This week, we received a complaint note from a readers complaining about a release announcing new reloading powders. He was irritated because he "couldn't find their old products" and they had the nerve to "introduce new ones." Ordinarily I don't write about those kinds of notes. Not long ago, no one could find ammo; much less reloading components.
But was that still the case? I hit the internet to see. The short answer?
Powder and primers are in stock, although not in every "flavor" used by reloaders. But national retailers are offering-and delivering reloading components. You can
get product. A big change from only a couple of months ago.
But ammunition and reloading components being available nationally, does not guarantee the ability to walk into your favorite local shop and get them. I suspect that's why some readers get upset at new product introductions.
Buying local is great -and still works if you're buying fresh produce. But in the gun world, today's "new normal" normally means looking online first. Especially if you live in one of the highly-restrictive places where politicians have made it clear that guns aren't welcome (yes, the email came from one of those places). Rather than getting cranked at us, you'd do well to express your irritation at the ballot box next month.
New products are being introduced -and connecting with retailers looking for something new when the AR-craze has slowed to a crawl.
Companies I've spoken with post-NASGW are more than pleased with responses from NASGW buyers. Smaller companies have told me they have sold out manufacturing capacities. If they can't ramp up production through other manufacturers with excess capacity, they may go to SHOT with new products and an inability to deliver them in 2015.
And innovators are seeing results. From a semi-automatic shotgun that looks like a beefed-up AR-pattern rifle to purpose-designed self-defense ammunition, new products are generating sales.
But the companies I noticed most at NASGW were those that had "wrinkles" in their approaches. Unless you're a "brand name" you need "something" to connect you with buyers.
As I've written before, our newest shooters are disriminating shoppers and smart buyers. They research before buying and don't respond well to shops and ranges that don't appreciate them. If they don't get the answers they expect -or the products they want- they'll move on to the next store or find another sport.
The industry can't afford to disenfranchise our best hope for preserving shooting sports.
That's why innovation is essential through the entire sales cycle - not just to consumers.
In early 2013, I tested ammunition from a new ammunition company. After firing a few hundred rounds of their ammo through rifles and pistols, I had no doubt that HPR's ammo was good. But their approach to the marketplace was most intriguing.
HPR's 2013 ammunition package was bright, clean and featured then-revolutionary QR codes to get the information normally squeezed onto ammo boxes. Jim Shepherd/OWDN photo.
Rather than pitching some exotic technological advantage, HPR was reaching out to consumer via their packaging.
Rather than cramming hard-to-read ballistic tables onto their ammo boxes, a QR-code (a big thing at the time) took smartphones users to ballistic information via the web.
As a result, the packaging was clean, resembling the boxes of high-performance golf balls that routinely go for $50/dozen. The look, I was told at the time, was by design.
But before I could do more research, the "boom" hit - and ammo simply disappeared. Their story got lost in superheated sales.
HPR's 2014 Black Ops ammunition is designed to stop shoppers as well as home invaders. With a black packaging theme that would look appropriate scaled up for missile silos (above), the display of the ammo (below) gives it a dangerously effective appeal as well. Jim Shepherd/OWDN photos
At NASGW, I saw HPR was back- and hadn't lost any of their marketing enthusiasm. They were pushing their new "Black Ops" ammunition, designed specifically for personal defense. They were getting traffic, although I couldn't tell whether it was because of the ammo or their slick looking booth, complete with a tactical utility vehicle and a catch-phrase that caught my eye: "Black is the new hollow".
Seems Black Ops ammo is an "Open-Tip Frangible"- a "gee-whiz" ammo capable of straight-line barrier penetration, but created to explode when entering soft tissue, transferring huge amounts of terminal energy into the recipient.
Net-net: high-energy stopping power regardless of the caliber.
That's a sexy mix that should resonate for personal defense. And their lighter-than-normal projectiles should lessen recoil- enhancing control. And Black Ops is California-compliant because it's lead-free.
I'd requested some of their new ammo for testing -and it was there when I got back.
That's when I realized they'd put in a second kind of "stopping power": an eye-catching design.
It caught the eye of a fishing friend who doesn't care a thing about shooting if it's not hunting season. He made a bee-line to the ammo sitting on my tool bench, whistled appreciatively and asked it wasn't "more of that secret, high-tech stuff mortals like me can't get." When I told him he could, he was even more impressed.
After he left, I started looking at the packaging and realized that - while it was a complete reverse of Apple's signature white packaging, Black Ops looked more like art than ammo. But ammunition visible through its clear window -simply put- looked dangerous: like missiles in a launching rack.
Very sexy stuff. Especially since we're talking about what is -for most- a single-use product - with performance pricing (starting with a MSRP of $28.19 for 20 rounds of 9mm and going up to $34.99 for .45Auto or $32.49 for .223 rifle ammo). It's apparent HPR's working to give the consumer another reason to choose their ammunition over other better-known performance brands.
It's clever marketing designed to accomplish several goals, not the least of which is to get consumers to try their ammo.
For a "nearly new" company, it looks like a great idea. And it's one more indication that smart companies in the industry are reaching out to new shooters who are happen to be astute shoppers.