by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Don’t dabble
  • Retail sales
  • Prisoner joke 49
  • Mr. Fix-it
  • Success — sort of
  • Sell your skill
  • Build a better mousetrap
  • What am I saying?

Today I am writing to those readers who think they would like to have a business that deals with airguns. I hear from people all the time who think they would like to be involved in the airgun business. Sometimes they ask for advice. Here it comes, whether or not you asked.

Don’t dabble

The first thing I look for in a person who wants to get into the airgun business (or any business, for that matter) is passion. Do they have passion for what they say they want to do? If a person tells me they are retired and just want to dabble in airguns I tell them that’s like dabbling in skydiving. At some point you have to jump, and then you DEFINITELY have to pull the ripcord! Skydiving gets real serious real fast.

If I ask you why you want to get into airguns and you smile and say you think it would be neat, I would advise another career. If, on the other hand, you are still talking 25 minutes later, then I would say maybe you have a chance. Those who get into airguns and make something of it are often people who can’t do anything else. I don’t mean they aren’t capable — I mean nothing else turns them on.

Retail sales

Okay, if you were all prisoners, I would now shout out “Forty Nine!” and you would laugh. There will be many readers who don’t understand what I am saying so I will explain.

Prisoner joke 49

A new prisoner in his cell hears someone in the cellblock shout out “37” and everyone laughs. Then someone else shouts out “19” and again everyone laughs. He asks his cellmate what’s happening and is told that everyone in prison has heard all the jokes so many times that they gave them numbers to make them easier to tell. He thinks that’s wonderful, so he suddenly shouts “49” at the top of his lungs and there is total silence! He then asks his cellmate what happened and the cellmate responded, “You told it wrong.”

So, I won’t make the same mistake. Instead I will ask you to read this blog about starting a retail airgun business. Oh, and “Number 5!”

You’re not laughing.

Okay, maybe retail is not your thing. What about repairs? People are always wanted to get their airguns fixed. I gave you a clue in that last blog story, but here is the whole deal.

Mr. Fix-it

You decide to fix pneumatics and CO2 guns. They seem to break more than other guns and guys are always telling you they need to get theirs fixed. To your amazement, it turns out that these guns are pretty easy to work on, as long as they are in stock condition and as long as they are either Crosman or Benjamin models for which there are parts.

But that soon becomes the problem. Many of the guns you are asked to fix are not in stock condition. They have been messed with and the repair parts no longer fit they way they should. You discover that, before bringing them to you, the owners fix the easy ones. They only bring the guns to you that they can’t repair.

And then there is the price. A Benjamin 392 repair kit costs you $24 delivered. So you charge $39, plus shipping, hoping to make $15 for what takes at least an hour and often many times longer. Customers complain about the price, because when they bought the rifle in 1993 it didn’t cost much more than what you are charging. Forget the fact that it retails for over $150 today — they didn’t buy it today.

Success — sort of

You know the worst thing that can happen? You succeed and the word gets around that you are the man to see. As the weeks pass your shop in the garage builds up with box after box of guns needing repairs. You don’t just need to fix all of them, there is paperwork to do, parts to order and inventory, endless phone calls to take (and try to finish in less than two hours!) and so on. At the end of the month it dawns on you that you are working harder than you did in your career and making less than you currently pay your lawn service!

Sell your skill

Okay, retail and maintenance are out. What about skill? Can you sell that? You are a woodworker without equal. Could you be happy with a business making custom stocks and grips? In the beginning, yes, because you have a lot of time to do your work. You make stocks for popular air rifles like the Benjamin Marauder and they sell quickly. So quickly that you run out and soon get behind on the orders.

As you become better-known, the demand rises and what was once a pleasant pastime turns into a drudgery. You raise your prices to slow it down and all it does is increase the demand, due to perceived value. This is a bad sort of success because you long for the good old days when this was just a hobby, all the while people are saying unkind things about your slow delivery. Forget selling skill. Try something else.

Build a better mousetrap

What if you made something everybody needs and says they want? Something nobody else is making. Surely there is some money in that?

I don’t know. Let’s ask JerryC, the Pelletgage guy, and Codeuce, the target guy. Have either of them bought that yacht and retired to the Islands yet?

Seriously — I think both men are pleased that they do something related to airguns. I use both their products and find them well made and very useful. But I think they would tell us that there are a lot of invisible things involved in an airgun-related business that you never think about until you have to do them.

I quit working for the man (an employer) in 1996, thinking my time would finally be my own. Well, a lot more of it was — no silly classes to take, no more endless meetings where all you do is waste time. But I have never had all my time to myself. The fact that there are others in the world means there will alway be some time that is not yours to use as you please. To be successful at anything you need to learn how to deal with time management so you get the most out of the time that you have.

What am I saying?

If you took the time to read that old blog I linked to, I’m saying this — in the immortal words of Roseanne Rosannandanna, “It’s always something.” For the benefit of our younger readers and those outside the U.S. who never saw Saturday Night Live on television in its heyday, what that means is, no matter what topic you discuss, things are never as straightforward as you would like them to be.

Get into airguns if you must but don’t expect to make a killing — or even to come out ahead. If you do, consider yourself lucky. If words like that don’t deter you, welcome aboard!