Self-Defense and Tactical Gear Goes Mainstream

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posted on December 18, 2017
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We all have a favorite sporting-goods store, where the staff expertise, selection and ability to easily order brings us back, often. That’s why you may not have looked for gun gear elsewhere, but walk the sporting-goods aisle during your next shopping trip or cruise the website, and you may be surprised.

Walmart announced it was going to stop selling AR-15s in August 2015, so it’s easy to assume accessories aren’t offered there. After all, Kory Lundberg, a spokesman for the company at the time, told CNN the decision was due to slumping sales.

Recently, though, we discovered Picatinny-rail sling adapters, entry-level CQB optics and more at a Walmart near the front gate of Fort Bragg. Selection was limited, but it does signal a shift in attitudes toward modern-sporting rifles and their owners.

Handgun enthusiasts have a lot more from which to choose if they’re looking for a holster. Offerings from Blackhawk and Uncle Mike’s were on the shelves, despite Walmart announcing a phasing out of its pistol sales in 1993. Interestingly, the company remains the nation’s biggest gun retailer, according to 2015 mainstream media reports. 

Dudley McGarity, BPI Outdoor general manager, puts Walmart’s heavyweight status in perspective. “There are about 1,400 Walmart locations selling CVA across the USA,” he said. “While the big specialty chains will place their stores near major population centers, Walmart generally only sells hunting and shooting equipment in its more suburban and rural locations. In many of these areas, the local Walmart may be the only place nearby where such equipment can be purchased, so they reach a great many customers that are not served by other more specialized retailers. Using this strategy, Walmart has long maintained its position as a major player in the business.”

Online, Walmart’s gear selection is vast. Safariland’s Hope Bianchi-Sjursen explained many of the Walmart website items are offered by third-party sellers, so there’s no way to provide a sales volume estimate.

Once upon a time you could purchase firearms at major department stores. J.C. Penney offered guns, and even an exclusive lineup of Marlins branded as Glenfields. They aren’t available today, but the company website has gun safes, gun cases, bipods, weaponlights and other firearm-related accessories for sale.

Baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams loaned his name to Sears for a series of longarms that proved very popular. The firm may be gun-free and nearly insolvent right now, but its website still offers rifle cases, laser sights, safes and more accessories. Tactical clothing and accessory giant 5.11 Tactical retails through Sears’ online store.

Gear will be easier than ever to find, although the knowledge offered in reputable gun stores will remain a precious commodity. There’s something else, though. Without “experts” to locate items in those new outlets, where they compete for attention in even more crowded shelf space, packaging may soon evolve. When asked about Walmart, Kristen Veverka, Uncle Mike’s communications manager, begged off on sales figures and simply stated, “Uncle Mike’s is undergoing a brand refresh and customers can expect to see exciting new products and a new outlook geared toward the recreational weekend shooter.”

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