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Education / Training “They” strike again!

“They” strike again!

This report covers:

  • Harley LiveWire
  • Airguns?
  • Electric sports cars?
  • But what do our customers REALLY want?
  • So, who is your customer?
  • How to make a buck
  • The BB School of Business
  • The point

What do electric vehicles have to do with airguns? Nothing? Oh, wait — they are part of the great learning curve.

Harley LiveWire

In 2019 Harley Davidson started making the LiveWire — a $30,000 electric motorcycle that got as much as 110 miles per charge and then took 12 hours to fully recharge. It was quiet, which is what you want on city streets — a fast vehicle that’s hard to see and completely silent. The European Union has actually outlawed vehicles that are quieter than a certain minimum level because they are — well — unsafe!

Livewire
Harley Davidson LiveWire.

So Harley Davidson, the guys who make large, noisy in-your-face motorcycles decide to build an expensive totally silent bike that gets about 50 real-world miles per charge (that’s the word from owners) before it needs to be connected to the wall overnight. Hey, but at least it doesn’t pollute the air! The electric company that serves you might, but that’s way far away and we don’t have to see it when they do.

In 2021 Harley spun off the Live Wire as a separate brand (distancing themselves), lowered the price by $8,000 and extended the range per charge to 95-146 miles (you just know the tester was dragging both feet when he crossed the finish line on that test). Charging is now high-speed — if you have the right connections. And, joy of joy, the LiveWire now gets an estimated 3-4 years of service before the batteries have to be replaced!

What marketing genius thought that one up?

My Harley dealership was giving away LiveWire T-shirts because customers didn’t even want them, to say nothing of the actual motorcycles. They have two LiveWires on display that I believe they are considering turning into planters.

Airguns?

Okay, so what is the airgun equivalent of the LiveWire? How about a pellet rifle that shoots a .177 caliber pellet at 1,600 f.p.s.? It can’t hit the wall of a barn from the inside, but, hey — it is fast! It was probably dreamt up by the same marketing genius that thought Harley Davidson riders wanted a super-quiet vibration-free motorcycle with a short range and costly battery replacements.

Electric sports cars?

Howzabout electric sports cars nobody can afford? Well, let’s see. Lamborghini has built a 6.5-liter 819 horsepower V12 Sian hybrid that sold for $3.9 million, but that was a limited run of just 63 vehicles. They plan to have an all-electric model out before 2030. Better hurry — the 12 people on the planet who’ll buy one are aging fast!

Now Ferrari went into high-rate (for Ferrari) production, making 500 La Ferrari hybrids for the bargain price of just $1,200,000. The V12 was boosted to 950 horsepower by electric motors that give the auto an all-electric cruising range of — wait for it — 16 miles per charge.  But hey, it’s clean electricity, right?

Ferrari plans for an all-electric car by 2025 and they say it’s going to be big! Of course it is. Gotta be to hold those batteries!

But what do our customers REALLY want?

“Why do you shoot a .45?” “Because they don’t make a .46!” Ba, dump, bump (cymbal crash).

So Smith and Wesson makes the .500 Magnum — the handgun that Dirty Harry Callahan is afraid to shoot. If you hold your off hand near the cylinder when it fires, ouch! The Mythbusters used one that way to cut an analog human thumb made with chicken bones. There is a lot of controversy surrounding that test, but the point was made — don’t put your hand near the cylinder gap of a .500 Magnum!

Who would own one? The guy whose friends think he owns the most powerful everything. Gotta keep the legend alive, right?

So, what about the .50 BMG (Browning machine gun) in a sporting rifle? Well, for as little as $2,400 you can play with the big boys. But not every sandbox is friendly. Many states have ranges that permit the round, but they are far fewer than the number of ranges for conventional firearms. 

I quoted the lowest price for the .50 BMG rifle. Prices extend up into the low five figures. And ammo? Ten rounds of the stuff that’s legal to shoot on most ranges will set you back $40. But hey, Dillon sells a “Big Fifty BFR” (let the reader interpret) reloader for only $1,850. The dies will set you back another $2,000 but after that you can make more rounds for about — well, $4.00 a cartridge is about the going rate.

Build a Custom Airgun

So, who is your customer?

Electric vehicles — environmentalists who don’t look too far upstream.
Quiet motorcycles — to be determined.
1,600 f.p.s. airguns — young men with $200-300 to spend and a crew to brag to.
Super-powerful handguns — guys called Lefty.
Fifty BMG rifles — military and law enforcement snipers and guys with a crew.
Insanely powerful and fast electric sports cars — guys whose huge garages have mirrored walls.

How to make a buck

Okay, the .50 BMG is priced out of reach. But there are .50 caliber airguns around. And they are more affordable. And they are much easier to shoot. And you don’t need a special range for them since they are in-between .45 ACP and .357 Magnum handguns in power! And the bullets cost far, far less than four bucks a round. B.B. Pelletier buys his for around 30-50 cents, each.

And the Cat’s Paw Buzzalot Mega-Magnum breakbarrel may not hit what you shoot at, but for about the same money and a lot less pain, a Diana 34 EMS will put ’em where you want ’em. Keep the Cat’s Paw handy for when folks come around to what you’re shooting.

The BB School of Business

At the BB School of Business (BBSB — an unsanctioned institution) we make our marketing students use each product they promote and present the results before the bored regents. Many of our graduates have gone on to have fabulous careers in the public sanitation industry.

The point

I don’t know. Is there a point today?

What I was going for is the same theme we have been on for a couple weeks — learning who your market is and making products for them. I just came at it from a different direction today.

To me the Livewire seems like a failed notion from the get-go. But I would put a 1,600 f.p.s. breakbarrel springer in the same category. Maybe, because of the lower price, you can sell a few hundred of the breakbarrels with great box graphics. You will never sell a thirty thousand dollar nearly silent motorcycle to someone who wants a Harley. But are there  enough wealthy environmentalists who also like riding motorcycles? Sound to me like trying to sell a freezer to an Eskimo.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

43 thoughts on ““They” strike again!”

  1. I realize that this question has little to to with the art of business/marketing, but where else can a gun guy go for the truth? Just to fill in a little background here; I have a new TX200, 22cal that I purchased from Pyramyd (where else) a couple of months ago. Unfortunately, the rubber bumper for the cocking lever has fallen out and now doesn’t want to stay in place anymore. OK, I purchased a package of o-rings from my local auto parts supply house. They seem to work alright for now, but are they the best solution for keeping the cocking lever from marring the bluing on the barrel? Surely Air Arms can come up with a more robust bumper than the disappointing one currently used. I know that I’m not the only klutz to break one of these off as I’ve seen it mentioned in a couple of the reviews of the TX200. A little of your wisdom would be appreciated. Orv

  2. Yea, as a motorcycle rider, small quiet and fast, are three things that should not be in the same package..

    One of my friends is blind, since the widespread adoption of electric cars, we have both agreed that every electric vehicle should have an onboard sound generator.
    You could as the end user, choose your own sound.

    Some may not realize it, but many current cars, pump artificial engine audio into the car through the stereo system to give the owners the thrill of the reving engine, but still meet mandated outside noise levels.

    The BMW I8 is a hybrid vehicle that uses a small 1.5 liter 3 cylinder gas engine to charge the batteries, that power the electric motor.
    The car uses an external speaker cleverly disguised as a tailpipe through which it pumps the sound of a supercar engine to match the perceived performance of the car, and because of the cars looks, how they think it should sound.

    Have fun, want it to sound like a top fuel dragster?
    How about a 1960’s muscle car?
    My vote? Make it sound like the Jetson’s cartoon car..
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eozWWvBW7ZY

    Ian

  3. B.B.,

    Just for bragging rights the guy with the 1,600 fps air rifle probably also owns that double barreled monstrosity marketed by Beeman. Talk about a product looking for a market! Or as Jeff Cooper I believe stated, “The double action automatic pistol is a solution looking for a problem.” Eventually the problem came about but it took the better part of 40 years before it was found.

    Siraniko

    PS: Section Electric sports cars? Last paragraph first sentence: “Ferrari plans for an all-electric car by 2025 and they say is’t (it’s) going to be big!”

  4. BB,

    That would be a nice looking bike if it had a real engine. So when are you getting a Can Am?

    BBSB? Should not that be BBSOB? Are you saying that roll I was given at graduation is only good for wiping? I thought that was my diploma.

    Now, if I lived in the backwoods of Alaska, I would have 2 of those S&W .500 Magnum pistols in snub nose, one for Mrs. RR and one for me and they will be loaded with hollow points. We would not open the door without strapping one on. That is a place where you are not necessarily at the top of the food chain and I want to argue that point effectively.

    As for the 1600 FPS air rifle, I started down that road a while back and quickly figured out it was a dead end and turned around. I really do not know what this Webley/Hatsan Tomahawk will do, but I am planning on slowing it down some anyway.

      • Paco,

        According to the calculator, a 9mm Parabellum has more power than a .45 ACP. Personal experimentation and experience says otherwise.

        .500 is a larger, heavier bullet and even in hollow point will have considerable penetration, along with expansion and fragmentation. Recoil? You have obviously never had the amounts of adrenalin you will have when face to face with a grizzly or mountain lion. At those times, you will be surprised that even a lady will have no trouble handling that hand cannon.

        .454 Casull? .45 Long Colt? What would I want those pop gun rounds for? Rabbits?

        Now, what would be nice is if someone was to bring out a lever action carbine chambered in .500 S&W Magnum. That would be a great guide gun.

        • Sheesh……

          You specified a snub nose, so, yes the .460 S&W will be better in that application. Speed wins out and slightly better recovery for a follow up shot.
          I spent a good portion of my younger years dealing with adrenaline scenarios. Takeaways- hits count and keep pulling the trigger.

          Big Horn Armory Model 89- .500 S&W
          Big Horn Armory Model 90- .460 S&W

  5. BB
    I applaud any company that can find room to employ mentally handicapped or ‘challenged’ people.
    My old company actually installed a wheel chair ramp at our aircraft maintenance shop at the airport. It sure helped us move stuff into the shop but no handicapped mechanics ever came on board to use it? Probably because the ramp that would allow a wheel chair to get on top of the wings never showed up?
    But, one must wonder, does Harley only hire them for management jobs in the Sales, Design and Engineering Departments? But then again it could be a great way to make a point with the EPA, it wont work !
    Looks like an electric racing project thingy anyway.

  6. BB.

    Interesting. On batteries and solar,.. the people benefiting are the industry players who stand to make money. With by the way, full support and mandates out of DC.

    Like batteries are considered toxic,….. solar panels are deemed toxic the minute the get removed. Anyone knows solar panels are going up everywhere in large scale. Guess what stores that solar energy,… batteries!

    Just recycle you say? Maybe. How good is that tech.? What is left over toxic waste that can not be reused? I am sure many have seen (or know of actual sites) that have thousands of leaking barrels of toxic goo that has been there for decades.

    Recycling in general has not been efficient (total picture) for many years. There have been HUGE strides made. Many are still govt. subsidized.

    One expert stated that it would take 10 years at least to domestic critical materials for batteries and solar. AND THAT is assuming that we (allow) the mining here in the US. Guess who does have everything we need? CHINA! So all this woke, fuzzy, blue bunnies and rainbow crap supports China. They are happy to sell to us and we are happy to buy from them,…. but they still want to crush us like little cockroaches within the next 10 years,… as recently stated in no uncertain terms.

    I am all for clean/renewable energy,…. but it has to be transitory, practical and not have bigger consequences in the end overall.

    Rant? Maybe a bit. It also permits a deeper look into batteries and the whole clean movement.

    Chris

    • Chris,

      Rant? Nah. My understanding of a rant is a loud, vocal expression of opinion with no basis in fact. You know, what we hear out of the Democrats in Congress and the Executive branch.

  7. B.B.

    I appreciate the BB sense of humor so I’m unsure whether this sentence is tongue-in-cheek humor or misuse of the word that spell check inserted. “At the BB School of Business (BBSB — an unsanctioned institution) we make our marketing students use each product they promote and present the results before the bored (board of)regents.” As I look again, I think that you were right before my correction.

    In another life, straight out of college, I was part of a community mobility program for blind clients. Seeing-eye dogs are not the magic solution for every blind person. They require constant training and may not fit into the living situation for a family. The agency tried a pilot program to teach clients how to travel around their community using a long cane as a means of detecting hazards.

    There is a myth that God compensates for the loss of one sense by improving others. Not true. A blind person starts out one sense down and with all the others in the same degree that the rest of us have. So the sense of hearing is no better or worse than that possessed by the seeing population. Even back then, 1960s, quiet cars were a problem. It takes a lot of concentration to walk about using a long cane as a tool to avoid dangers, curb edges, street crossings, etc. Continuing to be oriented to the streets and the your position relative to your travel goal, home, store, whatever, requires focus. It’s easy to be so attentive to the internal process that one can miss external things like car sounds. So, yes, some kind of auditory cue from an otherwise silent vehicle, is likely a “good thing” as Martha might say.

    For the rest of us too. I’ve been on “auto pilot” while driving and found myself enroute to my church when I should have been starting a trip to our daughter’s home two hours away. It’s easy to be involved internally rather than attending externally.

    Dan

  8. In a parking lot a few years and walking to go into a store. I walked right in front of an all electric car as they started to pull out. I did not see (or hear) them and they did not notice me. Close,… like 6″,.. but all ended well. Yes,.. external noise makers should be required.

  9. Businesses will make what they think they can sell, and sometimes they seem to try to keep up with the Joneses (their competitors). Reading your article, B.B. left me saying “What were they thinking?” But then I thought of a few semi-rational explanations:

    The electric bike and sports cars: I think electric vehicles are the fastest growing segment of vehicle sales. If we want to cash in on that, we better develop something before our competitors do. After all, if our customers drive a Volt or an electric bicycle (looking at you, B.B.) to work, and a Harley on the weekends, maybe they would rather drive a Highwire to work instead. It it true? Perhaps not, but it seems like a plausible line of thinking.

    With airguns, I think many of us had our introduction to airguns by walking into a big box store with no information and $150 – 200 to spend. How does one decide? Well, if I have a choice between 750 fps and 1000 fps, I want to get my money’s worth. Then the company offering the 750 GPS gun will offer 1300 fps next year. Unfortunately for our sport, $150 isn’t enough for most folks to really research before making a buying decision based on the fluff printed on the outside of the box. Hopefully they don’t get frustrated with a non-accurate, non-backyard-friendly gun that will wind up in the back of the closet.

    Let’s give them an alternative that will promote the sport. I would suggest instead of an arms race to the top of the fps pile, manufacturers race to the top of the shootability pile with quantifiable measures of same: “Most accurate out out of the box for under $200! (Actual test target included)” Let’s see competitor X best that next year. “Quietest airgun in its class! (85db)” Next year look for 80db. Perhaps an annual award for “Best Entry-Level Airgun” from a reputable independent source. More airguns actually get shot on the weekends, which means more pellet and accessory sales, which means brand loyalty, which means repeat customers, which means more interest in the sport. That’s a business cycle I would want to be on. That seems better than trying to capture just the newbie Wally-mart shopper market, who will likely as not walk away from the sport and get into golf.

    –Roamin’ Greco

    For the good of the order: in the section, “So, who is your customer?” the first line is punctuated, but the rest are not, making them a bit hard to read on the phone.

  10. BB
    You know I think a lot of todays kids, yes us older ones too, start out thinking they are getting the equivalent of a 22 cal rifle when they get a magnum powered airgun, without all the legal hassle too. And, being new to the sport think that all guns are accurate. You just need to adjust the sights to hit your target.

    Today we know better, but not the new guy, unless he does his internet homework. Me, I just gambled I could find the right combination of gun and ammo for long, hard hitting shots. Then the PCP’s showed up and created a bunch of wall decorations and curios.

  11. B.B.,

    There are some exceedingly cool electric motorcycles out there — I’ve read the articles and drooled over the photos! And I kinda like the look of the LiveWire’s picnic cooler powerplant. But I can’t help but think of the whole forgetting-what-made-you mistake happening yet again. As you wrote, Harleys are about a loud vibrating monster. Harley might just be the undisputed world champion of this sort of marketing error.

    Michael

  12. BB-

    Just for the benefit of the non firearm shooters out there- the revolver cylinder gap that is present on most revolvers, can bite the unwary. It’s not just the .500 S&W that will leave a mark. Even a lowly .22 can hurt. Be careful out there and learn to shoot before pulling the trigger the first time.

  13. Fellow readers: I just have to say, last Friday’s blog was a classic in my book. I have re-read that 20 times or more and I’m still picking up nuances and new ideas and trying to understand all the engineering concepts. Thanks to all who contributed to the conversation. It makes me more eager to complete my goal to read the entire blog from 2005 forward and learn everything I can about this great pastime. Who knew “shootin’ at stuff” would be the basis for such a rich fountain of ideas and knowledge branching into so many areas of science, politics, and more! Not to mention, it’s fun to shoot at stuff and challenge yourself to achieve better results.

    • Roamin,

      Just remember that old B.B. Pelletier was learning all this stuff as he goes. You might find some of the older stuff when BB was not yet up to speed. Of course he now is, so everything you read from now on is gospel! 😉

      People say I should take all the blogs and make them into a book. Well — I am. I’m just editing them, one day at a time. It’s kinda like life.

      BB

    • Roamin
      This last weekends blog was one of the better ones in while in my opinion. Whatever that may account for.

      Some years back we use to get pretty technical on some subjects on the blog. I found it very encouraging and exciting to see what was going to get brought up for that day. That has kind of slacked off for a while now. But last weekend’s blog kind of hit home again. Like the old days of the blog. There was always something going on about why our air guns did what they do.

      Not that BB’s other topics ain’t interesting but the technical ones is always the ones I liked. Maybe that’s why ole BB decided to pick on ole Gunfun1 this weekend 😉 😉 BB. I believe he knows what ole Gunfun1 is about after all this time. But yep alot of good discussion this last weekend.

  14. B.B.

    What really gets me about the “electric vehicle movement” is that I understand that 70% of an ICE vehicle’s carbon footprint is making the thing in the first place and only 30% is driving it for 10 years.
    So I would think that the most environmentally thing to do would be keep your ICE vehicle for over 20 years until the initial 70% become 50% or less. Plus mining lithium is horrible for the environment.
    I also understand the the reason the Livewire gets such limited range is because of the very poor aerodynamics of the bike. However, if you want to win “The Race to the Clouds”, you better be electrified.

    -Yogi

    PS Loud pipes do not save lives, they just annoy people.

    • Yogi,

      It has been awhile since I looked into it,…. but ethanol from corn for gas is also a loosing proposition right out the gate when it comes to total carbon footprint (seed to tank). And, that seed for this year had to processed from last years. But,.. it provides the farmers a broader corn market.

      Chris

    • Yogi,

      Being one who rides a very loud Harley, I have to say they do both. I have annoyed a lot of people and they have indeed saved my butt more than once.

      By the way, it is a 2006 and my pick’emup truck is a 2004. They are kept running almost as good as new. Also I cannot trade them in because they are worth a whole lot more to me then the dealers will give me. I think a new Ford Ranger is about $40K. I can keep my pick’emup truck in real good shape a real long time for that.

      I like the old airguns also. They may not shoot at 1600 FPS, but I can hit what I am shooting at and it will not cost much to keep my 1906 BSA shooting another hundred years.

  15. B.B. and Readership,

    “THEY” Strike again! …and again, …and again, …and again, …and again…

    Found this in HAM piece:

    So this is the WORD from the manufacturer; or maybe the retailers hype? I can’t really tell but this is “The Solution to KNOWING what is in my PCP vessel” LOL!

    “This next-generation 28mm pressure gauge is built on Analog to Digital Converter technology and is designed to offer repeatable, reliable, and accurate pressure measurements over time, even in a variety of harsh environments.

    ±0.25% Accuracy Sensor insures the Digital Reading”

    The key is in the “…Analog to Digital Converter technology…” Say What!
    But then any Digital readout MUST be more accurate than an analog display… right? Not just accurate but ABSOLUTE value accurate.

    Don’t fall for this kind of STUFF without checking out the REAL specifications of the entire system over the full operating range that you will likely use.

    Personally the repeatability of my indicator reading is more important to me…not one of my PCP vessels has ever failed. I have a CAL LAB refference gauge that I rarely use it just isn’t needed.

    shootski

    • Shootski,

      I was just reading that article a little bit ago. Really? Like you said, how accurately calibrated is the sensor? How well does the converter work? How reliable is both the sensor and the converter? How stable are the sensor and converter? I thought that was a pretty good doodad and would not mind having one, but I will stick with my tank gauge thank you very much. It is my constant. In one PCP the pressure is low. In another the pressure is high. These small gauges are notoriously inaccurate, whether they be analog or digital.

      I will admit, the digital is easier to read. It is also glitzy compared to your run of the mill analog gauge on a PCP. You want to spiff your airgun up? Give it a digital readout.

      Your digital caliper is reading .00596″. Is it really? When was the last time it was calibrated?

    • Shootski,

      Just read the article. It is nice in that it allows reading of a hard/clear value. Good for math/calculating stuff like air used per shot or air used per 10 shots. I would prefer it over a dial gauge. The RW LCD screen is nice. On the Maximus, I use the Guppy Tank 2″ gauge. For the RW, I watch the LCD value in live time.

      Beyond that,… yea,… a bunch of hooey. +/- accuracy and calibration vs actual still applies regardless of gauge type.

      Chris

  16. BB, I agree, there is no point today. Plus, nobody can hear in space either, it’s pretty quiet there too. I read it smells like a foundry. Thanks for showing up just the same. Harley’s business model depends on endless generations of one type of user. I would like my electric truck to sound like a Porsche 917 when I’m driving next to slash cut pipes., if they could add haptics so the body shook that would be cool too. How about a bipod with built in artillary float for my springer?
    Rob
    Rob

  17. B.B.,
    You couldn’t give me a LiveWire (I’ll keep my old Heritage Softail) or a 1600 fps springer from a big box store!
    But your report made me think; after I had spine surgery, my wife bought me a (2-year-old) Smart car (NOT the electric one) with heated seats. It got 40 mpg in the city, so it was perfect for my commute to work. But when I went to the dealership up in Atlanta one day, a friend asked me to talk to the manager about the electric Smart cars. Well, I did speak with him; they sell Smart cars (a Mercedes product) on one side, and Mercedes cars on the other side; and the manager can drive any car he wants. So what does he drive? A Smart car, because parking in Atlanta can be tight. But he drives a gas-powered one (like mine); he said he wouldn’t drive an electric one because, although they are supposed to be good for 120 miles on a charge, 80 miles is more realistic; and he can’t take the chance of being on the 285 beltway around the city and running our of juice. He told me to tell my friend NOT to get one; also, he told me that the company was about to go all electric with their Smart cars, and he advised them not to…and yes, the management did NOT listen to him; they went all electric…and they didn’t even increase the size of the battery compartment in order to extend the range. I’ve got over 100,000 miles on my little Smart car, and it’s running like a top. But I am SO thankful that I do not have one of the electric ones. I’m not sure what their marketing guys were thinking…if they were thinking at all; they didn’t even want to listen to one of their own managers in a big city when he tried to tell them that marketing electric cars with a short range in a big city was a bad idea.
    Hmmm…perhaps if more marketing people had to actually USE the products they try to push on us it would be an improvement? Hahaha! =>
    Anway, this was a great report; thank you.
    Take care & God bless,
    dave

  18. Still miss our 2009 VW Jetta Diesel – ran great, sometimes squeezed 50 mpg out of a tank, usually nothing less than 45 mpg. Of course, VW had to cheat on emissions, so after 103K miles of enjoyable driving, turned it in to VW; they made us an offer we couldn’t refuse.

    Seems somebody has forgotten about a diesel-electric hybrid combo…as seen on U-Boats. Perhaps it is not so practical on land and with current emission restrictions in force. Speaking of, shouldn’t politicians be subject to emission restrictions?

    • FM,

      “Speaking of, shouldn’t politicians be subject to emission restrictions?”

      Well, since you can (if you could) do the same thing they do, that is kind of a mute point. On the other hand,… if I preach cut and conserve to you,.. but I do the opposite,… there is a word for that.

      Now,….. if you were referring to something ever capturing the emissions from the copious amounts of BS they spew,….. don’t hold your breath.

      😉 Chris

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