Selling Handguns? Don't Forget the Accessories.

Having a supply of quality handgun accessories and selling them can be the difference between profits and losses.

Selling Handguns? Don't Forget the Accessories.

If you're selling handguns, don't forget the accessories and cleaning supplies. (Photo: Howard Communications Photo Library)

You just sold a concealed-carry pistol to a customer, maybe even a first-time gun buyer. Now, the larger question: Are you actually going to make any money from this sales opportunity?

Profit margins on firearms start off as slim and you as an independent FFL know this reality all too well.

“It’s no secret new guns are the loss leader in a gun shop,” says Mike Barham, media and public relations manager for Galco Gunleather, one of the nation’s top manufacturers of handgun holsters, ammunition carriers, belts and slings.

The situation’s even worse for the concealed-carry handgun market, adds Dr. Carl Ball, owner of Lock and Loaded Arms in Pasadena, Texas.

“If you want to be competitive, you often have to sell at cost,” says Ball. “Obviously, there’s no money to be made at cost.”

But what if you can add a handgun accessory to the sales receipt? Now, you’ve made a profit.

For example, Galco’s dealer programs start at 30 percent off MSRP, with most dealers making 40 percent or more profit from their holster sales, based on annual volumes.

It’s not just holsters. Ammunition, lights and lasers, carry belts, hearing protection, cleaning gear and more are all are going to be needed by the new concealed-carry customers. All these products are going to be purchased somewhere. 

Here’s how to make sure your business profits from at least some of those accessory sales.

The “Tray” Approach

At Locked and Loaded Arms, once a handgun sale is made, Ball or a staff member goes to the inventory room and comes out with the boxed firearm and what Ball describes as a “breakfast tray” of various accessories.

“We take the educational approach,” Ball says. “Once we unbox the handgun, we ask the customer, especially when we know it’s a first-time gun buyer, ‘There are self-protection and full-metal-jacket range ammunition choices. Do you know the difference?”

The breakfast tray holds both types of ammunition, plus a holster or two, a cleaning kit, safety glasses and hearing protection, maybe even aftermarket pistol sights and a laser.

“Usually, the customer will also buy 1/3 to 1/2 of the items on the tray,” Ball says. “Often, once they’ve done some actual shooting, they return for another item or two. But we don’t hard sell. In our experience, hard selling pushes people away. We educate and inform, give customers an overview of what they will need to run and maintain their handguns, and plant the seeds for future purchases.”

Have the tray ready to go, Ball advises, and check it over at the beginning of each workday to make sure you have all the product bases covered. “That way, you don’t have to worry about remembering what to suggest. It’s all there on the tray. I know if I try to remember all the accessories in the middle of a sale I’m going to forget something.”

Cookies and Cleaning

Sometimes, Girl Scout cookies can help plant those seeds.

For over 25 years, Miles and Jayne Hall owned and operated the very successful H&H Shooting Sports in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Several years ago, the Halls sold the business and Miles moved into the role of a consultant for FFL retailers at Hall-N-Hall where he serves as senior advisor. Hall-N-Hall helps independent business owners boost their sales and move forward.

One thing H&H did, and Hall urges his current clients to do, is to offer a basic handguns course to new customers, and if possible have the necessary concealed-carry certification course held on premises.  

“On the breaks, we’d have a table set up in the back of the room with refreshments, plus a nice selection of Girl Scout cookies,” Hall says with a laugh. “And positioned around those cookies we’d have a selection of handgun accessories. I’d make sure staff members were near the table and they almost always were asked questions about those accessories. ‘What’s this for? Do you think I’ll need that for concealed carry?”

Questions led to education and education led to accessory sales.

Located in the North Valley area of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Los Ranchos Gun Shop is a full service FFL retail store. And that service doesn’t end after the sale.

“When we sell a new handgun to a customer, we offer to clean that handgun once they have shot it,” says Los Ranchos owner Mark Abramson. “For free. They just bring it back into the store and we do the cleaning.”

The free cleaning approach accomplishes several important functions for Los Ranchos. First, it gets customers thinking about cleaning and its importance to a well-maintained firearm. And once they see their handgun being cleaned, many people ask about the products they need to buy to do future cleanings themselves.

That’s another purchase.

And the cleaning approach can generate other accessory sales.

“Often, especially for the first-time gun buyer, people don’t really know what they are going to need to shoot a handgun,” Abramson says. “Once they spend some time at the range, though, they figure out they will need better hearing protection, for example, or shooting glasses. Well, now they are back in our store, and we offer both products.”

The return also gives the Los Ranchos staff the chance to ask about the overall shooting experience the customer had, what was working and any problems they may have had. Which presents another chance to move an accessory or two.

Other Ideas

There are other potential ways to sell that handgun customer related accessories. Any and all could help your business.  

Provide a checklist: This doesn’t have to be anything fancy. A simple printed checklist of items the handgunner will need at the range and for concealed carry can be a helpful way to interest a customer. Make sure you include your store’s name, website, email and phone number.

If you have a video monitor in store, consider making a short video that highlights the various accessories a handgun owner may need. Short is the key — two minutes or under works best.  Do the video in store and refer to the store itself to direct customers to products. “We have a great selection of hearing protection devices along the far wall …”

Focus on education: All the retail owners and professionals we talked with agreed: The hard sell will drive away more sales than it encourages.

As Hall says, “People love to buy — but they hate to be sold. We advise clients to never push anything. You can certainly suggest options, and explain why they might be superior options than another. But never, ever get pushy about it.” 

Always approach the accessory issue as a matter of educating and informing your customer.  Don’t push with, “Your need a holster. Try this one!” Instead, ask questions. “Do you have a holster in mind for this handgun? One that’s good for concealed carry?”

Now you have a conversation started, and now the customer is thinking, “Hmm, yes, I do need a holster. I wonder what they have here?”

Stay up on your inventory: “You can’t sell it if it’s not in the store,” Hall says. “Yes, you can order things, but you never know who will or won’t actually come back for the items. And people do not like to wait, especially once they’ve made up their minds they need something.”

If the product or products are not in the store a growing number of customers are simply going to pull out their cell phones and order the products online. They may even do the ordering while in your store, and those are lost sales.

Outside Help

The companies that manufacture the accessory products you carry are usually willing and very eager to help you move those products.

At Galco, for example, “Our dealer support is unmatched,” Barham says. “Our store visits by highly-trained and experienced dealer sales representatives include taking the dealer’s inventory, providing order history reports, sharing holster sales trends, marketing plans, new products, dealer and retail-oriented promotions, and hands-on product training for staff.

“Galco’s website,, has a password-protected dealer section designed to provide you with up-to-date information on all of our products. Our electronic dealer manual facilitates product searches either by product type, holster model, or by gun make and model. When you click to indicate your specifications, the Galco online manual navigates through hundreds of pages to extract the precise information you need.”

On the company’s product packaging, Galco holsters feature the “Body Clock” label, which quickly enables the dealer and customer to understand where a holster is designed to be worn. The Body Clock is helpful for dealers and customers alike, and is no small thing given the large number of handgun holsters on the market today.

No firearm works without ammunition, and Winchester Ammunition, to use the example of but one manufacturer, offers its dealers many, many ways to help increase sales of their products.

“We provide or dealers with all sorts of in-store tools to help promote Winchester products including seasonal consumer rebates, banners, counter displays, endcaps, pallet wraps, rugs, floor stickers, signage/displays, plus all kinds of other retail marketing tools,” says Nathan Robinson, Winchester’s media relations manager. “These will vary from location to location and year to year, but helping our dealers is certainly a priority for us.”

However, all the help in the world is no good if it is not requested. Ask your manufacturer or distributor representatives for these types of assistance. Doing so can help create a win-win situation for your customers and your bottom line.


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