ownership, the AR platforms earned the nickname “black rifles” because most of those rifles were cloaked entirely in black. 

That color was the only one available, and although we’ve seen some improvement in color options, that trend generally continues today. Same goes for many bolt guns with black synthetic stocks, and it’s the same lack of color for most pistols, including the popular 1911 and concealed-carry pistols. Dull and drab. 

While some manufacturers now offer FDE and camouflage as from-the-factory finishes, many firearm owners want to customize their firearms with color and patterns. The great news is that you, as a retailer, can offer your customers some spectacular options for their ARs, other rifles and long guns, and handguns. 

The National Shooting Sports Foundation estimates Americans own from 5 to 10 million AR-platform rifles and more than 400 million firearms total. That’s a large customer base and a great opportunity for you to add some variety and color customization to meet their tastes. The customer’s imagination, and yours, is the only limit here. 

As a retailer, you can offer a wide range of services and products to capture that colorful market segment. If you have been thinking about offering your customers a chance to add a splash of color for the AR or those other rifles, shotguns and pistols you sold to them — or that they own — then numerous manufacturers are waiting to help you make sales. 

The first step is deciding which process works best for you, your space and the customers you serve. You need to decide whether you want to offer customers the supplies so they can do the work themselves, or if you will add the color to a firearm for them, or possibly both. Spraying and applying the Cerakote coating requires baking and would necessitate special ovens and other items and expenditures, along with taking floor space for the process. Then there are the painting processes, like Duracoat Firearms Finishes, where you sell the paint and products to the DIY customer or offer to perform the services for the customer. 

If you find painting and baking too technical or time consuming, you could also set up a partnership with an existing business in your region that offers these services. You would simply accept your customer’s firearm and take it to that shop, with you getting a percentage of the total cost. Look at the costs, time, space requirements, ventilation, ovens and other details and make your decision based on noted requests, potential customers served and your expected profits. Then make notes and apply potential dollars earned to recorded requests from your customers — or comments they have made about adding color to firearms. There’s a market. Should you take a share? You will need to determine your answers.

The Processes

Once you decide on a path to offer color to customers, you need to decide how many services or systems you will offer. You can let customer requests or mentions of products and coatings help guide your decisions. 

“We do offer Cerakote for our customers,” reports Patrick Hayden with Kentucky Gun Company in Bardstown, Kentucky. “This is done in-house for the basic stuff, one- or two-color jobs, but for the more artistic designs, we sub it out.” 

Painting and meeting customers’ expectations might take hiring a skilled artist — or at least someone with patience. Customers also need to understand that with most of these processes, there’s no going back once the coating starts. Some color suppliers will work with you and your customers. 

“For retailers, we have a 1-year warranty on our products from the ship date,” said Ryan Schmidt, Cerakote tech support advisor. “As a retailer, you can call into our tech support center for application details and other tips to be more successful with your services. If an issue continues, we will check products in the lab and directly supply you and your customer with an answer. To help retailers call attention to their Cerakote services, we supply posters that trend with what is going on in the firearms market and environment. We supply those posters to retailers to help them get attention and increase sales.” Cerakote’s graphic department can also supply stencils or custom cut stencils to meet customer demands. 

If you want to add color or provide products for DIY projects, there’s another option with advanced paint. You also have assistance in promoting some of these processes. 

“We support retailers by offering free promotional material such as banners, brochures and decals,” says Amy Lauer-Potaczek, DuraCoat Firearm Finishes operations manager. “We also offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee to the purchaser of the product, so if a customer has an issue, they can call us directly for tech support or a replacement product if needed. That way the retailer isn’t out anything.” More good news for you, the retailer, is that Duracoat Firearms Finishes is producing a soon-to-be-released online course designed for customers. The class can be viewed at the customer’s convenience. Customers learn, you supply the goods. 

If you have the space, time and an in-house expert, you could follow the lead of crafts stores, clock builders and major home-improvement retailers and offer weekend or evening seminars. This lets the customer learn about color application and possibly even apply color under your guidance or assistance. Offering this do-it-yourself option with your guidance could attract a big market segment, so do your research and consider your customer base and necessary space requirements. Remember also that as the word spreads, and your customers who complete their projects show their friends, you could dramatically expand your customer base for the next class or seminar.

  When selling any type of coating, it is helpful to have a piece of metal or wood that you have applied the finish to so you can let the customer take that sample outside for a better look. Interior fluorescent lighting and LED lights provide different hues than direct sunlight. Also direct your customers to brochures, websites and social media images of firearms similar to theirs with the coating applied. YouTube, for example, is full of these types of videos showing the firearm before and after.

Listen Closely

Another key to great service is being certain you and your staff listen carefully to customer expectations and preferences. Listen closely, because some customer color expectations are simply not realistic. Unfortunately, some customers view coatings as a type of magic. Have patience with their questions, because while they may understand house paint and its application process, these firearms coatings are nothing like that. Reaffirm their requests and get a contract in writing, especially if you are sending the project firearm to another off-site partner company for applications and painting. 

One final step for great customer service on the coatings and finishes product line is to also sell the protective gloves and masks, plus necessary cleaning supplies, to save your customer a trip to the hardware store. The more convenient you make the process, the more likely you will complete a transaction.


Get Noticed

Because painting and baking are not processes that can generally be done on your retail floor space, you need to let your customers — and the world — know that you offer these behind-the-scenes services. At a minimum, you should note your colorization services on signs and posters in your store, on your website and through all the social media channels you utilize. Include promotion words and images in most advertising and printed promotional materials you develop and distribute. Like Paul Revere, you need to ride your promotional pony and let everyone know the coatings are coming. 

Another top tactic for calling attention to coating services is to have one or several guns on display in your shop — and identified as a color that was produced in-house. Think beyond placing a newly colored long gun in the rack where it blends in — rather, get it out and get it noticed. You could also do an endless loop video production (possibly planned, scripted and filmed with your standard SLR camera) and show this on a TV screen in your retail center. Most viewers are amazed at how these processes are performed. 

Once customers understand the coloring process, their questions will follow. You and your staff, or an in-house expert, need to be ready to provide answers and estimates. If you get questions often, consider producing a FAQ sheet that profiles the process and the many benefits of adding color to a firearm. Remember, however, that most customers are more concerned about whether the paint will last than they are about the cost. 

Coating processes and services you offer can also be a great donation item when local fundraisers come calling. It’s a unique service that will get noticed, and offering a gift certificate or X dollars off helps spread the word about your products and services. 

There are additional business advantages you can receive from being able to coat or paint a firearm. With any of these applied coatings, you can increase the value of a firearm you have purchased or traded for — and increase your profit margin in the process. Suppose you accept a shotgun or rifle with light rust on the barrel or small dings in the stock or forearm. Take the time to correct the problems, or remove the rust, and then add a coating or color and you have increased the appeal — and the price point — in most markets. Don’t forget to coat possible riflescope rings or any rails you plan to add to the firearm to offer a more complete package. 

Applied coatings for firearms can bring more customers to your retail center. Do your research, offer quality services, and the sales will come.



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