By Lisa Parsons-Wraith
Eleven eyes focused intently on Firearm Instructor Mike Davis as he demonstrated how to load a 20-gauge shotgun. After a thorough safety lesson and demonstration on clay busting, Davis asked if there were any questions. A hand belonging to a 14-year-old Boy Scout shot up, “Can I go first?” A few shots and busted clays later — he was hooked. The Scout leaned over to his friend and said, “This is so cool. I want a shotgun. I’m going to ask my dad.” And it’s as easy as that: A whole new group of firearm enthusiasts is born.
These events took place on a hot summer day in Colorado courtesy of the Salida Gunshop (also known as American Hunting & Firearms Service), which donated ammunition and guns to a day at the range for 11 Boy Scouts and their parents.
In all, a total of 20 people were instructed on how to shoot a .22-caliber rifle, and 12- and 20-gauge shotguns. Davis, a Salida gunshop instructor and former owner, donated his time to the Boy Scout troop — saying their operation has always put a big emphasis on kids and first-time shooters.
Marc Steinke, who currently co-owns the Salida Gunshop with Josiah Nierman, has been in the firearms business for 30 years — including a stint as an NRA field rep for Texas, Colorado and Alaska. “My main focus is youth and ladies because they’re the future of the shooting sports,” Steinke said. “If we don’t teach and train them [about firearms] now, we’ll lose them later. You have to create ways to be accepted in the public eye and show shooting is a safe sport.”
His belief explains why Davis and Steinke were happy to donate time and materials to a Boy Scouts troop from California that doesn’t have the same exposure to the shooting sports those in Colorado enjoy. “I thought it was an important thing to do because a lot of kids don’t have the opportunities to shoot like we have here, or they don’t have the money,” Steinke emphasized. “I strongly encourage other dealers to follow our example. They can fork out a few bucks on ammo and donate their time, and it will come full circle. If they don’t, it will cost them in the long run.”
If you partner with a local Boy Scouts troop to provide instruction and
guns/ammo, you’ll rein- force a positive image of the industry to the
“next wave” of customers — and even to parents.
Courtesy of Boy Scouts of America
“It’s Great For Families.”
An interesting dynamic of that Boy Scout day at the range was the parents were equally enthusiastic about shooting — including the ladies in the group. Everyone was game to try a new skill and take the time to improve their shooting, especially when it came to busting clays.
“Some of the parents who come to an event like this have never experienced shooting, so they try it,” Steinke remarked. “Parents see their kids smiling, learning a new skill and being outside — and then they try it. It’s great for families. Kids will come back and say it’s the most exciting thing they’ve done in their life.”
The items Salida Gunshop stocks on its shelves also demonstrate the staff’s commitment to new shooters. “We have a whole rack of youth guns; they’re huge sellers,” Steinke said.
In the rifle department, a best seller is the Mossberg Patriot rifle, according to Steinke. “It’s all made in the USA, comes in all calibers and all sizes, including youth and ladies. The 7mm-08 is just awesome for big game.”
The reliable Remington 870 is a favorite shotgun amongst Steinke’s customers. “The youth and ladies models chambered in .410- and 20-gauge are hard to beat,” he added. Finally, a popular handgun with women and youth is the GLOCK 43 9mm. “It’s a great youth and ladies gun because it’s sized to fit them,” he said, adding that GLOCKs are so reliable, they make great guns for beginning shooters.
Salida Gunshop’s women customers are big fans of firearms with color. “Ladies like to have something designated for them,” Steinke noted. Top-selling CCW accessories include purse holsters from Gun Tote’n Mamas because of their quality and design. Sticky Holsters are also popular since they work with just about every item of clothing without a belt and can easily go in a pocket.
When it comes to firearm purchases, Steinke strongly discourages men from buying guns for women, “I tell them, ‘You don’t try her shoes on for her, so you can’t try her gun on — bring her in!’” It’s important not to rely on special orders for women’s (and youth’s) guns. When women come into the store, they can try several different guns (as they would shoes) and find the right fit.
“You have to have guns in stock for women so they can try them and find the right one,” Steinke stressed.
A Sound Investment
Supporting youth and women’s shooting has proved to be a good strategy for Steinke. His store caters to an active shooting community and they’re lucky to have a public range close by for shooting events. Steinke was instrumental is obtaining NRA grants to fund the public range, corralling approximately $100,000 to support the public range on county land. Salida Gunshop is also expanding — an indoor gun range is in the works for instructional training, shooting skills classes and gunsmithing.
If you’re interested in promoting youth and ladies shooting, reach out to Boy Scout troops, 4-H Clubs and other youth groups. Let them know you’re promoting the shooting sports as a safe and fun pastime. Many groups are looking for unique activities that build useful skills and get kids outside. Make it a safe and entertaining event where kids experience success and get to hit fun and engaging targets. The parents in attendance will see the joy it brings to the kids and want to get in on the action.
Even more importantly, if a family hasn’t had any experience with the shooting sports, it will show shooting in a positive light and it will benefit your business in the future. As Steinke said, all firearms dealers can, at a minimum, occasionally donate their time, ammunition and firearms to encourage new shooters. It’s an investment in the future that will more than double over time.