I made a walk up to Cabela’s this week to pick up some reloading supplies (damn you, Sportsman’s Warehouse for not carry big boxes of cheap 9mm bullets!), and once again was overwhelmed by the scale of that store. From fishing reels to boating to camping to hunting, if you wander out of doors, chances are, Cabela’s has something you can buy.
Which got me a-thinking: The driving force behind firearms sales these past few years hasn’t been in hunting rifles or duck guns, the “tactical” or self-defense markets have been where sales have really taken off.
So what would a “Cabela’s (or Bass Pro Shop) for the tactical market” look like?
Well, it’d look a lot like the Scottsdale Gun Club, quite frankly. With a name like that, you’d expect it to sell high-end hunting rifles and collectable Old West shootin’ irons.
Wrong. They’ve got Wilson Combat .45’s and Sig Sauers and whole wall of M4geries, along with a great indoor range and a training program that is second to none.
Environment and branding are everything in retail, (Don’t believe me? Why did the Apple Store succeed where the Gateway Store failed?), so the store fixtures and experience have to instill confidence in the customer so they can trust advice from people of this store with their lives. If I see ONE MORE gun store open up shop with fixtures left over from an office-furniture repo sale, I swear I’ll…
Where was I? Oh yeah, training and accessories.
These are the killer (pun not intended. Really.) add-on. Margins on guns themselves are pretty slim; where guns stores make their money is in the add-ons. If you carry concealed, you’ve got a box full of holsters that didn’t work quite right, and if a store can become THE local source for good holsters, chances are they can succeed where others have failed.
And a good indoor range will also bring people back over and over again, not just to buy more ammo to replace the rounds they’ve shot, but to buy the little profitable things that make a store stay in business.
And training, ideally as an adjunct from a school nearby that’s known and trusted nationwide. I haven’t done the cartography, but I’d be willing to bet that everyone in the lower 57 states is within a day’s drive of a top-flight gun school. I haven’t been to Gunsite (yet) because even though it’s in-state and somewhat nearby, I can’t afford the cost of the ammo for even an beginning class there, much less the registration fee and hotel room cost.
But would I spend a hundred bucks to be one of 10 people in a basic class (say, two hours of classroom time and an hour of range time) taught by a Gunsite Instructor?
You betcha. Call it, say, Remedial Defensive Pistol 090 and use it to either develop interest in Gunsite (or Thunder Ranch or U.S. Shooting Academy or whatever) or upsell NRA training classes and let the range make some $$$. Either way, it’s a win for the firearms industry and a money-maker for the range.
Will we ever see such a place? Maybe somesday. And if it does happen, I’ll be first in line when it opens.