Training and The
Gun-Store Business

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Gun stores have been given a boost as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic and a state of civil unrest in much of the country as peaceful protests have been hijacked into riots, looting and burning. Of particular concern to many citizens is the move to defund police and the recognition we may face one day when a call for the police in an emergency will go unanswered.

All of the this has resulted in a run on guns such as we haven’t seen since the fear-induced gun-buying sprees in 2013 and 2016. As you well know, many of the people buying guns during this period of uncertainty are first-time gun owners. And what do these first-time gun buyers need? Training.

Gateway To More

I can identify 38 gun stores in and around the DFW Metroplex where I live. Six of these have gun ranges and all six offer training. Of the ones without gun ranges, six offer the Texas License to Carry course. Only three offer additional training, such as Intro To Handguns or Intro To ARs. Two others, one with a range and one without, offer classes in gun cleaning.

When I was an instructor, I frequently heard comments along the lines of, “I can find someone to teach me how to shoot a gun, but I can’t find anyone to teach me how to clean a gun.” Many who grew up in hunting and shooting families may find this strange, but our clientele were mostly urban-raised people who were just beginning to explore shooting and gun ownership.

“There’s no question once someone comes to us for training, they’re going to buy guns and shoot at our range. That’s why it’s important for our instructors to make a strong first impression and they know that.”

Rachel Chase Manager, Shoot Point Blank North Richland Hills, Texas

Hearing these comments more than just once or twice made me realize there was an opportunity there — not necessarily an opportunity to present classes I could charge for, but as a lead-in for other training opportunities and if nothing else, goodwill for the gun store.

The postings went out on our website and in our emails — Free Gun Cleaning: 1st Tuesday Night of Every Month. Sign up was required, but only so we had enough seats and supplies on hand. Class was limited to 20, and we made sure to have enough instructors available to help everyone learn how to take their guns apart, clean them and put them back together.

You might think the people who came to those free gun-cleaning classes had already bought their guns so they wouldn’t be great gun-buying customers for us, but it wasn’t always the case. Some bought their guns from us because they knew they could come to us to learn how to clean them. Others bought their second or third gun from us.

Putting a room full of people together around a common interest like this generates a lot of goodwill. I paid the instructors who helped me, but I almost guarantee they’d have done it for free. We quickly discovered the need to assemble gun-cleaning kits for people to purchase. It wasn’t long before the cleaning supply sales covered the cost of offering the classes.

If you have a store consider offering gun-cleaning classes, even if you don’t do any other training.

A Symbiotic Relationship

Let’s look at some of the outfits that do offer a wide variety of training. Shoot Point Blank is a chain of gun store/range combos. Headquartered in Cincinnati with 25 locations around the country and more on the way, the chain is focused on providing customers with an outstanding experience that may not be typical of many gun stores. A big part of their business is training.

Instructors are an extension of your brand — so choose wisely. Whether they’re on staff or hired for
a one-off class, customers will associate their experience with an instructor to your establishment.

The Shoot Point Blank store in North Richland Hills, Texas, offers 10 different classes beginning with Introduction To Firearms and going all the way through Advanced Handgun and Advanced Handgun Refresher. Included, of course, is the Texas License to Carry Course, but probably more important to the business is the group of classes aimed at the new user, such as Basic Handgun, Basic AR and Firearms Cleaning.

Rachel Chase, one of the managers at the North Richland Hills store, shared the impact training has on the business.
“We have eight instructors,” she stated, “and they stay pretty busy. There’s no question once someone comes to us for training, they’re going to buy guns and shoot at our range. That’s why it’s important for our instructors to make a strong first impression and they know that.”

Not far away in Grapevine, Texas Gun Experience is a gun range with a full retail store, also offering multiple training classes. I passed by one of their classrooms on my last visit where an AR Building class was in progress. Just a quick glance through the glass door revealed both sexes and a broad age group taking the class. Texas Gun Experience offers 11 different classes, plus private instruction.

Colin Throckmorton, Texas Gun Experience training manager, explained their philosophy: “We tell students: ‘No matter who you are, what you do, what your beliefs are, you should always be prepared for any and every situation.’ We train others to build their confidence and mindset to be able to deal with the world around them. Our goal is to build off each training session and continue to challenge a student’s skills any and every way we can.”

Taking It Home

Drawing from my own experience, I can vouch for how training relates to the sale of firearms. My first foray into the gun business was as an instructor. A friend and I who had been teaching Hunter Education, NRA Basic Pistol and the Texas Concealed Carry Course at a community center decided to stick our necks out and rent a storefront for teaching these classes. Using a variety of marketing methods, including Groupon, our training business took off.

The experience in the classroom will be reflected not only in gun sales, but in the number of people your students tell about their experience.

With so many new shooters coming to us for training, it was natural for them to ask us for advice on which handguns to buy. Somehow the thought of applying for an FFL intimidated us, but one day I just decided to do it. As it turned out, the local BATF agents were a big help and the process wasn’t so difficult. We started displaying some of the more popular carry guns in the breakroom adjacent to the classroom. Before we knew it, the revenue from gun sales was surpassing our training revenue.

Getting Started

For those operations that haven’t added training as a service to increase revenue, the first step is to figure out the who, where and what’s required. If you haven’t met any NRA or state-certified instructors through your business, contact those two organizations to find out what instructors are in your area. Chances are if you find just one, he or she will lead you to others. It’s important to determine the nature of any instructor before having them associated with your business.

There are knowledgeable instructors who have the necessary certifications, but can’t relate to people in a non-demeaning way. Such a person would likely drive people away rather than bring more business into your shop. So, get to know them before you start setting up classes, and once you’ve got classes rolling, monitor them until you’re sure you’ve got the right people for the job. How do you pay them? It is usually done as 1099 revenue based upon a percentage of the registration fees collected.

Gun-cleaning classes can serve as a gateway to expanded participation from customers.
This is especially pertinent with the millions of first-time customers joining the industry in
the first half of this year alone, many of whom have had no previous experience with firearms.

Lisa Roux, co-owner and CFO of Shooter’s World (which operates two Arizona locations),
leads a one-on-one segment during the classroom portion of a class — enabling first-time
users to get familiar with handling a semi-auto pistol.

Getting Started

Facilities can be a challenge, especially for a small shop. Sometimes arranging for a meeting room at a local BBQ place is the answer. You might be able to hold classes in your shop after closing time by setting up folding tables and chairs on the showroom floor. That makes it convenient to answer questions from products in inventory. You’ll likely need a laptop, projector and screen. You probably have the laptop. A projector and screen will typically fall under $500.

What classes should you offer? Well, with all the first-time gun owners out there, an introduction to firearms would be a fantastic place to start. If there is a state curriculum for a carry permit, that’s a given. Your business should dictate the types of classes offered. If you have a high percentage of new shoppers who are women, NRA’s Home Firearm Safety is a good class to offer.

What classes should you offer? Well, with all the first-time gun owners out there, an introduction to firearms would be a fantastic place to start.

Even if the classes aren’t certification classes with completion certificates dictated by the state or the NRA, consider developing your own certificate using a template found online. It’s just a paper reminder of where your students got their training, and it adds an extra step of professionalism to the process.

Everything related to your training needs to be done in a positive light even when you encounter difficult students. This is why knowing the personality of your instructors is so important. The experience in the classroom will be reflected not only in gun sales, but in the number of people your students tell about their experience, as well.

Excellent training will create a lot of goodwill and make your shop the “go to” place for all the students’ shooting needs.

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