When Hardware Is In Short Supply, Sell Training
Your customers come to your gun shop for more than guns and ammo. A major reason they frequent your store is the knowledge and advice you and your staff provide.
Now, in a time when guns and ammo are so over-ordered and backed up you can’t get the hardware you normally sell, it may be time to start putting more emphasis on training. In early March, I experienced the value such training can bring to your shop and your customers.
Lynn and Tom Givens, owners of Rangemaster, hold numerous live-fire and non-firing seminars at their facility and around the country. Visit www.rangemaster.com.
Tom Givens and his wife, Lynn, have for many years owned and operated Rangemaster in Memphis, Tenn. The two-story facility includes a spacious, modern indoor live-fire range, an airgun range, a dedicated classroom and multiple rooms that can be configured into classrooms. There is also a retail gun shop, which was well-stocked — until the recent buying frenzy.
Several years ago, Tom and Lynn founded The Polite Society, named after a quote by writer Robert Heinlein and popularized by Jeff Cooper — “an armed society is a polite society.” The Polite Society’s goals are highlighted at an annual seminar in self-defense tactics and related concepts. Live-fire drills, with everything from shotguns to semiautomatic rifles and all manner of handguns, are part of the curriculum.
This year the event was held at Rangemaster, and the only live-fire gunning occured at the annual match, which can be completed with less than a 50-round box of ammunition. Several attendees didn’t even shoot the match. They were there for the training, which was done in classroom environments: either lecture supplemented with PowerPoint and video or hand-to-hand work.
This had great appeal for the attendees. The hot topic of the event was, “Where do we get ammo and components?” All the instructors agreed that the firearms training industry is being hurt severely by the shortage. As a result, most, if not all of them, are planning to offer more lectures, more hand-to-hand and dry-fire training, and less shooting in their 2013 curricula.
As it turned out, this was the largest Polite Society Conference turnout in the history of the event: 150 attendees, each of whom paid $289 to attend the three-day event.
This, I submit, is the type of training — on a smaller scale — the average gun shop management team can do at the local level.
Many experts can provide training for dealers. Here, retired undercover cop Craig Douglas
(Southnarc) teaches a hand-to-hand class at Rangemaster.
Local Experts Can Teach Attention-Getting Courses
The Polite Society event brought people from all over the country, drawn by the caliber of training. Givens, with decades of experience in the training community, was able to bring in 25 top trainers. They included firearm and knife experts, skilled women trainers, a federal lawman noted for gunfight research, a psychologist/gun expert, physicians skilled in the treatment of gunshot wounds and similar trauma, an undercover cop who has dealt with “up close and personal” encounters, a gun-retention expert, a martial arts/tactical instructor and others.
Can you bring these same trainers into your shop to teach? Maybe, maybe not. But you certainly have local experts in the same disciplines who would be happy to teach for you. Think about it: How many of your customers are MDs and paramedics with experience in treating gunshot wounds, who would be eager to share their knowledge?
You know the local firearms instructors. Don’t you think the competent ones would share a few hours with you and your customers to give a sample of their skills to potential new customers? Is it safe to say that some of your police clientele believe strongly in Second Amendment issues and would be happy to conduct a class for law-abiding citizens — your customers?
The national class instructors at Polite Society don’t charge their usual hefty fees. Tom gives them a stipend; however, most of them attend to expand their own knowledge and to showcase what they offer in hopes that attendees will sign up for their regular programs at regular rates. It works for everyone — particularly the student. This concept can work for you, also.
Hosting Your Training
The Givens’ Rangemaster has firing ranges and classrooms. Most gun shops don’t, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hold a seminar locally.
As a traveling trainer, I’ve taught in church fellowship halls, VFWs and conference rooms in city halls, banks and, most commonly, hotels. Hotels work well if you book through the hotel’s events manager; they’ll usually give you a discount for rooms occupied by your students and often a discount on the conference room, depending on how many rooms your seminar fills.
You and your own staff may be able to fill a seminar without acquiring “outside talent.” Do you have a gunsmith — part time, full time or on call — who can give a basic course on gun maintenance for your customers or attendees? Such a course was offered at the 2013 Polite Society event and it was well-attended, even by the high-expertise student body present.
You’ve seen many of your customers express an interest in reloading for the first time — especially during the present ammo shortage — and I’ll bet you and your staff could put together a dynamite “basics of reloading” class.
A perfect example of one dealer who holds a number of non-firing classes at his store is Richard Sprague, president of Sprague’s Sports in Yuma. In addition to Concealed Carry Weapons Courses, he offers “Intro To Reloading,” “For the Ladies: Refuse to be a Victim” and other special seminars.
In May, Sprague hosted a “Street Safety Training” seminar, taught by experts from American Security & Investigative Services. The fee for the seminar was $75 per person.
“The subjects covered in this training seminar are intended to provide you and your families with information that can help you survive shooting incidents and other potentially deadly assaults,” read the course outline on Sprague’s website.
These types of courses will draw in your regular customers and likely attract the attention of those who have never been to your store, setting up the opportunity to make them regular customers.
Sell Your Knowledge
You have bills to pay, employees who count on their paycheck and the duty to be the responsible resident expert on firearms in your community. When you can’t get hardware to meet demand, sell your knowledge and the knowledge of local and regional experts. It works for everyone, it pays the bills and it fulfills the duty to educate the public and keep them safe.
By Massad Ayoob
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