Just over a year into business, Kona Guns and Ammo owner Wes Duarte has seen the demand for firearms, ammunition and accessories continue to grow.
The third generation Kona resident opened Kona’s lone firearms and ammunition store Jan. 29, 2013, with an inventory of 50 firearms. Since then, the business has grown more than 500 percent, he said. Duarte grew up a hunter on a ranch in Holualoa and has worked with firearms all his life; he is also a National Rifle Association-certified firearms instructor and licensed federal guns dealer.
Kona Guns and Ammo, a Davidson’s Gold Dealer tucked in Kona’s Old Industrial Area, now boasts more than 300 firearms ranging from the common semiautomatic pistol, revolver, shotgun and rifles of all sorts to the hard-to-find items like an AR-15 by Noveske, an Israeli military rifle IWI-Tavor .223 and the Kel-tec Sub-2000 folding rifle.
“Business has been pretty good — actually really good,” Duarte told West Hawaii Today, noting that most customers are seeking weapons for personal protection, as well as for hunting and recreating. “We’ve definitely grown.”
He attributes the quick growth to not only being a physical retail store offering a wide selection of firearms, bulk ammunition, personal protection equipment and accessories in an area that previously had a limited supply of the like, but also to a nationwide trend of people wanting to acquire firearms in the wake of mass shootings that prompted discussion of gun control.
“We’ve had people who previously wouldn’t have considered owning a gun buying guns,” he said. “What was happening nationwide boosted sales.”
A major component of the business is safety, which is why Duarte worked to become a certified NRA firearms instructor, a designation he achieved in 2012. He teaches NRA pistol safety classes weekly at the store with time for practice shooting at a Holualoa-area ranch. The class is one way to qualify to purchase a handgun in the state of Hawaii.
“It was one of the main things I wanted to offer when opening,” he said, noting he wouldn’t have opened the store without providing the one-day classes that teach participants how to use and own a handgun safely.
In the coming year, Duarte hopes to increase the number of safety classes he offers. While they may not be required by the state for a person to acquire certain firearms, he wants people to have every resource available to promote the safe use of guns.
Among the classes he’s looking to offer are safety classes that focus on rifles and shotguns and classes that teach handgun home safety. He’s also considering advanced-level courses.
“I know it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
Kona Guns and Ammo is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. It is located in the Luhia Center II Complex on Luhia Street in Kailua-Kona.
For more information, visit konaguns.com or call 339-0637.