Shoot, Reload and Repeat

Serving the reloading market will help you tap into a steady flow of customers.

Shoot, Reload and Repeat

Now may well be the right time for some retailers to consider getting into selling reloading supplies and equipment or to expand offerings because the vacuum is starting to fill in a market that has been starved for a couple of years. 

Supply line challenges have affected the reloading world as much or more than any other segment of the shooting sports. This is because of the nature of reloading cartridges and the vast array of equipment and components needed to do it. 

Not only does reloading require a seemingly endless array of hardware (think sales potential here), it requires the availability of many different components (think more sales). The challenge is that all of the components need to be available simultaneously, because if even one of them is missing, then none of the others are relevant because it takes all of them in one place at one time to make a cartridge.             

Following a supply-line-emptying combination of pandemic and social unrest, the availability of reloading products is just now getting to a level that allows anything close to normal sales strategies and tactics. It does little good to promote something that cannot be obtained. 

At first, virtually no reloading supplies were available, and then, one component at a time, they started to becoming available. Component bullets were first, powder was next and finally, primers are showing up in the supply chain. The situation is far from “normal,” but it is improving steadily. About the only component that didn’t seem to suffer significantly was the shotshell wad. 

Like everything else, the prices for components are higher. This is logical because both the raw materials and the shipping of finished products are more expensive. Inflation is alive and well, with no significant relief in sight. 

Assuming the supply chain returns to some form of “normal” in the near term, the essence of the retail reloading market is supplying customers with products that can enable them to shoot more economically and enabling them to handload cartridges specifically for their individual firearms. Bottom line from the customer perspective: more and/or better for less. 

Years ago, the majority of shooters who reloaded their own ammo did it primarily, if not solely, to save money. Although it’s still possible to save money by reloading, the truth is that when it comes to generic ammo for the most popular cartridges, the savings margin is pretty slim. 

Here, we’re talking about the 9mmP, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, .223 Rem./5.56 NATO and .308 Win./7.62 NATO. Most shooters wouldn’t save enough by loading shooting-grade ammo in these cartridges unless they shoot a whole bunch or simply enjoy loading. 

Where the real savings for the customer can be these days is for the less popular cartridges. The markup is OK for these rounds and the resultant retail price is high enough that it can pay even the casual shooter to reload his or her own ammo for common cartridges like .30-06 Springfield, .270 Winchester, 7mm Rem. Mag or .300 Win Mag. 

Certainly, as the popularity of any cartridge goes down, more money can be saved by reloading. And the sales potential for equipment and components for these cartridges is significant enough for retailers to stock them. 

Here, we’re talking about cartridges like the .348 Winchester, 8x57mm Mauser, 7mm Mauser or even the .32 Win. for rifles, or any of the .32 handgun rounds, to name but a few of hundreds. Certainly, it is virtually obligatory for customers to load for any of the obsolete cartridges, which include everything from the various Sharps rounds to many of the older European metric-designated cartridges. 

The good news is that, even though traditional cartridges can be reloaded more economically, there is an entirely new market segment that assumes the shooters will load their own ammo. 

That segment is the long-range community where newly designed cartridges intended specifically for long-range shooting rule the roost. To maximize accuracy in their long-range rigs, shooters need to fine-tune loads to specific rifles. This means handloading for that one rifle, one cartridge at a time. 

This class of cartridges includes everything from the 6.5 Creedmoor to any of the PRC rounds, as well as a number of others. Yes, sales can be good for factory-loaded ammo for these specialized cartridges, but in addition to that, accuracy fanatics will want to make fodder for their specific rifles. 

And there is still another category of customer who can keep the reloading equipment and supply sales moving. That is the shooter who simply likes to load his or her own ammo because they enjoy the process. 

These are the folks who buy a significant amount of product, and they continue to do so on a regular basis. The nice thing is that most of these customers started loading either to save money or to fine tune fodder for their firearms. Somewhere along the line, the reloading bug bit them and they have been committed to the activity since. 

From a retailing perspective, selling reloading equipment and supplies is a good situation, but there are challenges. It’s good because there are literally thousands of items available and necessary. It’s challenging because it can be daunting trying to decide exactly what to stock. 

Here is where understanding the store’s customer base comes into play. It doesn’t take long to figure out what will move and what is destined to gather dust. The real question probably is not whether reloading equipment and products should be part of the mix, but how much of the mix should they represent? That answer is likely different for each store and its unique customer base. 

One thing is certain. The more ammo customers shoot, the more often they will return to resupply and there is nothing as powerful as the right kind of customer traffic to and through the store.


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