By Callie Wolverton
For your customer taking her first steps in a long-range shooting journey, is your store one
she can go to for trusted advice, standout product availability and superb customer service?
Make sure your staff is up to date on educating and equipping these customers.
Digging my toes in the dirt and pressing my body on the ground, I nestled the butt of the rifle into my shoulder, tightened my grip on the sandbag supporting the stock, took one more measured breath and slowly squeezed the trigger. In a matter of seconds, I heard the loud *THWACK* of my bullet hitting steel, and just like that, I joined the 1,000-yard club.
Stories like mine are told again and again in the long-range world, spoken in tones of exaggerated anticipation and usually include lots of gesturing. Our stories are like badges of honor — the worse the weather conditions or the smaller the caliber, the greater the skills of the shooter — and we’re quick to boast about our longest shot or our best gun to anyone who will listen. You’ve probably heard these stories time and time again from behind the counter.
In recent years, more shooters — and women, especially — are finding long-range shooting an attractive addition to their range repertoire. Nothing demonstrates a shooter’s skill more than going up against Mother Nature herself and coming out on top, over half a mile downrange.
Let me be clear: long range is not defined by a finite measurement of distance but is instead defined by a shooter’s ability to accurately hit targets outside of their comfort zone. This discipline requires a different skillset and a lot of unique gear. As retailers, it would behoove you to cater to this up-and-coming group of shooters and encourage them to broaden their range horizons, expand their knowledge and test the limits of their capabilities as a shooter.
In order to capitalize on this trending sport and to establish your retail store as a knowledgeable, one-stop shop for the novice and advanced long-range shooter, you’ll want to focus on the two E’s of retail.
One of your biggest and most cost-effective draws as a retailer is your unique knowledge of the industry. While many customers may prefer to shop online in this digital age of one-click checkouts and Amazon Prime, they’ll choose to shop at your store knowing they’ll find informative, like-minded people who are experts in customer service — something you can’t put a price on.
It’s understandable if you’re not a long-range shooter. Thankfully, becoming a long-range resource doesn’t require you to become a professional yourself. Here are some tips.
Audit A Class: With long-range shooting becoming an increasingly popular sport, more and more classes are popping up to teach rifle shooters how to master this art — whether for target practice or hunting. As a busy retailer, you may not have the time and/or money to attend a full 3–5 day class. Luckily, many instructors enjoy having local firearms retailers audit the classroom portion of their classes (as this can create lucrative referral program for both the instructor and the retailer) and this audit will give you a 360 degree overview of long-range shooting. Always be sure to contact the instructors ahead of time to make sure they are allowing an audit option.
Attend A PRS Or Long-Range Shooting Competition: Although this option may not give the technical “nitty gritty” a class audit would provide, you’ll be able to see what qualifications are required of a competitive long-range shooter.
Partner With A Pro: I’ve seen this solution implemented at several smaller gun shops, and it’s usually quite successful for the proprietor who doesn’t have the time or resources to venture outside of the business to gain knowledge. Consider a cross-promotional referral partnership with a local long-range rifle maker or a weekly/monthly visit from an advanced long-range shooter.
I’m sure you’ve seen the cartoon mocking the newbie shooter for showing up to his first day at the range with half a dozen range bags and everything but the kitchen sink. We’ve all been there, but now we pride ourselves on being more experienced and efficient with our shooting accessories. The truth is, long-range shooters never really grow out of the “all about accessories” stage.
In order to understand the fundamental basics of long-range shooting, we require additional equipment and accessories to allow us to tap into the most accurate weather and ballistic data available. As a reputable long-range retailer, it’s important to make sure your inventory includes all of the necessary equipment to enable your customers to accurately shoot long distances.
Recommended Calibers: I’d be the first to tell you as long as a shooter has the proper skills and knowledge to shoot long distances, almost any caliber can be accurate at extended ranges (Disclaimer: I know almost doesn’t imply all). That being said, there are certain calibers (and rifles) gaining prominence in the long-range world — including 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5-284 Norma, .280 Ackley, 6mm and the venerable .308 Win.
High BC Factory Ammunition: Not all ammo is created equal, and for those long-range shooters who prefer to run off-the-shelf factory ammunition, there are brands and collections preferred over others. Most of these have above average ballistic coefficients capable of maintaining their speed and trajectory over longer distances.
Reloading Supplies: You probably already carry some reloading supplies, but for long-range shooters, reloaded or hand-loaded ammunition is preferred over factory ammunition for its ability to provide more accurate and predictable shooting data.
Weather Meters: Products like the Kestrel 5700 allow long-range shooters to better read the weather conditions and provide atmospheric and barometric data that can be entered into shooting data apps to give recommendations for MOA adjustments.
Rangefinders: Without a realistic range calculation, a long-distance shooter can only guess at the yardage of their target, minimizing the accuracy of the shooting data, and possibly hindering their calculations. Standalone rangefinders and binoculars with built-in rangefinders (like Vortex’s Fury binoculars) are highly desirable.
High-Quality MOA Riflescopes & Accessories: Long-range shooters require higher quality optics because a clear field of vision at much longer distances than typical is necessary. They will also look for scope accessories like bubble levels to prevent canting at longer distances.
Positioning Tools: Shooting accessories like bipods, shooting mats and sandbags are vital to proper positioning for accurate long-distance shots.
It may seem like long-range shooting is just a passing fad and not something worth rearranging your store (and marketing plan) for, but based off my own personal experience and the buzz around the industry, it’s here to stay. As a firearms retailer, it’s important to be as inclusive and customer-centric as possible, especially in this age of digital shopping. If customers can’t identify a specific value-added aspect of your store most of them are going to choose an online transaction over an in-person one the majority of the time. Set yourself up for success by positioning your store as a trusted resource for this new wave of long-range shooters. Who knows, when you learn more about the sport of long-range shooting, you just might decide to join in yourself!
Speaking of shooting data apps, more and more companies are capitalizing on the long-range shooting trend and releasing apps that allow shooters to easily calculate their MOA adjustments based on the weather conditions they’ve gathered from their rangefinder and weather meter. Some of the most popular apps include Shooter, Applied Ballistics Mobile, iSnipe and Bushnell’s new ballistics calculator app. Consider downloading one and playing around with it — you’ll see exactly what long-range customers need to shoot accurately.