Above: Pacific Sporting Arms owner John Herkowitz in the company's new Michigan store surrounded by racks of good guns, gun cases and shooting accessories. The location is in a hotbed of clay target shooting opportunities and close to excellent hunting.
In 1999 John Herkowitz opened Pacific Sporting Arms, leaving behind his “first career” with the Los Angeles Police Department to pursue a second that would merge his passion for shotgunning with his working life. That first store, in Azusa, California, has grown to have an inventory of about 450 guns and enjoys prolific sales. The store carries some super-accurate rifles (e.g., Sako, Christensen and Anschutz) and plenty of auto-loading shotguns (Benelli and Fabarm), but there is a bias toward smoothbores from top high-grade makes.
“We’re the largest high-grade shotgun dealer in the US, by far,” Herkowitz said. “We’re the top Perazzi dealer and in the top two for both Krieghoff and Beretta.” In addition to those brands, the variety and volume of guns offered includes Blaser, Caesar Guerini, Cosmi, Fabarm, Fausti, Grulla, Merkel, Perugini & Visini, Rizzini, Salvinelli and Zoli.
Still, like any good businessman, Herkowitz was looking to expand, and when the opportunity came to return to the area of Michigan where he grew up—west and north of Detroit—he took it. “I’d wanted to put something in the East for a while,” Herkowitz said in April, acknowledging that Detroit may not be the East Coast, but it’s in the same time zone. “It’s a good area for the higher-end guns,” he said, “with a lot of serious clay-target shooters and a lot of hunters too.”
Pacific Sporting Arms East opened in November in Walled Lake. Herkowitz said that from outside the door he can hear shooting from two of the six gun clubs within 20 minutes of the location. (Two more sporting clays courses are not much farther away.) The nearest facility—the Detroit Gun Club—is one of the top clay-shooting facilities in the country and is within a mile of the shop.
The first-floor space in the three-story professional building formerly was occupied by Great Lakes Sporting Arms, a high-end gunshop that already had installed custom-built cabinetry and wooden gun racks. Herkowitz said that sharing the building with professional offices makes a clear statement about the gun culture of the locale. “That probably wouldn’t even be allowed in California,” he said, somewhat jokingly.
The new shop’s inventory leans strongly toward guns for competition—which Herkowitz knows plenty about as a longtime competitive shooter. The shop’s services will benefit greatly from the proximity of so many clubs, as gunfittings can be done nearby and clients can bring their guns back to the shop. Plans are in the works for a demonstration center at the Detroit Gun Club as well as for hiring one or two full-time technicians at the shop and possibly an off-site, full-service gunsmith. The store also will offer a selection of sporting clothing and accessories—especially range wear—and related leather goods and gun cases.
So Pacific Sporting Arms East might sit at something of a sweet spot, both geographically and in Herkowitz’s life. Summers should be busy in Michigan while it’s too hot in L.A., and people shoot in SoCal in the winter, when it’s cold in Michigan. Herkowitz said he’ll bounce back and forth between stores, staying in touch with the fulltime staffs at each—though with a leaning toward California in the winter . . . .
“It’s not an early retirement,” he said, “but it’s something like a working retirement.”
For more information, contact Pacific Sporting Arms East, 248-960-7262 or 888-472-0056. —Ed Carroll