With today's emphasis on training in the consumer market, firearms and self-defense instructors have the ability to send you a lot of business--by referring your store to their students. In many cases, it's a win-win: The instructor wins by being viewed as a trusted resource for students, and you win with a good word and the opportunity to earn the business of a prospective customer. However, this setup isn't always viewed through a rose-colored lens.
If you've been reading this column over the years, you know I spend a great deal of time teaching people how and when to use firearms; I also train other instructors. Recently, I taught a weeklong class along with Marty Hayes, head of both Firearms Academy of Seattle and the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network. During the course, we took the liberty of polling the class on what they hoped retail firearms dealers would be able to sell to their students and what their grumbles about dealers might be.
Why It's Important
The steady increase in availability of concealed carry options around the country has interested more people than ever in learning to use, and often carry, defensive firearms. Many jurisdictions require a training class before the applicant can be issued a permit. Even where it's not required, (most) responsible beginners will seek out training to learn how to shoot correctly and safely. Their chosen instructor becomes their guide to such things, a trusted advisor of sorts.
What does this mean? For one thing, it means they'll want to buy the products recommended by their mentor. Simply put, if you're in the business for profit instead of fun, you'll want students to buy those recommended products from you.
Trying Before Buying. If your establishment doesn't have a shooting range--and specifically a range where customers can rent different guns to try--our focus group can explain why you might be losing business to a competitor who does.
Because fit of gun to hand, ability to control recoil, ability to manage the trigger and related issues are so very important to creating a confident, competent shooter, roughly half of the respondents said they would be inclined to send their students to a range where they could "try before they buy." Yes, we all know (the instructors are aware, too) how expensive it is to have an adjacent range facility.
If this isn't in the cards, see if there is a public shooting range with which you can work a deal, perhaps mutual...