For Bows and Guns, Offer the Right Protection

Getting to know your customers on a case-by-case basis will help them transport their bows and firearms safely.

For Bows and Guns, Offer the Right Protection

Hard or soft cases, such as the Rugid Xtreme, can protect bows and guns while traveling via car, plane or in your hunting camp. (Photo: Luke Laggis)

One of my most interesting moments on a recent travel hunt occurred when a compound bow came sliding down the luggage ramp at a major airport. This caught my eye because the bow was taped up in several layers of cardboard that didn’t cover the ends of the limbs and the cams.

I soon discovered the owner of that bow was going to the same camp I was, so I asked why he didn’t have a bow case. He told me he had bought the bow on eBay and it arrived in the cardboard. He couldn’t find a bow case anywhere to buy or borrow before his flight, so he just wrapped the bow back in the cardboard again, and the airline accepted it for the flight.

Yikes. So many things could have gone wrong.

When customers in your retail center ask about cases — hard or soft — for bows and firearms or mention they will be flying to a remote hunting destination, you and your staff should listen carefully. It’s important to let customers know that they shouldn’t cut corners when it comes to protecting a firearm or bow. They have a lot of money and time invested in their equipment, so it pays to protect those items. Cardboard won’t cut it.

The good news is most bow and firearm owners know that when they travel, whether across town or to another state, hits happen. Soft cases can protect firearms and bows on the go, but sometimes, such as with nearly all flights, the firearm or bow needs the added protection of a quality hard case.

Upgrade Displays

There are many factors to consider when traveling with guns and bows. Customers need options. Local, state and federal laws on storing and securing archery gear, ammunition and firearms often apply. And checked luggage for flights — especially firearms and bows — can be subject to abuse beyond belief. Shorter trips can present plenty of issues, too. Your customers know the perils of travel and turn to you with questions and concerns. Be prepared to provide answers — and the right case.

First, try to offer the standard cases in an easy-to-find location. This includes cases for bows (such as the Rugid Xtreme soft bow case) and hard cases (such as the Pelican AIR 1745). For firearms, a mix of polymer (such as the Plano Rustrictor AW2 rifle case) and aluminum or other hard cases in your shop and within reach of customers could spur sales.

Next, gun socks, and the simple cloth or canvas scabbard-type cases for bows and firearms, always sell at a regular pace — especially when displayed. Another case some retail shops fail to stock are those for use on ATVs. More and more hunters ride 4-wheelers to their treestands, and a sturdy case is needed on most of these trips. If you stock these, have them in the case display area and also attached to any ATV you may have on display in your store.

ATV-mounted scabbards are a good idea for hunters on the go. Consider stocking a scabbard or two and display them prominently.

Of course, it pays to diversify the cases customers can put their hands on as they shop. While the standard soft and hard cases are carried to the cash register on a regular basis, the cases for AR-type hunting rifles and both small and large handguns are also in demand. Good retailers will meet customer demands.

Additionally, store staff need to think when they sell a bow or firearm. As the sale is being completed, it’s an ideal time to ask customers if they need a case. Since the value of the bow or firearm is fresh on their minds, it’s easier to move the conversation into protection mode. In some places, that firearm must be in some type of case before it can legally leave the store. Know any local laws that apply to transporting firearms and bows and be well prepared to discuss these requirements with customers.

Customers often like to know about key features with cases, so be prepared to point these out on the cases you stock. For waterfowl hunters, it’s important to know whether the case is waterproof and if it can float. 

“Our new case design utilizes a military-grade 500D PVC waterproof exterior and offers a fully waterproof, submersible version with zippered closure as well as a standard waterproof version with a weatherproof zipper that stands up to snow and rain,” says Jeff Bruss with Rugid Gear. The company offers numerous soft cases for firearms and bows.

For older hunters, the top question might be about wheels, which can make it easier to move the case to the vehicle or up to the airline counter. Some customers also seek cases that don’t look like a firearm case. There are several manufacturers of those. To aid with making the case look less likely to hold a firearm, offer options such as canvas covers for the exterior. When possible, keep those long odd-size cardboard boxes the case arrived in at your shop, because more and more hunters are shipping their cases to their hunting destination. That’s mostly because airlines keep adding many more annoying rules and dealing with check-in agents is becoming a true travel hassle.

To further aid customers seeking cases, be certain to stock and sell durable luggage tags, exterior cargo straps and padlocks.

Cases with durable locking systems are a plus for traveling hunters and shooters. Also stock durable locks and other accessories in your store as add-on considerations for customers. (Photo: Michael D. Faw)
Cases with durable locking systems are a plus for traveling hunters and shooters. Also stock durable locks and other accessories in your store as add-on considerations for customers. (Photo: Michael D. Faw)

Even the best hard-sided case, unfortunately, can be damaged. Delta recently reimbursed me for a double-rifle hard case they apparently ran over with a baggage truck and trailer. The incident broke the wheels out of the sockets on the end of the case and extensively cracked the case’s end. Luckily, their attack did not damage the contents inside.

Customers should also be guided to buy a case that fits and protects the bow or firearm they own. As a rule, for correct size, the standard shotgun is much longer than a standard AR and those are obviously much larger and longer than a single handgun. Remember to stock double rifle cases, because when a customer needs one, he or she really needs it. Yes, double gun cases take up space and cost more, but many customers appreciate that you have them.

Gun cases are generally a look-before-buying item for most shoppers. Having a huge selection of soft and hard cases for guns and bows can bring customers to your store, so include those in advertising (print and online) when possible and make space for the cases on the show floor.

You also have an advantage because most online outlets require extra shipping and handling for these oversized items, so you can exploit that and be price competitive. Move your marketing efforts beyond standard case promos and remember that there are customers — hunters, various competitors, the standard traveling lady and others — who need specific cases to meet their needs.

Know the Laws 

It’s a fact: All domestic and international flights with a firearm require a lockable hard case. While there are also federal standards on what’s allowed aboard most flights, many airlines also add more rules — and add to the public’s confusion. Hunters traveling internationally on safari need to pay even more attention to detail.

You can help clarify customer confusion by printing the basic federal travel rules for bows, firearms and ammunition, and then posting these near the hard and soft cases you have for sale in your shop. Better yet, have a sheet with the details you can hand to customers and be certain your contact details and your website are included. You can also post those details (or a link) on your company’s website to help customers who are making a shopping checklist at home.

For many hunters who drive and fly to hunting destinations, weight matters. Weigh the cases you sell or have full details on a hang tag. This number becomes critical for fliers as they reach the 50-pound mark. You can also calculate a basic hunting rifle with scope at basically 7 to 11 pounds and a box of centerfire rifle ammo at 1 to 2 pounds. Then the weight of a hardside firearm case and the contents becomes very important to the buyer.

“Pelican’s all-new AIR 1745 Bow Case is 40% lighter than our legacy products and still provides Pelican’s legendary durability,” says Bob Shortt, President of Pelican’s Consumer Division. “With smart organization features that are all safely secured in a compact and lightweight design, the case can be personalized to accommodate a wide range of archery equipment and hunting applications.”

Customers like options, especially those that help them pack gear and secure it in place in a case.

For most fliers, a soft case can go inside a hard case to help customers complete the multi-layer packing puzzle that best fits their current needs. A hunter traveling out to the nearby national forest or grandpa’s farm can often use a flexible soft case.

Pay attention to customer comments and questions, especially if they mention moose hunting in Canada, elk hunting in the West by horseback or traveling to Alaska for most any type of remote hunting. Those hunters could need a hard case to reach the trailhead, but only a soft case for the last leg of their journey to camp. If their trip involves journeying on a river or across a lake, a floating case like those from Rugid could be a good option to present to the customer.

It’s Time

Like firearms and bows, you could sell one — or several — today. The peak seasons for most cases, however, are the months leading up to fall hunting seasons and again around Christmas. Case sales for bows and long guns can also spike in early spring as turkey hunters hit the highways and airways to pursue turkey in distant lands.

Next to protective cases, create displays of travel cleaning kits, padlocks, cables, gun socks and other travel items that can be found inside a traveler’s case. Some stores go the extra step and provide a free printed checklist of gear for traveling hunters. Convenience can make shopping easier for customers and increase your sales.

The market has more and more new shooters, and sometimes these new hunters like flare and fashion. Beyond pink and orange, fake animal skins such as leopard are in fashion and sell well. Consider placing a display of these types of cases near the gun and ammo counter. They at least make shoppers stop and look.

Having the right case to provide the needed protection can help customers overcome traveling concerns. Be prepared to provide the right product.


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