REVIEW: Meet ReloadTactical.com, offering the best guns and gear for style and survival
Once upon a time, the experience of going from store to store to shop around before making a major purchase was as much a part of the pleasure of the buying experience as taking the item home.
At my father and grandfather's (and great-grandfather's) car dealership, people would attend "car showings" each fall when the new models were introduced. Whether or not they were even really in the market for a car, customers would respond to invitations to come and enjoy a donut and coffee while kicking the tires, feeling the plush seats, smelling that 'new car' smell and taking a look under the hood. In much the same way, before the hunters and sport shooters of previous generations made a purchase, they wanted to get their hands on the product, either at a brick and mortar gun store or gun show. They wanted to feel the weight of the cold steel in their hand, smelling the oil, and admiring the beauty of the craftsmanship.
Today's generation of consumers, however, puts a priority on time and convenience. And so it is that a growing segment of the firearms industry is focused on online sales. Want to research your options in the convenience of your own home before making a purchase decision? Want to know if that gun you are considering is priced competitively? Don't have time to wait for the next gun show in your area, or even to drive across town to the gun store? No problem! Just pick up your favorite Internet-enabled device and click away.
One of the drawbacks to this type of shopping experience, however, is that a large segment of sites are nothing more than massive warehouses filled with ill-thought out product selections, poorly designed aesthetics and a general disregard for the customer experience. This problem was not lost on the founder and owner of ReloadTactical.com, Brian Van Winkle.
Brian says he saw that something significant was missing when he shopped for precision firearms and tactical gear online. He felt the shopping experience was terribly inconsistent with the passion, knowledge and requirements of the shooting community.
Tired of having to settle for so many of what he calls subpar experiences, and endlessly wondering why there was such a disconnect between the passion and innovation of the manufacturers and the retail spaces where their products were sold, he responded by creating RELOAD – an Ohio-based online gun store where Brian says the best, and only the best, guns and gear are sold.
I recently had the opportunity to take a closer look at the site, and thought I would share my observations.
My first impression upon hitting the homepage is that the site has a different look and feel than most online retailers. Instead of being hit with a huge scroll bar full of whatever products the retailer happens to have the best margin on (or just too much of) that day, ReloadTactical.com gives the immediate look and feel of a place where one can get "the finer things." I was reminded of recent visits to a website offering high-quality products for the growing (no pun intended) market for beard grooming products, or for another website I recently visited offering an aged rum that starts at $595 a bottle. RELOAD's website immediately gives the sense that we've not stumbled upon the Walmart of online firearms retailers.
As any self-respecting firearms enthusiast would be expected to do, my first click was on the button pointing to "Guns." According to the pulldown, RELOAD offers AR-15 and AR-10 complete rifles as well as uppers and lowers, pistols, rifles and shotguns.
When they say they offer "only the best," the AR-10 and AR-15 offerings would certainly suggest they mean to deliver. The site features just 36 complete rifles in the AR-10 and AR-15 configuration, ranging from a low of $1018 for a Troy Industries PAR 223 SPORT 5.56 PA to a high of $2931 for an Armalite AR10 SASS 308 7.62X51 20.
Want to filter RELOAD's inventory by "least expensive" or "clearance?" You can't. Remember - we're not at WalMart - we're shopping somewhere that smells (in my mind, at least) faintly of leather, pipe tobacco and mahogany. Somewhere refined.
The pistol catalog is a bit deeper, ranging from a variety of Glocks at the unsexy low-end to Dan Wesson custom 1911-style pistols at the high end. No bargain-basement "but will it work when you need it to most?" gun brands here.
The site also features a selection of rifles and shotguns, arranged by semi-auto or bolt/pump action.
The shotguns might not fit too well with my description of the site as a mahogany-lined, leather-furniture-filled smoking lounge. After all, we're talking ReloadTactical here - not Jaqua's (where I saw my first $20,000 12 ga. beauty). Expect mostly black shotguns, not wood grain. These shotguns are meant to perform admirably in the tactical world, not on an afternoon bird hunt.
Beyond firearms, the website offers an extensive line of accessories, including optics and sights, barrels, triggers, magazines and lights. And of course no self-respecting website with "tactical" in its name could do without a large selection of accoutrements for America's favorite semi-automatic rifle, the AR-15.
One small quibble is the repeated use of the word "silencer." Since these devices don't "silence" anything, and since they have so often been depicted by Hollywood as being used by criminals to commit crimes with guns in virtual silence, a better term for these hearing-protection devices is noise suppressors. That being said, the site does not offer noise suppressors, but rather "accessories" for use with these devices, including threaded barrels, mounts, pistons and other accessories.
Once you're properly decked out with your tactical rifle, pistol or shotgun, ReloadTactical.com can also help with your need for shooting-related gear. From apparel (gloves & glasses) to bags & backpacks to vests & armor plate carriers, RELOAD has you covered. Again, we're not talking an infinite variety of options here - they've carefully selected what they believe to be the best options currently on the market.
For those who love edged tools, RELOAD has 27 folding knives, 11 fixed blade and four multi-tools to choose from. The section for automatic knives is currently empty.
One of the most common myths repeated these days by the anti-gun rights extremists and their sycophants in the media is that one can just buy any gun they want over the Internet with no background check at all. This is, of course, false, and Reload Tactical.com's ordering guide lays out the real process for the uninformed. (Yes, Mr. Bloomberg, there is a background check done at every purchase at ReloadTactical.com, because they, like all online firearms retailers, are only allowed to ship guns to Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) who will then complete a background check for a small fee before allowing the customer to take possession of the gun they bought online.)
RELOAD says "firearms and ammunition CANNOT be returned - NO EXCEPTIONS." If you have to returned an item other than a firearm, it must be done within 30 days for a full refund, less initial shipping costs (which will also be waived it the order is returned due to an error on the part of RELOAD). Returned products must be in the exact condition in which you received them - undamaged/unopened, with all packaging, wraps, seals, tags, etc intact. If your returns fail to meet the criteria above, RELOAD will deduct a 15% restocking fee from your return credit.
How does ReloadTactical.com look and perform on mobile devices? Great, and great. I used my phone to peruse the RELOAD staff blog, which includes articles in improving shooting accuracy, must-have modifications for your Glock, tips before purchasing a noise supressor, and more. Don't expect to find new articles posted there every day, but the ones I read were solid. Yet another sign that this website is committed to quality, not quantity.
For those whose appetites have been sufficiently whetted, there's one more bit of good news. Right now, orders over $150 come with free shipping! Better still, RELOAD is also offering BFA supporters 10% off of all non-firearm purchases until March 31, 2017 with promo code "BFA10" (one use per customer).
Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Secretary, BFA PAC Vice Chairman, and an NRA-certified firearms instructor. He is the editor of BuckeyeFirearms.org, which received the Outdoor Writers of Ohio 2013 Supporting Member Award for Best Website.