Selling Today's Modern Lever-Action Guns

The classic old-West lever action has gone tactical. Are you stocking them?

Selling Today's Modern Lever-Action Guns

Many American’s recognize lever-action rifles from famous Western movies of yesteryear, when the good guys rapidly and reliably operated the lever and brought justice to the Wild West. Ok, it was the movies — that’s why they never reloaded or cleaned any firearm, ever. Today, the famous lever gun in tactical mode has renewed interest with customers. The great news on lever-action firearms is that your options to offer customers have expanded greatly.

Thinking beyond the standard .30-30 Win. that was once the leading deer rifle in America, there are new lever-action firearms available in calibers like the currently popular 6.5 Creedmoor cartridges and 45-70 Govt. More in line with home defense purposes and your customers’ interests, numerous manufacturers offer lever-action shotgun models that shoot 12-gauge and .410 shotshells.  With all those options and all the coverage online and in print for tactical lever guns, your customers could be searching for their next firearm — a lever gun. Are you meeting their needs?

Lever Guns: Then and Now

There is history behind lever guns, and today’s tactical lever-action firearms continue this tradition of evolution in levers.

Steeped with more than 150 years of use and ownership, early lever-action rifle models had cylinders much like those used in a revolver. But then the new-era guns that won the West had tubes for holding numerous rounds, and those became the lever rifles that today reside in homes from coast to coast. In yesteryear, the Model 94 Winchester in .30-30 Win. was possibly one of the most owned firearms in America and a leading deer-hunting rifle. That rifle was easy to operate and reliable, and most users found it quick to shoulder and align with the target. All of these points could be top selling points in today’s market with tactical customers. Heads up, however —customers coming through your front door might be completely unfamiliar with lever guns.

Today, the interest in lever guns has rebounded, and you and your staff need to know the details and advantages to discuss with customers. These tactical-market firearms generally have larger levers with bigger openings for hand placement. Gone also is the standard wooden forend on most models, and now there are metal or polymer ones with room for attachments and rails. Several manufacturers offer polymer or AR-type stocks to rest on the shooter’s shoulder. More winning points with customers are that now, numerous tactical lever-action guns have rails on top, bigger and better rear and front sights, and compact 18- to 20-inch barrels that mean these short rifles and shotguns are easy to hide in the home or conceal in a vehicle. Several models are very compact with short stocks, like the Chiappa Mare’s Leg (technically it’s a pistol) that is 21 inches overall and chambers .45 Colt. More exciting news to discuss with customers is that some tactical lever rifles are chambered for .357 Mag. and .44 Mag. cartridges. To new gun owners, these could be cartridges that need introductions and details provided by you and your staff at the gun counter.

Then there are the fully equipped tactical rifles from manufacturers that combine all the features of tactical and home defense firearms in one eye-catching and very functional package. The Marlin 464 SPX is a top lever-action tactical rifle example in this category.

“Among the key features you will need to be prepared to discuss with customers are the adjustable AR-style stock that allows the 464 SPX rifle to be used by various members of the same household,” says Linda Powell, Mossberg’s director of media relations. “Then there is the ease of operation, thanks to options for a tang-mounted safety that accommodates either right- or left-handed shooters, and the Tri-Rail forend (equipped with Picatinny rails) allows for the addition of lights, aiming aids and other gear.” There’s more to call to the attention of customers.

The Mossberg 464 SPX tactical lever-action rifle is chambered in .30-30 Win. and also has three-dot adjustable fiber-optic sights. The receiver is pre-drilled and tapped for the convenience of adding an optic, the ejection port is conveniently located for clearance when using optics, and the shorter barrel length (16¼ inches) allows for ease of maneuverability in close quarters. The black rifle catches the full attention of the tactical market — and your customers.

When possible, place the firearm in a customer’s hands and explain what it will do for them. Like most sales, once they experience the firearm and feel the operation, you are on the way to closing the deal. Make the conversation centered more about meeting a customer’s needs and how the many features will serve that customer. As you move the conversation along, go beyond the list of features to make the sale. Customers want self-defense options, so explain how the rifle or shotgun will perform — for them.  

Like with any sale, if any customer seems on the fence about purchasing and turns to walk away, always ask for contact information and offer to follow up after they leave the store. Major retailers online now do this if an item is left in an online shopping cart and the customer does not complete a transaction. You could also call the customer’s attention to any articles in print or online that feature the firearm that customer was considering. Don’t be pushy, but do call attention to the firearm and how the customer could be served with the product. Speak professionally to your customers, whether they have been in your store only once before, or a hundred times, or if this is their first visit. Strive to build the customer connection before zeroing on closing a sale. This will help keep that customer returning — often.

Get 'Em Out, Get 'Em Noticed

Since customers are seeking tactical lever guns or have noticed them in print and online channels where they learn about firearms, get any lever-action tactical models you offer out in view so they are easily noticed.

Shedhorn Sports, in Ennis, Montana, for example, has tactical lever guns prominently noticeable on the front edge of the racks at the entrance to the shop’s firearms retail area. Everyone sees those rifles, including the eye-catching green Marlin 1895 lever-action rifle in .45-70.

“Lots of customers see that green tactical lever rifle and stop and pick it up,” said Rob Galletine, Shedhorn Sport’s owner. “It definitely gets a lot of attention.” It’s very noticeable that this Marlin custom shop lever-action tactical rifle is cloaked in OD green Cerakote and has an M-LOK forend, plus the lever is wrapped in survival paracord. This is a leading rifle that offers unique looks and that cool factor customers could be searching for. Shedhorn Sports also offers other tactical lever guns, like several versions of the Henry Big Boy in various calibers and the Henry H018X in .410, all with black tactical coatings or components.

Bonus Reasons to Buy

Once you hand a customer a lever gun, the conversation is easy to move along toward the sale. First and foremost, focus on the reasons to own as an easy-to-use-and-conceal home defense or in-the-vehicle firearm. These lightweight rifles are easy for anyone to move to aim or defend. A bonus for many is this is a rifle that can be owned in states and areas that may have a ban on AR- style rifles. Add in that ammunition for most calibers is widely available, and customers sell themselves. Price is another plus with customers, since many lever firearms sell for less than popular self-defense pistols and AR rifles. When speaking with your customers, be certain to call out the favorable price point, since many of those customers could be shopping with a specific budget.

Since Americans like gear and accessories, also offer and discuss with customers the many slings, on-the-firearm cartridge holders, available red-dot sights, any suppressors you offer, and rails like the Lever Rail from XS sights. You should also strive to sell the popular leather and nylon rope wrappings for the levers. Those help customers make their lever-action firearm more customized. When possible, have several employees trained to add those wraps to the lever for customers — top-shelf service with or after the sale.

As should be the practice with any firearms sale, also offer suggestions to the customer about ammunition, eye and hearing protection, a gun case, and a cleaning kit. This is also a great time to discuss home storage and safes — and to mention any training classes you offer. If limited dollars are mentioned by the customer as the reason they are not buying now, offer to take the customer’s contact information and put them on your email list to notify them when there is a sale. Service helps seal the deal on sales.

Know the Questions and Answers

Once buyers calm down and refocus in the conversation after experiencing the cool factor associated with tactical lever guns (rifles and shotguns), they often start asking questions. This is where it is key to train your staff about these firearms and how to properly answer customer questions. For many shoppers, tactical lever guns are a new world. You and any gun counter staff should never talk down to a customer but strive to answer any and all questions in a professional and courteous manner.

Remember, also, that in recent years, the number of female and first-time buyers is up, and these categories could also be a good client base for lever-action firearms. Once the new customers learn about the options, available calibers and gauges, and how to operate, they will have questions, so be prepared to provide answers — and more than opinions. Lever guns are different firearms to many, or as one shopper once said, “I’ve seen those in movies — do they still make those?” She did not know that lever guns were still being manufactured.

Like all things that you put on your social media channels, always promote tactical lever guns and many of the accessories your offer, because this is a growing market, and tactical lever-gun accessories will bring potential buyers to the counter — especially if you stock these firearms and parts that your competitors do not.

Today’s business environment is always changing — and so is the firearms customer base. Finally, remember to smile. Customers like working with people who are happy. In today’s world and business environment, everyone welcomes a smile.


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