Mat Manning catches up with Stuart Grant from Elite Optical Distribution, as they seek to help retailers get more from airgun sights and accessories.
The airgun market is booming but most retailers could be doing a lot more to take full advantage of it. Certainly, in my experience, many gun shops are heavily geared towards shotguns and/or powder-burning rifles, and regard airgun hardware, optics and accessories as little more than something on the side.
Stuart Grant, sales director at Elite Optical Distribution, which supplies a huge range of optics for both airguns and powder-burners, is of a similar opinion and reckons traders could be missing a trick when it comes to giving airgun shooters what they want.
“Shotguns and rifles are, to a great extent, a closed book because there are only so many licence holders you can sell to. The airgun market, however, is almost unlimited, and the comparative lack of restrictions means that, if you market airgun products properly, you could effectively steal sales that might have otherwise have gone on bikes or suchlike. It’s certainly one of those markets in which the old saying, ‘the more you put in to it, the more you get out of it’ rings true – the sky virtually is the limit,” Stuart explained.
His new role sees him focusing on growing Elite’s list of trade customers, adding to its product portfolio and taking the business to the next level. He has also been involved in the development of www.eliteoptical.co.uk – a website with e-commerce functionality where retailers can even run their own stock based on what’s listed.
The refreshing thing about Stuart’s approach to business is that, rather than simply chasing sales, he takes a great deal of pride in helping retailers make the right choices to suit their business and its customer base. Elite stocks a huge range of products, and Stuart is happy to take the time to, quite literally, walk the businesses’ partners through them.
He spends a significant amount of time on the road, but the bright and airy showroom at Elite’s Paignton HQ provides him with the opportunity to show off far more optics than he could fit into the boot of a car, and also to explain the need each product fulfils and the sort of customer to whom it would appeal.
And that’s one of the snags with which gun shops have to wrestle. The massive array of modern optics can be baffling and an airgun scope is not simply an airgun scope – the sort of optic that would suit a field target shooter would be totally inappropriate for someone who wants to topple a few tins or thin out the grey squirrels in their back garden.
“Serious airgun shooters spend serious money but there are also those who are on a tighter budget. My aim is to understand each shop and the sort of person who is walking through their door rather than just trying to sell them whatever we’ve got.
“There really are a million choices out there but it’s about finding the products that work best in each case,” Stuart added.
When it comes to making good choices, Elite Optical Distribution is in an enviable position. The hand-picked team brings a huge amount of experience to the table, and is also able to call on the assistance of a top flight airgun shooter.
Air Arms shooter and 2018 BFTA and WFTC Springer Champion John Farbrother works for Optics Warehouse – a separate business that has strong ties with Elite Optical Distribution and is based in the neighbouring building.
“The businesses are very separate but it is useful to be able to tap into the Optics Warehouse expertise. Having someone like John to take products out and put them through their paces is great – he’s field testing a potential line of entry-level own-brand scopes for us right now,” Stuart explained.
Ones to watch for 2019
As February draws to a close (already!), we look at the optics to be on the lookout for during the rest of the year. The Elite Optics Distribution range extends beyond telescopic sights and also includes mounts, binoculars, lens covers and even the NiteSite night vision lines.
With that in mind, we asked Stuart which airgun-related products he expected to be big sellers in 2019 – here are his top six.
Optisan EVX 6-24X56 IR
This versatile scope boasts zoom range and optical performance to cover target and live quarry shooting, and is equipped with an illuminated MH10X second focal plane MIL-based hash-marked ranging reticle and a 30mm tube for improved light transmission. Other features include thumb-adjustable lockable target turrets and side parallax from ten yards to infinity. Supplied with sunshade, oversize parallax wheel and flip-up lens covers.
BKL Mounts – Long Unitized Dovetail
Made in the US, BKL make competition-grade mounts come in a range of heights and tube sizes to fit 11mm and 3/8” dovetail rails. Made from aircraft-grade aluminium alloy, they feature a self-aligning clamping system which clamps evenly to both sides of the rail to ensure that the scope always remains absolutely central. This model has an extended clamping area to prevent creep caused by the harsh recoil of gas-ram and powerful spring-powered airguns.
Delta Forest II 10×42 Binoculars
Perfect for long-range reconnaissance, these affordable binoculars boast features that far exceed their price tag, and are equipped with quality multi-coated lenses and BAK 4 prisms. The result is a bright, clear image with good colour contrast. Supplied with carry case, neck strap, lens covers and cloth, they’re water waterproof, nitrogen-purged and covered by a five-year warranty. At just 730g, they’re also small and light enough to carry in a kitbag.
Nite Site Viper
The standard Nite Site Viper unit is an affordable way to convert your day scope to night vision, and still boasts a detection range of up to 100m. The kit includes combined screen and illuminator module with scope attachment mounts and camera module with fastening sleeve. Supplied with rechargeable battery (with runtime of up to around seven hours), charger and leads, it’s ready for action straight from the box.
Falcon S18I 3-18X50 FFP
One of the best value optics on the market, this scope features an illuminated B24 MIL-Line reticle, which is set at the first focal plane to keep adjustment constant even when magnification is shifted up or down. Finger-adjustable target turrets offer 0.1 MRAD adjustment with positive stops. Housed in a robust one-piece 30mm tube, this scope is equipped with side focus from 10m to infinity and comes with an additional sunshade.
Delta Stryker Target Ultra ED 5-50×56
This is a serious scope delivering top-end performance for top flight target shooting disciplines, and its high magnification can be used for range estimation by adjusting the 10m to infinity side parallax dial until the target snaps into focus. Performance is enhanced by high-quality multi-coated glass and an oversize 34mm tube. The MIL-based reticle can be illuminated for improved contrast and the ‘zero stop’ feature enables the shooter to return to original zero after adjusting settings.