Precision Rifle Sales Offer Serious Upsell Potential

Precision rifles practically sell themselves in this market, but don’t let any leave your shop without upselling the customer some accessories.

Precision Rifle Sales Offer Serious Upsell Potential

I think we can thank Ruger for the Precision Rifle boom. Before the company’s RPR rifle came along in 2015, a good chassis-built, entry-level, production rifle was selling for $2,500 and up. Usually way up.

Ruger changed the game. When it was introduced, RPRs were selling for less than a grand at retail stores in my area. Better yet, the rifle could stay in the race against the big dogs. Accurate, reliable and affordable, it brought long-range shooting to the masses.

The shooting world was already primed with a lot of interest, but Joe Workingman couldn’t afford the guns, and any market needs his demographic if it’s going to grow.

Of course, almost every other rifle maker followed with a me-too rifle, and now we have a lot of options for affordable precision rifles. The price has crept up a bit, but the entry-level rifles are still affordable, and shops have a new revenue stream.

Long-range shooters will vary from entry-level know-nothings to very sophisticated shooters. It’s a good idea to educate yourself about this new and growing sport so that you can speak their language.

I doubt any shop has trouble selling the rifles, particularly now with this shortage of everything going on. In fact, I am going to write this article with the Pollyanna-ish assumption that the shortages are only temporary and that soon the shelves of all the gun stores will be stocked full again. Naive? Probably, but it could happen. So for the next few pages, let’s pretend the world is back on its axis.


Optics Upgrades

The most obvious thing to link to a precision rifle sale is the optics. Long-range only works if you can see. The conventional wisdom is that the scope should cost as much as the rifle. “Buy once, cry once” is the mantra so often heard in shooting circles, meaning that you should buy the scope you are going to end up with anyway, rather than start with a cheap, disappointing optic that will be replaced down the road.

So with that as a baseline, selling a customer up to a higher-quality scope should be easy. While an accurate rifle is the heart, the soul of successful long-range shooting is in the optics. If you sell a customer a cheap scope, they’ll never be happy, and somehow, it will be your fault. This is a great time to explain the importance of a quality rifle scope.

Optics and computers have a lot in common: There are endless technical minutia that most customers do not understand. That’s for the sales persons to explain in understandable terms. I think this knowledge is important to a sale, but it also creates a fine line. A cocky salesperson with deep knowledge of optics is more damaging than one with no knowledge. I liken it to when I buy a new computer. If the sales person is condescending and constantly pointing out how much smarter he is than me, I walk away. One smirk and I am history. But if the sales person doesn’t talk down to me and answers my questions clearly with good knowledge and does not try to BS me, that person gets my money. All sales people must remember that when it comes to customers, we need them more than they need us. The sales person’s job is to work with the customer and sell them product, not humiliate them. Fine optics are complicated and confusing, so explain them with a sale in mind, not to boost your self-image.

When prowling around gun shops, I sadly see the first example all too often — not only with optics, but also with gun knowledge in general. That behavior is what drives customers to buy online. Why not? They spend less money and nobody is insulting them. If you want sales, don’t allow that snarky behavior in your store. If a customer is asking questions, they have already embraced that the sales person is the expert; no need to slap them in the face with it.

There are some outstanding optics for long-range shooting, and they can retail for many thousands of dollars. The shooter just starting out will probably not be in the market for a $4,000 scope, but we’ve already established that low-end junk is a mistake. So, offer some options. The old good, better, best is a wonderful sales approach, but be sure to know the difference and explain it clearly.

In a great scope, the optics will sell themselves. Once a shooter looks through a high-quality scope, they are hooked for life. But, you build trust with a customer if you have the ability to explain things like the different types of optical glass and coatings and why they matter.

In addition to optical quality, the key to a great long-range scope is in the adjustment system. However, that is not as evident to the customer as the optical quality, so you as the sales person should explain why it’s so important.

You can’t expect some sloppy system made from cheap materials and slammed out on a Chinese production line to hold up to the demands of serious long range shooting. Cheap scopes do not track well when making changes in elevation or windage and often don’t return accurately to zero. They also wear out quickly.

I have been lucky enough to tour some of the European and American scope factories and witness what goes into building a good erector system. They use the best materials and metals and machine them with extreme precision. The better scopes have precision adjustment systems that track perfectly so the bullet impact is where it’s expected to be, not “in the ballpark.” A well-made scope will return to a precise zero, and it will keep working that way for years.

A good salesman should have knowledge of optics to explain the difference between MOA and mils with the details of the pros and cons for each. A salesperson should also be able to explain first and second focal plane reticles and, again, the pros and cons. While many assume that first focal plane is a slam dunk on a precision rifle, I disagree — sometimes. My best, custom-built, precision rifle will bring tears to a shooter’s eye with the tiny long-range groups it produces on demand. It wears a high-end Leupold scope with the reticle in the second (non-magnifying) focal plane. That was my choice and I have never regretted it. It works very well for the type of shooting I do with this rifle. On the other hand, my most accurate precision rifle is a 16-pound beast that I built myself, and it wears a first-focal-plane, top-end Kahles scope. I bring this up only to illustrate that there are no set rules when it comes to optics.

While FFP scopes dominate most long-range shooting, there are situations where the second focal plane works better with a precision rifle. If you have the ability to explain and illustrate the difference to the customer, you can make sure the rifle leaves the store with the optic that’s best for that specific customer.

If you offer to mount the scope for free, it’s a good incentive for them to buy from you. It will also let you sell them the mount. This service will head off a multitude of potential problems that accompany incorrect scope mounting.

A long-range shooter will also need a spotting scope. Again, buying cheap with optics is always a mistake. I have seen time and again at the range when a shooter has so much money in his rifle and scope that he buys a low-end spotting scope. They are never happy, and I love to make their misery worse by letting them use my Swarovski. A public shooting range might well be the biggest sales aid available. Try to find the time to go to the range with your long-range customers. Let them spot with a good scope and they are hooked.

This is a good opportunity to sell a high-quality, if not top-shelf, at least close, spotting scope. As the price is high and it is not perceived as being as necessary as a riflescope, that presents a problem. It might be worth considering solving that problem by letting them use lay-away or even buy the scope on a payment schedule.


Ammo and Accessories

Of course, the scope will need a good tripod. Also, a good, padded carrying case should be an easy sale to a guy who just spent two grand on delicate optics. All long-range shooters will need a good rangefinder and probably a wind meter.

The next issue is fuel. I had a guy in my shop a few days ago to get some work done on his deer rifle. “This gun is generational,” he said. “My dad bought it in the ’70s, then he passed it on to me, and now my son is hunting with it. Dad bought two boxes of ammo with the gun and we are still using them.”

Just for the record, it’s best not to plan your retirement around guys like him.

A long-range shooter, on the other hand, will go through two boxes of ammo, or more, every time he sets foot on the range. Shooting is their passion and their lifestyle, so find a way to make sure the shooter is buying that ammo from you. Give him a break on the price even if you use it as a loss leader; make him feel like he is a special customer. Talk guns; ask how he is doing and what he has learned about shooting long range since buying the gun. Maybe have him bring in his best target and post it on the wall. You can’t compete on price with the discount places, so give the customer a reason to visit your store.


Reloading and Tinkering

Any serious long-range shooter is going to eventually reload. It cuts costs and it gives him even more control over the precision process. Good handloads that are tuned to the rifle will always outshoot factory ammo. Reloading opens the door to endless sales for tools, equipment and components. I don’t think there are any more serious reloaders than the precision rifle long-range shooters.

Consider holding some in-store classes on reloading, everything from the basics to the advanced precision shooting techniques. Hodgdon can help get you started with that, as they have a program where they will send in an expert to teach the classes; they call it the “Hodgdon Road Show.” The contact for that is Kent Sakamoto, Kent is a personal friend and a good man to run this program.

Long-range shooters tend to tinker, so don’t ignore selling the parts and pieces that would be used for DIY builds or for a bolt-on modification for their existing rifles.

A long-range shooter will also need a shooting mat, bipods and tripods, magazines, shooting bags and gear bags and more. As you can see, the door that was opened with the sale of the rifle will allow through a long procession of potential sales.


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