By: Kimberly Drake
It seems one can’t turn on the TV or open a newspaper without being inundated by rants from the anti-gun establishment. Fueled by recent school shootings, their demands have been heard by big-box sporting goods stores and companies (such as Dick’s Sporting Goods) that have caved to their pressure and refused to continue selling “assault-style” rifles, high-capacity magazines, and firearms to people under the age of 21.
But Dick’s (and Walmart’s and REI’s and L.L. Bean’s and Kroger’s) loss appears to be the little guys’ gain.
“Sales are up,” Tim “Mac” McAuliffe of North Coast Arms and Ammo in Minocqua, Wisconsin, told Gunpowder Magazine.
McAuliffe operates his shop in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, where the economies of two small, adjoining tourist towns are supported by hunters and shooting enthusiasts.
McAuliffe and fellow longtime gun-shop proprietor, Chuck Dicka of Hunters Headquarters in Woodruff, exemplify small storefront businesses across America. They are in the grassroot trenches, fighting to uphold the Second Amendment by providing products and services for the firearm enthusiast. They say dealing with anti-gun rhetoric and its effects is just another day at the office.
McAuliffe says gun sales have fluctuated over the years, and when the anti-gun faction pushes, he experiences a surge in “panic” sales.
Tim McAuliffe inside his gun shop.
Dicka says he saw more of a surge in sales during the Obama administration.
“When people first thought they could lose their rights, their guns or their ammo, sales went crazy,” Dicka said. “I saw a 10-fold increase in sales of pistols and AR-style rifles.”
Dicka says the policy changes at places like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart have not changed the buying habits of his shop’s base clientele, but they have attracted new customers.
“I have a strong local client base who are very loyal customers,” Dicka said. “I suppose small shops that are located next to these big chain stores have seen more business because of it. The prep has been done already by those [here] who felt the need to do it. They are all ready. Although right now, my wholesale supplier’s warehouse is empty. They’re sold out of everything.”
Firearms that are under the gun control spotlight, in general, see a boost in sales. Both gun shop owners say they’ve seen an increased interest in the AR-15, as well as handguns, but sporting rifles and shotguns continue to make up a large part of their sales because of the soon-to-start local skeet shooting activities and spring hunting season.
McAuliffe says he’s also noticed an increase in reloading supply sales, a trend he attributes to the shortage of available ammunition.
“Reloading is getting big,” McAuliffe said. “Sixty-five percent of my business is reloading supplies.
McAuliffe says he’s experienced an increase in customers who will travel great distances to purchase arms at his shop.
“[The customers] can’t get it in the cities, so they drive up to buy at my shop,” McAuliffe said. “I’ve had people come up from Madison [200 miles south] to shop here.”
Gun control hype skyrockets after a mass shooting, and its effect on the small-town gun shop business is the opposite of what anti-gun activists want. One thing is for sure: gun owners and enthusiasts will not be deterred in pursuing firearms for self-defense and the hunting and shooting sports they enjoy, and they’ll rely on the small-town gun shop owner to have what they need.
Kimberly Drake is a freelance columnist from Minocqua, Wisconsin. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.