If you think that Airguns of Arizona is content to rest on its laurels, quietly baking in the Arizona sun, think again.
Recently I spoke with Robert Buchanan, president of AoA, about the company’s international connection. “At least once a year, I go to Europe. Frequently, it is to visit the IWA Fair, which is the European equivalent of the SHOT Show. All the major manufacturers display at IWA, and we have important meetings.”
“Some of the time is spent talking about how we can work together better,” Buchanan says. “The airgun manufacturers usually have some things they would like AoA to do better, and we usually have some requests of them. We try to work through those issues and find out what going on for the next year in terms of product, pricing, and so forth.”
He notes that the American market appears to be rising in importance for the European manufacturers. “Things appear to be worse in the European economy than they are here in the US, and the European airgun manufacturers are apparently looking to us for growth. Right now, AoA is on a track for very good growth.”
Buchanan sees a change in the way the Europeans are approaching the American market. “For most of our history in working with them, when they designed a new gun, they would first design it for the 12-foot-pound European market and then later they would see about boosting the power to meet the demands of American consumers.”
“Now, however, we’re starting to see some companies look first to the US when designing a new model. The Daystate Wolverine is an example. It is a big, powerful air rifle, two years in the making, and it was designed clearly for the American market. Sure, it will be sold in Europe, but its first market is the US,” Buchanan says.
Among frequently discussed topics on Buchanan’s overseas visits to manufacturers are customer service and parts. “We have tens of thousands of dollars in parts inventory at Airguns of Arizona, but we don’t have all parts at all times. I usually press manufacturers to be quicker about responding to request for parts, because American customers are pretty much accustomed to ‘instant’ customer service. And of course, we always stress the need for the highest quality products and quality control,” he says.
He adds that visiting the factories helps AoA to understand how and why some of the air rifles and air pistols are made the way they are. “Some of the top end elite air rifles are every bit as exotic as a Ferrari,” Buchanan says.
Every other year, AoA sends some of its employees overseas to train at the factories to learn how to service and repair the air guns that AoA imports. “We learn how to service a particular gun in a particular manner that is quicker and more efficient and also less stress on the components. Sometimes there are specific torque values on individual bolts that will bring out the best performance,” Buchanan says. “It’s no longer good enough to tighten everything until it is snug. You have to get it right.”
Sometimes the international connection works the other way. “Fredrik Axelsson of FX visited us a couple of months ago and was extremely helpful. Stefano Gervisoni of Daystate came over for the SHOT Show. It was educational for all of us.”
The bottom line for Buchanan, though, is that the international connection has helped, and will continue to help, Airguns of Arizona to deliver better airguns and service to its customers.
Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.
– Jock Elliott