Every other Monday night, a few dozen customers gather on the range at C.I. Shooting Sports in Normal, Ill., for a game they call Monday Night Marksman. The game was invented by the shop's owner, Stephen Stewart, who describes it as a combination of two other popular shooting sports--bull's-eye and Police Pistol Combat (also known as Precision Pistol Competition).
Stewart is a veteran of several shooting disciplines, including 3-Gun, USPSA and NRA Action Pistol. And he sees several reasons to host these sorts of events at his range, where they also have bull's-eye and USPSA matches during the week.
On one level, they fit with the store's belief customers should strive to be proficient with their firearms. "It's better than standing there shooting at a piece of paper," he said. "It also gives the customers something to look forward to."
But there's also a pragmatic business angle to these types of events. They generate enthusiasm and fuel customers' interest in guns, ammo and accessories. It's not uncommon for a novice shooter (or at least someone with no previous competition experience) to come in a try out one of the events and become hooked.
"The next thing you know, they're buying a 1911 Range Officer for Monday Night Marksman," Stewart shared.
There's a similar story at the Centennial Gun Club in Centennial, Colo., where they host monthly competitions in a wide range of handgun sports, including USPSA, IDPA, bowling pin and Steel Challenge.
Joey Mizufuka, a sales manager and instructor, said the store started becoming more active in the competition shooting sector about four years ago. He's been a USPSA shooter since 2007. The push into this arena has helped the shop differentiate itself in a crowded market.
"That's the direction we've been leaning toward more and more. We needed something. We went for it and it's been very successful," said Mizufuka, who also hosts a monthly introductory class for customers interested in competition.
USPSA, in particular, is popular in the area, with matches available every weekend of the month at various ranges. Their own match is on Sunday evenings after the shop closes. They max out at 50 shooters (each paying $20 to shoot)--and in four years, they've only failed to sell out once.
With that level of local interest, it just made financial sense to attempt to tap into the market.
"Nobody carries this stuff locally," Mizufuka relayed.
KEYS TO SUCCESS
To be clear, for both shops, the competition shooter...