7 Keys to Make Your Range More Welcoming TO Women

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If you really want to gauge how welcoming your store is to women, try asking them
to share their experiences — it will help you to key in on potential deterrents that
would keep other women from visiting. (Photo: Magnum Range)

The past two years saw a significant surge in first-time gun owners. Coupled with the debate over gun control legislation back at the forefront, a renewed focus on education and training is more important than ever.

NSSF revealed at least 5.4 million people purchased a firearm for the first time in 2021, many of whom were women. Of those, nearly 47% of first-time gun buyers in 2021 inquired about training and 43% signed up for training.

While on the surface these figures help paint the picture of a promising future for the firearms industry, what ranges and retailers should see is the opportunity to do better.

From the statistic, this means nearly 3.1 million first-time buyers didn’t sign up for training last year alone. Let that number sink in. Then, ask yourself why.

The short answer? Shooting ranges can be intimidating.

So, what can you do to make your range more welcoming and appealing to women? Here are some ideas.

1. Evaluate Your facility

The longer you’ve been in the firearms industry, the harder it can be to relate to the experience of someone coming to your range to shoot for the first time. And, unless you’re a woman, there are some things you likely wouldn’t give a second thought.

In an article for the USCCA, “Why Women Won’t Go To The Shooting Range,” Beth Alcazar shared the restroom facilities (or the lack thereof) are one of the many reasons women have used to explain their absence or their avoidance of gun ranges.

“It’s something many females inquire about, and it’s something that may keep them from fully enjoying the firearm training, competition or just the camaraderie of shooting with family, friends or even strangers at the gun range,” she said.

Put yourself in a woman’s shoes, or better yet, ask a woman to visit your range and share her experience. Things that may seem trivial to you, like curb appeal or whether your parking lot is well lit, may be deterrents to a woman ever setting foot inside.

2. Diversification

More Americans from all walks of life are buying guns. Today’s gun owner is increasingly diverse, with significant growth of women and minorities purchasing firearms. You may roll your eyes and think “diversity, equity and inclusion” are just buzzwords, but representation matters.

“Based on my personal experiences and also things I’ve seen working and teaching at gun ranges, the main two things that keep women away from the range are 1) the perceived lack of diversity/inclusion; 2) the attitudes of the staff,” said Desstoni Johnson, owner of FAB Firearms Academy in Little Rock, Ark.

“I got started working at a local range part-time and I was the only Black female employee. Women were always so surprised to see me behind the counter and you could literally see their shoulders drop and the tension leave their bodies when they spotted me,” she recalled. “The ratio of men to women in a gun range is off-putting for some. They feel as if they’ll be demeaned or just made uncomfortable trying to explain their needs to a guy who may understand, but simply can’t fully empathize with the unique set of issues women face.”

“Put yourself in a woman’s shoes, or better yet, ask a woman to visit your range and share her experience. Things that may seem trivial to you, like curb appeal or whether your parking lot is well lit, may be deterrents to a woman ever setting foot inside.”

Having female instructors, not just women in sales or administrative roles, helps.

“When a woman sees another woman just like her doing something she initially thought she could never be good at, it suddenly doesn’t feel so out of reach,” Johnson added.

Valerie Bernhardt, training coordinator and instructor at H&H Shooting Sports in Oklahoma City agrees. She’s the first point of contact when someone inquires about training.

“I’m the only female who works in the retail part of the building. All the other women work in the café or in the administration offices,” she said. “Having an instructor or range safety officer who’s a woman makes a big difference.”

Bernhardt also teaches private lessons and a small, women-only gun safety and fundamentals class.

Shauna Mahoney, owner of Moms Who Carry, echoed the sentiments expressed by both Johnson and Bernhardt.

“I’d love to see more female staffing in our local ranges, from counter sales to RSOs and instructors,” she said.

Product diversification is another subtle way to tell women they’re welcome.

“Stocking more apparel and holster options for women would not only be great for our inner shopaholics, but would also make things look more inviting to female shoppers at first glance,” Mahoney noted.

3. Foster Community & Camaraderie

Diversification doesn’t only apply to who you employ, but every area of your business — including the imagery you use in marketing materials and class offerings.

“Class offerings matter. If a range does not currently offer ‘women-only’ courses or have a designated ladies’ night like my local range does, it’s definitely something to consider implementing,” said Johnson. “Women-only courses aren’t meant to be any easier — nothing about firing in self-defense or preparing for an attack is easy — but classes catered to women allow the instructor to focus solely on topics more relatable to women, which means they better retain the information.”

Mahoney shared ladies’ night events are also helpful for fostering a sense of community at the range.

“Ladies’ nights on the range are always fun for shooting and getting to know other women who you can continue to enjoy the range with!” she said.

You might also consider hosting a women’s shooting group, like The Well Armed Woman or A Girl & A Gun, to further help promote the camaraderie and community aspects of shooting.

4. Answer Questions Before They’re Asked

From discomfort or fear to lack of knowledge or even gear, there’s a host of reasons why a woman won’t come to the shooting range. A simple way to help alleviate any anxiety is to answer questions before they’re asked, and a great way to do this is through your website.

Your website has the ability to work for you 24/7 — even when your range is closed. And often, it’s a person’s first experience with your business.

Take a page from The Well Armed Woman’s book. Their website includes valuable information like the do’s and don’ts of gun-range attire and gun-range etiquette. The NRA Women website features articles on topics like what a first-time guest would need and how to introduce significant others to firearms. If you don’t have the resources to create original content yourself, include links to trusted third parties.

You can also add frequently asked questions to your range’s Google My Business page like standard rental fees and what it includes, what gear/apparel is required on the range, etc.

Getting in front of your most frequently asked questions and making your answers readily available is a great way to turn more searchers into customers — and also another way to stay one step ahead of your competitors.

5. Consider Virtual Offerings

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Why buy the cow when you can get milk for free?” But when it comes to shooting ranges, offering little free nuggets of information can serve as a gateway to attract more people to visit in-person.

Adding a video library to your website is a great way to position yourself as an expert in your field, build credibility and, more importantly, humanize your brand. The videos can be hosted on YouTube, then embedded on your website and also uploaded directly to social media platforms for maximum reach.

You might even consider going “live” on social media to show some simple range drills or supplementing your in-person training courses with paid virtual experiences like a webinar on gun cleaning and maintenance. The possibilities are endless.

“I personally have found being at the range and teaching and posting my lessons on Facebook has been a huge draw for the range I’m associated with,” said Debbie Rose, firearms instructor and owner of Girls Shoot Guns Too.

A report by global marketing communications agency Wunderman Thompson, presented at the 2022 National Retail Federation Conference, found 93% of consumers say technology is our future, 76% say their everyday lives depend on it and 81% believe a brand’s digital presence is as important as its in-store presence.

The goal is to leverage your digital presence to demonstrate to customers your business is not just a place to buy guns and ammunition or to pick up transfers bought online, but a place they can go for quality gun knowledge, instruction and to access a part of the community of gun owners.

Desstoni Johnson, owner of FAB Firearms Academy, recommends facilities seeking
greater participation from women need women-only events and female instructors.

6. Offer Unique Promotions

On Tuesdays, H&H Shooting Sports offers a rental special. For $20 plus the cost of ammunition, guests can rent as many guns as they want. Nearly all of the models available for rent are also available to purchase, and if they buy a gun that day, the rental cost is refunded.

“This offer is a such a great deal, especially for women, because coupled with the fact our lane rental fees are for the entire day, they can really take their time finding the gun that fits them best,” said Bernhardt. “Women come in all the time who have never shot before saying, ‘My husband bought me this gun or my boyfriend bought me this gun’ and nine times out of ten it’s not the right gun for them.”

The rental special is a great way to learn about and try a variety of guns in a low-pressure environment without breaking the bank. It’s also an affordable way to get in regular training.

7. Understand, Acknowledge & Value Female Buying Power

Understanding why women buy is the first step to gaining their business. And when it comes to firearms, the number-one reason they’re buying is for personal safety.

Forbes contributor Bridget Brennan writes, “Having a gender-balanced marketing team will help you better identify the communication nuances that will make women think, ‘These people understand my life.’”

Brennan is the founder and CEO of Female Factor, a strategic advisory firm, and author of several books.

“It’s critical to stay grounded in the real reasons women buy, or you risk being viewed as tone-deaf in your marketing,” she added. “Because no matter how fast technology advances or how frequently people change the way they shop, one thing remains the same: Women are the shoppers of this world, and understanding why she buys is the best insurance policy there is.”

Brennan also says you have to address a woman’s “invisible others.”

“Every time you deliver great service to a woman, she has a multiplier effect on your business because she represents a broad range of other potential customers, and will likely tell people about the great service you offer,” she said.

Editor’s Note: In the online version of this story, there’s an eighth tip — giving specific insights to trainers. For more, visit shootingindustry.com.

8. Have Instructors Set Expectations. (Online Only)

Firearms training is tactical in the most literal sense. To be effective, sometimes, you need to physically move a student. Understandably, male firearms instructors may sometimes be timid or reluctant to do this with women because they fear invading a woman’s space and making her uncomfortable.

The solution? Talk to students about it beforehand so they know what to expect. Women can see you’re also physically moving men’s bodies into position. It’s a necessary part of the job that can and should be done in a professional manner and without having to jump through hoops or fear of retaliation.

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