By Harold Lewis
This series by Harold Lewis is designed to assist newer Class 3 dealers in their attempts to make law enforcement sales.
In our last segment we discussed how to get and set up your appointments with law enforcement agencies. We will now discuss the equipment and what information you will need to know to get through your first demonstration. We will begin with firearms. It would certainly be fun to bring an M60 or a Barrett 50 to your demonstration. Unfortunately, you probably won’t be able to sell any of these weapons, unless the Department has “special needs”.
Your inventory will be limited by the types of guns that your local Law Enforcement (LE) needs and the current political climate in your area. The guns that LEs seem to want are shotguns, sniper rifles, full auto sub guns, and semi and full auto rifles. Belt fed machine guns and light artillery do not usually show up on an LE purchase order. That’s good, as it would be a real drag to carry them around anyway. However, many departments do want training with belt fed and antique machine guns for forensic and farmilarization. Many municipalities will not permit full- auto weapons to be used by their police agencies, but they will permit the acquisition of new shotguns or a good sniper rifle. You certainly shouldn’t object if they trade in all their old rusty Thompson and Colt machine guns for new sniper rifles, sub guns and shotguns.
Over the past fifteen years many police agencies have established units trained in military assault tactics. SWAT, TAC teams and numerous other LE groups were formed to, “stop terrorism and fight the drug wars.” Ever since Waco and Ruby Ridge, however, many departments have changed to a more controlled approach to law enforcement. We now have emergency service units instead of assault teams. Whatever they call themselves, they are the only people who are trained to use the weapons that you sell. They will also be the only people you will deal with in the department for your demonstration. Very few LE personnel are trained to use exotic weapons. Most police and sheriffs go through their entire career without ever firing a shot from an automatic weapon. Only a few are chosen for these special units. They are well trained and most of them are very knowledgeable about the firearms they use.
What about handgun sales? Should you get involved in bidding wars on department purchases?
That is a personal choice. If you have had experience in this type of sale you may want to continue. Personally, I would much rather concentrate on selling National Firearms Act Branch (NFA) weapons. I would not mix this with peripheral sales. The sale of hand guns to LE departments is difficult, time consuming and very unprofitable. In most cases you will find that you are in direct competition with the gun manufacturers. Often the other bidders are the wholesalers that you buy your guns from. In either case you will not be able to out bid them. That’s O.K. That’s not what you’re there for. You are there to show and sell them guns that NO ONE else sells and to get the department to give you all their NFA Title II weapons in exchange.
The firearms you select for your demo can come out of your new inventory stock, or you can demonstrate used guns in good condition. In either case the guns should be kept very clean and dry. Make sure they are spotless. Even if the guns have never been fired, clean them before you go out for your demo. Wipe off all excess oil from the inside and the outside of the weapon. The guns will be handled by the LE personnel, and you don’t want anyone getting their hands or uniforms oily, dirty or greasy.
Remember, never carry the guns loaded with live ammo. This is very unprofessional and very dangerous. You are giving a demonstration of new firearms. You are not there to have a shoot out. Do not bring any ammo. You will not need it. The only exception would be if the department wants a live fire demo. In the last eight years I have never had a department ask me for one.
If you do provide a live fire demo, you will have to supply the ammo, and the guns will have to be cleaned. The wear and tear on your firearms may not be worth the time or effort. Other considerations are liability problems, should the department decide to use the reloads that they found in someone’s basement. Do not suggest a live fire demo. If asked, reply, that you are there to show them new weapons. The guns must be kept new and cannot be fired. Most of the personnel you will be dealing with have worked with automatic weapons, and shooting to them is no big deal. They may wish for a quick test fire to see if the firearms reliably cycle department ammunition.
Whichever guns you choose, be sure that you have complete knowledge and full confidence in your ability to handle the firearms you are showing. Never point a weapon at any human being or in an unsafe direction. (as always) Keep your finger off the trigger. Handle all of the weapons as if they were loaded. Read and learn everything you can about the guns you pick. Study the technical manuals and practice the assembly and disassembly of every part. You must know the names of all the parts, and learn all the technical information, weight, length, trigger pull, caliber variations, as well as all the different models available. You must become an expert with the guns that you carry with you to your demo. You should know everything there is to know about them. You should be able to field strip and reassemble every gun blindfolded. If you do not feel that confident in your familiarity with a particular weapon, don’t take it with you. Your lack of confidence, poor handling ability and inability to communicate important information about a particular weapon will give you away as an amateur and someone that the department will not deal with.
The shotgun will probably be your biggest seller. Every department has them and wants new ones all the time.
For your basic inventory, you will need at least two shotguns, one pump and one semi auto. It is interesting to note that the largest police agency in the country only uses double barrel shotguns. They are the exception. Most other departments will only consider pump or semi-auto shotguns.
The Remington 870 with a folding police or full factory stock and eighteen or twenty inch barrels should be your first choice. For your semi-auto I would suggest the Benelli super 90, with pistol grip, ghost ring sights, and a twenty inch barrel. Both of these guns would be a fine addition to your inventory. You may want to have one or both of the guns in a shorter, entry gun configuration. Any shotgun with a barrel under eighteen inches long must be registered with the National Firearms Act branch (NFA) of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF). These short barrel shotguns are certainly usable for your demo, but standard title I firearms are a lot easier to get and deal with. If they don’t sell, you can just return them to inventory. There are many other quality shotguns you could choose from for your demonstration. Whichever you choose be sure you know how to handle them.
Today’s modern sniper rifles offer you a very wide variety and selection to choose from. You can spend anywhere from $350 to $10,000 or more for a good sniper demo gun. These prices do not include optics! Most departments have one form of sniper rifle or another. Many small departments still use old, or confiscated hunting rifles that have been dedicated as the sniper rifle. In other departments I have seen old army match M14/ M1A rifles used as sniper rifles. All of these old guns will be a welcome addition to any trade or sale you make. Other departments may have the most up to date and sophisticated guns available. They would welcome some additional new guns into their inventory, hopefully in trade for their old unused Class III weapons.
Sniper rifles can be broken down to three basic groups. 1. Low cost mass-produced entry level guns up to about $900 without optics. 2. Factory mass-produced custom guns from $1,200 to $6,000. 3. Custom guns from $4,000 to $10,000 and up. Many of these firearms are reputed to be the ultimate in surgical instruments. Your choices here should be based on the realistic needs of the local LE departments you visit and the depth of your pockets. Remember your object is to get the departments to trade their old NFA guns for the guns you have to offer. You have to get them excited enough to be willing to give you anything you ask for. Having good quality firearms for your demo will certainly help.
Basic entry level guns
The Savage 110 FP comes in 5.56, 7.62x51mm NATO (.308 Winchester) and 300 Win Mag as well as several other calibers. It comes with a 24 inch long heavy barrel. The gun is 45 inches in overall length and has a black matte finish.
The Savage only comes with a long action bolt and new guns are all pillar bedded. That’s quite a lot of gun for under $400.00. Don’t let the low price fool you. While equipped with a poor trigger and a marginal stock, the Savage 110 FP shoots more accurately than rifles costing up to 10 times the price! Right out of the box this fine gun is capable of shooting 1/2 MOA or less with good ammo. Many departments on a tight budget will do very well with the Savage 110.
The Remington 700 action has become the industry standard for building custom sniper rifles and target guns. The 700 PSS from Remington comes with a McMillan style heavy composite kevlar stock. It has an aircraft grade aluminum bedding block and a free floating 26 inch heavy contour barrel. Out of the box this gun is capable of 1 MOA or less with good ammo. It comes with a 4 round, magazine. It is available in .223, 7.62×51 NATO, and other calibers. This gun is often sold as a package with a Harris bi-pod, Leupold Vari-X III, 3.5-10X scope, Pelican case and sling swivels. All for less than $1,400 to LE.
The low end of this group would include the Winchester M70 Classic Custom Sharpshooter. It comes with a 24 inch heavy stainless barrel, a glass bedded McMillan composite stock and a 5 round magazine. Winchester Guarantees 1/2 inch MOA with good ammo. This rifle sells for $2,500, without optics.
The Robar Company of Phoenix makes several grades of fine rifles, from the basic no frills SR50 with a 1 MOA pillar bedded rifle, to the ultimate SR90 – a Remington 700 action, with a match grade, fluted Schneider barrel and guaranteed 1/2 MOA. Prices are from $2,000 up. This group would also include the fine guns made by McMillan Gunworks Inc. of Phoenix Arizona.. McMillan is the oldest custom sniper rifle manufacturer in the United States. The M86SR with a 24 inch barrel is one of the finest firearms available.
Heckler and Koch makes several guns that can be used effectively as sniper rifles. From the $7,500 PSG1, to the very reasonable G3SG1 \ MSG90, for about $4,000. Other firearm manufacturers in this group would include Parker Hale, Mauser, Accuracy International, H-S Precision and Saco. These are typically in the $5,000 to $10,000 range. Whether you are willing to spend that much money on a demo gun is totally up to you. Several other companies are now making dedicated LE firearms at reasonable prices, such as Steyr and Ruger.
You will need at least two different weapons for your demo. I usually carry the Remington 700, a Savage 110 and a HK 91 dressed up like a PSG1. I also have a Ruger .308 as a backup. I have found that the majority of sniper rifles sold are the guns made by Remington and Savage. Whichever gun you choose, learn everything you can about it.
The weapon of choice for submachine guns is the Heckler and Koch MP5 and its many variants.
The MP5 is on every LE request and wish list. It is just about the only gun that will make departments eager to part with their old firearms. The MP5’s reputation may be overrated but every LE department wants one, two or more. I have found that it is just as easy to carry an H&K SP89 semi auto pistol for my demos.
There is no paperwork to worry about and there are no legal hassles when traveling from state to state. If you have a clean MP5, use it for your demo gun. If your MP5 is a bit ratty, as many dealer sample guns are today consider having it refinished. F.J. Vollmer and Co. does a very nice job for a reasonable price. In addition, Walter Birdsong has a black-T finish that the FBI uses. It is considered the standard finish of the industry. H&K MP5s come in many different variations starting with the MP5A2 fixed stock, MP5A3 with retractable stock. MP5SD2 fixed stock with integral aluminum sound suppresser and the MP5SD3 with retractable stock and sound suppresser. In addition there are several short versions of the same guns, designated by H&K as the MP5K, with no stock. It looks just like the SP89 semi auto. The MP5K-PDW (personal defense weapon) comes with a side folding stock . There are also 7 different trigger groups available for the gun. They are single fire, 2 shot, 3 shot, full auto, Navy full auto with ambidextrous safety and two shot and three shot burst groups. It makes very little difference which variant of the MP5 you have. You will only need one gun for your basic demo.
This is the firearm that you absolutely have to be able to assemble and disassemble with your eyes closed. You must be very confident in the way you handle the MP5. Most of the people you are dealing with have used the H&K extensively. You do not want to be fumbling for the magazine release or the cocking handle when you show the gun. Bring one magazine for the MP5, but do not have it installed in the gun. Install the magazine during your demonstration. Remember NO ammo!
Some of the other submachine guns that are selling today in the LE trade are the new Ruger MP9 designed by Bill Ruger and Uziel Gal and the original Uzi, which is now being distributed by Mossberg. Since Ruger does not permit the sale of Class III to dealers it is difficult to get the MP9 for a demo. Neither the Ruger MP9 nor the Uzi have the versatility and flexibility of the MP5.
In my opinion, the MP5 is definitely the gun to have if you have any intention of doing business with law enforcement.
The final two groups of guns that LE departments are looking for are full auto carbines and semi and full auto rifles. The Colt M16 and all of its different models hold center court. The Colt comes in several different calibers including a short stocked 9mm carbine designed to compete with the H&K MP5. A clean used Colt AR 15 in semi auto is a good, inexpensive way to demo the entire Colt line of firearms. The only difference between the guns is the overall length, firing mode and caliber. The cost of a transferable Colt M16 is over $2,500, while a used AR sells for less than $700. The Ruger Mini 14 and its full auto companion, the AC 556 select fire rifle are also good sellers. You may want to get both the Colt and Ruger. Consider the semi auto versions of both. The Mini 14 costs about $350. A transferable Ruger 556 sells for about $1,700. It may not make a difference to the people you are dealing with as to whether the gun is full-auto or semi-auto. If you go with semi-auto you will not have to be concerned about the legal hassles associated with carrying live machine guns.
For storage and travel I use the large double rifle cases made by Doskocil. They will hold at least three guns if you leave off the optics . You can use any case you like, but I have found that it’s easier to carry one or two large cases with 4 or five guns, than carrying 5 individual gun bags or cases.
Last, but certainly not least, is how you dress and look for the demo. Do not wear any camo, OD green, or black and gray assault outfits. You are not going to a machine gun shoot at Knob Creek. You are not supposed to look like a charter member of the local “militia” swat team. The people you are dealing with are professionals. They may resent it and it will kill any chance you have of making a sale.
You are supposed to be a professional gun manufacturer’s representative. Look the part.
A sports jacket, collared shirt and slacks or clean jeans are acceptable. I wear an H&K staff field jacket. Any manufacturer’s jacket with logo would be O.K.. Do not look like a gun slob. Long hair, pony tails, and an unshaven, unkempt look are out. Do not wear combat boots, army hats, or military field jackets.
In our next installment we will discuss making your presentation. We will also explain how to get the departments to show you all of the guns they have in storage.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V1N2 (November 1997)|