The Versatility of the Shotgun

Shotguns present steady sales opportunities across categories and customer groups.

The Versatility of the Shotgun

Shotguns evoke emotions unlike any other kind of firearm. There is just something about a shotgun that sets it apart and there’s nothing subtle about a 12-gauge.

It could be argued that the shotgun is the cornerstone of the shooting sports industry because it is the basic firearm. No other type of firearm is as versatile and relevant in as many different settings as the smoothbore.

In its refined break-open double-barrel configuration, the shotgun can be an expression of style and grace. Or, in its tactical configuration as a pump or semi-auto, the shotgun exudes power and purpose. It can be so many different things to different people in different circumstances.

With that in mind, it’s prudent to consider several sales strategies for the shotgun, since the reasons for buying one are so varied – ranging from hunting to numerous organized target sports, to self and home defense.

Speaking of defense, the most common firearm on the wild west frontier was the shotgun, not the Colt revolver or Winchester lever-action rifle. In those days, it was the single-shot or double-barreled shotgun. These days, defense shotguns tend to be pumps and semi-autos.

Truth is that every firearms customer needs to have at least one shotgun. Most probably own a shotgun already, but it’s worth asking because customers really do need to have a shotgun, which means selling them one is a form of customer service that also helps the shop’s bottom line.

This is the time of year when many bird and small-game seasons kick in. Dove hunting has already been in progress in most states, while both upland bird and waterfowl hunting are kicking into high gear through the next few months.

Although basic field-grade 12- and 20-gauge guns can handle both upland and waterfowling needs, the truth is that there are differences between ideal upland shotguns and the most effective waterfowl guns.

This means that, for the discerning customers, there are two more reasons to be outfitted with the right gun initially, or to add to an existing gun or guns in their safes. A nice, lightweight, small-bore gun is best for upland hunts, while bigger and heavier guns work better for serious waterfowling.

Also, the required use of non-toxic shot for more and more hunting, both upland and waterfowl, means that some customers are well advised to update their guns to handle the non-toxic shot. Apart from bismuth, non-toxic shot tends to be much harder than traditional lead shot and shouldn’t be used in older guns with traditionally tight chokes.

With any kind of shotgun sales promotion, it is good to have a strategy to sell ammunition with gun purchases. This represents an added level of sales that, if approached properly, means continued ammo sales as customers use their guns.

Although hunting shotguns sell best during this time of year, target and defense shotguns sell year-round. There are combo guns offered by many manufacturers that include two barrels for the gun – one barrel for hunting birds and small game and another for shooting slugs at deer-size animals, or a two-barrel combo that includes a general-purpose hunting barrel and a shorter open-bore barrel for defense.

In other words, there are many package combinations that can result in added sales at the same time since they are less expensive than two separate guns, or even buying a gun and a second barrel separately.

One target application for shotguns is in the 3-gun matches where shotguns, rifles and handguns are used. Although a basic shotgun is enough to get started, as customers advance in the 3-gun arena, they need more and more specialized equipment. This can be anything from a new, dedicated shotgun for 3-gun to any number of upgrades to their existing guns.  

Other shotgun target sports include trap, skeet and sporting clays. There are sport-specific models for each of these endeavors.

When it comes to defense, the shotgun can be considered the initial gun for many homes, even if the customers later decide to acquire handguns for defense, as well.

In family defense settings, there are logical reasons for a customer’s family to want and need at least a couple of shotguns – a 12-gauge for the larger adult members of the family, and a smaller gauge for smaller adult members of the family.

It doesn’t take much imagination to come up with more and more ways a shotgun can fit into the customers’ overall defense plans. And the beauty is that adding another shotgun to their family’s gun collection doesn’t have to break the bank. Credible home defense shotguns are no more expensive than a weekend family outing.

Universal application is in the shotgun’s DNA. The very first firearms were smoothbores. Rifling, as we now know it in rifles and handguns, only dates back to the late 1400s to early 1500s.

Of all the types of firearms, the shotgun is the easiest overall to learn how to use effectively and it fits well into all residency scenarios from the wildest, most wide-open spaces to the highest-density urban sprawls. 

Trends in the shotgun world lend themselves to additional sales of both guns and ammo. For example, there are now 28-gauge shotguns that handle 3-inch shells. Or, with TSS shot, the .410 bore is now a credible size for hunting wild turkeys.

These kinds of introductions don’t take away from previous sales strategies for stores nor from buying levels of customers. They add to them. This is the best of both worlds: Sales of traditional guns and ammo continue to be viable while sales of these newer products merely add to the mix.

Even for shops that specialize in other kinds of firearms, there are always good reasons to include shotguns in the inventory. The only question, then, is whether there will be a focus on shotguns, and if so, how keen and pointed is that focus?


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.