Q. Do you do anything special to attract youth to your facility?
Roxanne Laney, Shoot Smart, Fort Worth, Texas
A. Shoot Smart epitomizes a “family-friendly” range, and that’s why we draw large numbers of youngsters. Family-friendly starts with the look and feel of the range when moms and dads walk through the front door. Our youthful uniformed staff greets customers in our carpeted and well-lit retail area and shows them to a comfortable Shooters’ Lounge to wait their turns. Lounge entertainment features a Wii game or Xbox, cartoons and youth-themed movies, and snacks and drinks. We offer fun targets such as zombies, bugs, animals, games and themed targets for Halloween, Thanksgiving and summer holidays.
We started with free summer instruction for home-schooled youngsters ages 8 through 15 in 2011. By the next summer, we were running four youth leagues — early summer and late-summer leagues for youth ages 8 to 11 and 12 to 15. The league starts with a two-hour basic handgun class and continues with five more two-hour sessions of games and competition. The youngsters win trophies for individual and team shooting and sportsmanship. Youth leagues attracted about 80 kids in each of 2012 and 2013, and more are on tap for 2014.
In 2012 and 2013 Shoot Smart participated in “National Take Your Daughter to the Range Day” run by Lynn Finch. This event was a home run for Shoot Smart, drawing about 60 girls between the ages of 8 and 16 each time. The event includes a game in which participants move through six booths set up carnival style. At each one, Shoot Smart’s female certified instructors teach one topic and stamp the girls’ game cards. The topics are firearms safety, handgun parts, grip and stance, aim, trigger control and “first shots.” The girls have a special target and receive prizes, including free lane rentals for a family visit.
This year, we are rolling out a monthly program called “Bee Smart.” The objective of the Bee Smart program is to educate our customers continuously while providing a fun evening of recreation and competition. Bee Smart Youth Night runs the second Wednesday of the month. A certified Shoot Smart instructor teaches basic safety and runs a different fun drill each time for the youngsters so that they learn to shoot well enough to compete in games and competitions — and the leagues. We also run family night on the last Sunday of the month — same format. At the first Bee Smart Family Night, families teamed up to play Bullet Bingo (we call the number, they have to shoot it to get bingo and win prizes)!
Last, but not least, we have always offered private instruction all day, every day. Our certified instructors have taught hundreds of kids to be safe and shoot straight.
Robin Ball, Sharp Shooting Indoor Range & Gun Shop, Spokane, Wash.
Q. We work hard to bring new, young shooters into our facility. We are the local contact for the Boy Scouts Merit Badge program. Many troops come in for gun safety and marksmanship training and then return to practice their new skills. When we have Boy Scouts on the range, we let their adult supervisors shoot free. It is a great way to get kids to get their parents to go shooting. Our repeat business indicates this has been successful.
In addition to the younger crowd, we work with local college students as well. We host the training for Spokane Community College’s Law Enforcement Associates Degree. Most of the participants are fresh out of high school, not old enough to purchase a handgun, but want to become law enforcement. They become great customers and sometimes great employees.
Another avenue with the college-aged kids includes clubs from the local campuses. We frequently have meetings for College Republican, The Outdoor Club and Rho Beta Si, the latter being a shooting and competitive group. They use our classroom to enjoy pizza, we do safety training if they need it and they spend three or four hours shooting with us.