"You can't surf the wave anymore, but you can still feel the swell."
That's how one gunshop owner described his handgun sales since Sept. 11, 2001. Yes, the terrorist attacks and ongoing threat continue to influence sales. However, today's customers are not "panic buyers."
Exit interviews with customers leaving guns stores from May through July reveal that a large number of new gun owners have thought about buying a firearm since 9-11, but have waited until now to make a purchase.
For these customers, the purchase of a handgun for self-defense was a well thought-out decision. They consulted magazine articles, studied advertising and, in some cases, read books on home security and defensive shooting. Almost all of them prowled the Internet, seeking information on handguns and gun dealers.
"This is my first handgun purchase. I learned a lot on the Internet and narrowed my choices down to two guns, either a 9mm or .40," said a new gun owner at Lee Aitkin's Sport Shop in Pocatello, Idaho. "But I needed to hold and point them, and I wanted the dealer to show me how to disassemble and clean them right. Handling the gun and talking about ammunition helped me decide." "Cowboy shooters want a dealer who knows the sport and has what they need."
The Andings agree.
"It's a matter of trust and family," Greg said. "Cowboy shooting is a family activity, far less formal than other competitions, and the dealers are part of that family. Many of them are shooters. Affiliated Merchants speak our language and they get the business."
Fite points to the large numbers of women involved in cowboy action as a key to the sport's growth. According to Fite, the Ruger Single-Six in .32 H&R Magnum is u favorite with women shooters. She keeps at least two of them in stock all the time, because the women shooters buy them in pairs.
Fite also does a brisk business in reloading equipment and components for the low-velocity lead slug loads used in cowboy action.
"And cowboy shooters shoot a lot!" Fite said.
Dealers in Utah, California, Idaho, North Dakota and Texas all agree the Ruger Vaquero is the best seller in the cowboy market.
Uberti USA gets a major share, too, with six Model 1873 single-actions, including the Cattleman in standard, Bird's Head and Flat Top designs. The company even has an 1873 Buntline.
Navy Arms is also a big player with well-priced 1875 Schofield copies and eight models of their 1873 Gunfighter.
European American Armory is also in the...