This report covers:
- The conventional way
- Metal detecting
- The deal
- Another way
- Doing it
- Doing it right
- Educated buyers
Today I want to address a topic that concerns the newer airgunners — what airgun to get. But I’m not coming at this in the conventional way.
The conventional way
The way we always start with a new airgunner is to ask what sort of shooting he or she envisions doing. Now, if they plan to compete for a spot in the Olympics in a certain shooting sport, we can stop right there. They aren’t interested in airguns beyond using one as a tool.
But for the remainder of the newbies, the question is good — except for one thing. If they are new to airguns they don’t know what’s possible. They actually don’t know what they don’t know. So talking to them about which airgun to consider is sort of a one-way conversation.
For example, the new airgunner may have been a varmint hunter with firearms. But hunting varmints with airguns is completely different. We might tell them that they have to get closer to the prairie dogs for a clean kill, only to discover that in the end they like shooting the heads off paper wasps at 20 yards. Who knew? You don’t need a .22-caliber AirForce Condor for that! A TalonSS or a Benjamin Marauder in .177 caliber might be their best bet. And spend the money for a really good scope!
What I plan to discuss today is not the conventional approach to someone who is new to airguns. Instead, I’m going to come from a standpoint of maturity. Not all new airgunners are also new to shooting. Some have been shooting for decades and just want to see what all the hoopla is about these new airguns. I will get back to this point, but allow me to depart for just a little bit.
I have been metal detecting since the early 1960s. That’s almost when the hobby began. My first detector was a Metrotech 220, made in Mountain View, California. It was a marvelous bit of kit — able to find a shiny American silver quarter on a sunny day, so long as it was lying on top of the ground!
Without getting too technical, the Metrotech was a beat frequency oscillator that transmitted a radio signal that metal objects below the coil reflected back to a receiver in the machine. It worked, but only just, when compared to where metal detectors were to go. However, it was perfect for my use. I hunted carnival sites around San Jose, California. These small seasonal carnivals would pull onto a piece of property and set up their rides and attractions in a horseshoe pattern. Then they dumped shake (wood bark) in the center of the area for people to walk on. When they left the site perhaps a couple weeks later, I moved in and, using the detector, I collected all the money they had dropped. I would pick up $7 to $10 in a few hours and I was done. All the coins were silver, because until 1965 all American coinage except pennies were silver.
The shake covering on the ground meant that I didn’t have to dig — just scrape the bark pieces away. Of course there was also a lot of trash in the form of aluminum foil from gum wrappers, plus the cheap metal giveaways from the carnival (badges and so on). Thankfully the pull tab on aluminum soda cans didn’t come out until the mid 1960s, so they weren’t a problem.
Fast-forward about 12 years and I had just returned from a 4-year tour in Germany. I bought a White’s metal detector and learned that the technology had advanced tremendously! This detector was able to discriminate (ignore) aluminum pull tabs that were now littering American soil by the billions. I got pretty good at finding stuff at that time. And some of it was up to 9 inches deep!
Jump forward another ten years and I am remarried and living in Maryland. Metal detector technology has advanced even farther and I am finding real treasure! I hunted Maryland with my wife, Edith, for a decade and a half. I even published an article in the magazine, Western and Eastern Treasures, in January of 2001.
And now we come to today — April 8, 2022. I still have my detector from the late 1990s but it no longer works, and once again the technology has advanced. BB Pelletier wants to get back into the sport, but he doesn’t want to be limited by technology. So he is looking into what is out there. Okay, let’s get back to airguns.
This is where I depart from the classic, “What do you want to do with your airgun?” approach. Instead I will talk about success that’s so big it causes companies to fail and go under. This is how it works. The marketeers in Company A learn that velocity sells airguns. So velocity is all they focus on. Whatever it takes, they want the highest f.p.s. That makes them do certain things.
1. They concentrate on .177 caliber guns because they get the highest velocity.
2. They put expensive lithographed covers on their boxes, proclaiming the high velocity of the product inside.
3. They test those airguns with super lightweight pellets that give the fastest velocities.
And they sell and sell! They sell so much that they put the company in dire jeopardy. Know why? Because they are selling to buyers who frequent the discount stores. That forces them to do one more thing:
4. They cut prices to the bone.
Here is the other side of the story — the side that the 30-year-old vice presidents of marketing will never admit to. Buyers of cut-price high velocity airguns don’t shoot them very much. They don’t because those guns are difficult to cock, harsh to shoot and not very accurate.
If those buyers do any research at all, it’s after they buy their gun. They read where some Bozo named BB Pelletier put five pellets from an air rifle into 0.030-inches at 33 feet. It isn’t the rifle they own — oh, no! His costs $700 and all they paid for theirs was $119. In fact they can’t find a test that this BB guy has done on their air rifle. So they reckon he’s either a liar or he has more money than they do. So they quit airguns altogether and take up building model rockets or collecting Redline Hot Wheels.
Multiply that scenario a hundred thousand times and that is the audience the marketeers in Company A are targeting. They come and they go because, as Phineas Taylor Barnum is alleged to have said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” But fewer and fewer new buyers are coming each year. It seems people are reading the honest blogs and forums and don’t want to throw their money away anymore. And the discount store has pallets of returns that Company A has to redistribute somehow.
By that time the Vice President of marketing is 33 and sees the train wreck that’s coming. He bails with a splendid resume and becomes the CEO of a sports footwear company.
Company B, on the other hand, is run by people who love airguns, or at least they like to shoot. They would never sell products like the ones Company A sold. Their airguns retail for many times more than the cheap ones from Company A, but they please their customers. Where Company A was taking orders for 20,000 guns every quarter, Company B doesn’t sell that half many guns in a year. But Company B’s airguns don’t come back. They don’t sell them in discount stores and they maintain their retail prices. Where Company A has pallets of returned guns to get rid of, Company B can’t keep up with the demand.
As a result, in five years Company A has posted huge losses, which gives their marketing team even more pressure to sell. That drives them to seek products that are even less expensive, which puts them into a tailspin they might not recover from. At this point some companies start buying other smaller successful companies like Company B to harvest whatever success they can, but they usually get rid of any of the people who made the little company successful. They do because those people talk too much and they don’t say the right things.
Are all customers like the ones I depicted earlier? Not at all. If you educate them you can grow a crop of customers that will provide a steady stream of income. If you then also grow this customer base you can create your own wave of success that can be carefully surfed for years.
Let’s now take a look at how not to do it.
Metal detector manufacturing company C has a “blog” in which there are articles that educate the new buyer. What I am telling you now is a true story. Company C has a total of 4 “blog” articles that have been written over the past 4 years about general metal detecting subjects, and they also have what they call knowledge-based articles that are reviews of the models of detectors they make and sell. Pretty thin!
Sure, it’s nice to know how this and that works on a certain machine when you are considering buying one, but who will tell you how to notch-discriminate using sound and volume to hit the deep nickels and miss the pull tabs? This company won’t — that’s for sure. Maybe on You Tube, but that’s a risk as well.
Want to tell everyone about your metal detecting finds? Sure thing. Just fill out their submission form by entering the required data in all the fields and hit “send.” Maybe they will post it some day in the future.
Doing it right
Airgun online retail company D has a blog with 4,500 articles written on all sorts of airgun subjects. They also have videos on general shooting subjects as well as product reviews. In their blog they allow the writer to express his personal opinion, plus they encourage readers to submit their comments. There are more than 100,000 registered readers of this blog and hundreds of thousands more who are not registered.
In this blog the writer has permission to venture off-topic and he does from time to time. He might tell people how to shoot a .223 Remington accurately or how a Ballard single-shot rifle from the 1800s is built to get as much accuracy as possible. Then, in his airgun articles, he will reference things like follow-through and muzzle crowns and expect his readers to understand. He will expect his readers to understand why a .452 bullet is not accurate in a certain big bore airgun, but a .458 bullet is.
This writer will have some readers who complain when he gets off topic this way and they will leave. They say they are leaving forever, but he watches them sneak back in over the years. He also watches people who know about firearms get excited to see how far the airgun technology has advanced in recent years. They are the ones who join the blog as registered readers and they form the bulk of the educated customer base.
Oh, and this company’s blog allows the readers to submit their own personal stories with photos that the writer then edits and formats for them. The readers seem to like those stories best of all.
An educated buyer can tell you why it’s worth spending so much money for airgun X. Airgun X is worth ten of airgun — well, there really is no comparison, is there? Airgun X is accurate, powerful, has a great trigger and can be rebuilt by anyone smart enough to change the batteries in a flashlight. If he can’t afford airgun X the educated reader knows he must wait, save his money and perhaps look at refurbished guns or even at used guns.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is how it is done. And that, Company A, is the future of airguns for you.