By Taylor Smithfield
Forty-two lanes, 42,000 square-feet, a million-dollar inventory, on-site gunsmithing shop and training program make Poway Weapons & Gear Range, located in a suburb of San Diego, the largest indoor shooting range on the West Coast. However, it’s their commitment to provide shooters with unmatched, quality experiences that makes them one of 66 ranges to receive the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s coveted Five-Star rating.
Based on excellence in four key areas, the NSSF Star Rating system relies on a comprehensive assessment that looks at a range’s appearance, management, shooting sports development and amenities. Ranges submitting themselves for review have the chance to earn either five, four or three stars (two- and one-star ratings are also possible outside of the assessment). Revamped in 2016, the NSSF Star Rating system assess areas like store signage, corporate technology, marketing, staff training, security, leadership, range equipment, facilities, etc. A few examples of scoring criteria from the assessment include:
• Clean and uncluttered windows;
• A professional website;
• Using customer conversion data to improve periodic sales performance;
• Possessing a written marketing plan that has been updated in the last 12 months;
• Employees are monitored for firearms retention practices and awareness;
• CCTV camera system covers more than 90 percent of the facility (inside and outside);
• Offering free or low-cost introductory shooting programs throughout the year;
• A modern electronic target-retriever system is utilized in all lanes and the equipment is well maintained;
• Surface lead checks are conducted regularly in all employee and public spaces;
• Retail cabinets are separately lighted;
• Range has an indoor lounge where customers/members can relax and/or escape the weather.
Poway Weapons & Gear Range
Founded in 2015, Poway Weapons & Gear also earned their Five-Star rating based on excellence in firearms training. Its state-of-the-art training facility offers courses on safety, defense, tactics and survival as well as a variety of security and instructor certifications. Every inch of the store is a testament to good branding; from signage, to the impressive appearance of the interior and exterior — namely their professional and creative building design, their sleek, modern lanes and cohesive retail space. With such impeccable standards, it’s not difficult to see how Poway secured their NSSF Five-Star range rating.
“Our industry needs this kind of peer review and a rating system to hold every range owner accountable to their clientele,” explains Poway’s Founder John Phillips. “It isn’t the fancy showroom that begets a high rating. The true rating comes from the environmental stewardship, safety procedures and customer service practices that ensure our industry is represented in the best possible light.”
Personal accountability — it’s the invaluable benefit of a program like the NSSF Star Rating system. The entire industry stands to benefit collectively when there is a commitment to con-sistent standards by which to measure excellence.
Another notable Five-Star range is Nashville Armory in Nashville, Tenn. Founded in 2012, the range, self-described as luxurious, boasts a powerful ventilation system that pumps out air cleaner than what’s outside, touchscreen-operated, fully automated target controls, roomy shooting booths and top-notch sound dampening. However, Nashville Armory sets itself apart from other ranges, even other Five-Star ranges, in the area of community engagement.
“Nashville Armory was an impressive range when we awarded it our highest rating under our previous evaluation program, but ‘impressive’ almost seems underwhelming now,” confessed Zach Snow, NSSF’s director of range services. “Not only does Nashville Armory serve as a model of what a modern, user-friendly range should look like, its community outreach is something to be envied. We couldn’t be more pleased to have them join our all-new Five-Star family.”
Nashville Armory donates a portion of its profits to Camp Sycamore Creek, a non-profit camp for inner-city youth. They also support outreaches like AGAPE, Youth Encouragement Services, Reach Out, Healing Hands and the Boys Scouts of America. For customers looking to raise money for an important cause, Nashville Armory hosts and coordinates range fundraisers, providing facilities, staff, corporate sponsors, advertising efforts and donated items for silent auction.
A Litmus Test And Map
Have you ever checked out an NSSF Star Rating Range Assessment? Perhaps you’ve never attempted the application process because you’ve already mentally disqualified your range. Even if you think you wouldn’t rank high on an assessment, filling one out is an extremely constructive exercise. Before ever committing to the official process, an analysis can be conducted by filling out a sample assessment form. While it can’t be submitted for review, the document provides instant feedback in the form of an actual number rating. This information can be used as a metric to improve your business practices. Even if you don’t own a range, you can benefit from the assessment. While some criteria may not apply to you, a large portion will. It’s a helpful litmus test and a map for future growth.
Personally visiting each of the 66 Five-Star ranges poses a challenge, but you can easily check out their websites for inspiration. A list of links and additional information about the Five- Star program can be found at www.nssf.org/ranges/range-star-rating.