Expanding Shooting Sports Month

Celebrating beyond August provides more opportunities to grow your business.

Expanding Shooting Sports Month

While August is the official National Shooting Sports Month celebration, the concept behind it — getting new people educated, having experienced shooters mentor new shooters and encouraging lapsed shooters to return to the shooting sports — is an ongoing endeavor.  (Photo: NSSF)

Though most retailers and ranges remained open for business as the coronavirus pandemic progressed, many were still operating under a variety of social-distancing, public-gathering, building-capacity, and facemask-wearing restrictions during August’s National Shooting Sports Month.

This was the fourth year the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearm industry trade association and creator of National Shooting Sports Month, promoted this month-long celebration of the shooting sports. Opportunities for success were nearly boundless for those ranges with the fewest restrictions. For those retailers and ranges still under the most strident restrictions in August, though, as well as others late to the reopening processes, planning and hosting National Shooting Sports Month events were a bit more challenging.

And yet all is not lost for those ranges and retailers that couldn’t participate — and there’s even better news for those that did. While August is the official National Shooting Sports Month celebration, the concept behind it — getting new people educated, having experienced shooters mentor new shooters and encouraging lapsed shooters to return to the shooting sports — is an ongoing endeavor.

Here are a few ideas for relocating canceled National Shooting Sports Month plans or creating fresh events to drive traffic to your business this fall. When you do, be sure to visit NSSF’s COVID-19 resources page — www.nssf.org/covid19/ — for all the best practices to keep you, your staff and customers safe.

“Get to Know Us Open House”

Pick a Saturday, put some hotdogs and hamburgers on the grill outside, and encourage your regular customers to bring someone new with them to see what firearms and target shooting are all about. Seeing staff handle firearms responsibly and talking about them intelligently can go a long way toward easing apprehensions people unfamiliar with firearms often have — and can help spark the curiosity that turns them into customers.

This approach can work well for encouraging those customers who purchased their first firearm during the pandemic to return to your store. Tell them about your classes (NSSF First Shots introductory classes — nssf.org/ranges/first-shots-home/ — are one of the easiest and most cost-efficient ways to get those new gun owners back to your range), help them with things like basic gun maintenance or host a group Q&A session for first-time buyers and novice shooters.

Anything that helps them become safe, responsible firearm owners and also introduces them to the entertainment of target shooting will go a long way toward turning these new customers into regular customers. If you’re a standalone FFL without a range, consider partnering up with one in your area to jointly hold events. 

Community Safety Day

Do you offer firearms safety and handling classes? That’s great for people looking for that kind of instruction. But what if you had a day devoted to all sorts of safety classes such as first aid, CPR certifications, emergency preparedness for extreme weather events, hiking trail safety and wilderness survival? Instruction like this draws in people from all walks of life to your store.

Add to that an officer or two from the local police or sheriff’s department to give a youth safety presentation (they’d likely appreciate the break from pandemic duties) or hold a “Have Your Fire Extinguisher Checked Free Today” event with the local fire chief, and now entire families have an excuse to visit your store. Such events not only show people you are truly invested in the community, they give exposure to your store and your services to many who might otherwise have never thought to pay you a visit. 

Non-Gun Promotions

As a firearm retailer, you naturally carry all sorts of inventory beyond firearms and ammunition. Take a look at some of your non-gun inventory and think about how that might appeal to someone who might not realize you stock and service those products.

You probably have at least one counter devoted to knives, for instance. Offering a free knife-sharpening service or a “Buy a New Knife and We’ll Sharpen Your Favorite Kitchen Knife Free” promotion during October would be a super way to see all sorts of new customers (not to mention all those big-game hunters about to head afield). How about your binocular case? A special sale advertised to backyard bird watchers, high school sports team parents or area hiking club would be another smart way to drive new traffic to your store.

This is truly a think-outside-the-box promotion — thinking outside your box as a retailer primarily of firearms. The truth is, you have products and services that appeal to a wide variety of people. Get those people in your store and you have your best chance of turning them into firearms customers as well. 

Charity Events

Gun owners are some of the most charitable people around, and letting other people know that is a great way to turn heads. National and global causes are sure to gather attention from the general public and are certainly worth considering, but if you really want to seize the attention of the people in your community, pick a charity important to you and your neighbors.

For example, you could hold a canned food drive for your local food kitchen and offer a gift certificate, free firearms safety class or a coupon good for a discount on other instruction to anyone who brings in more than 10 items. Such an arrangement gets people into your store who, again, might otherwise not visit. It gives them a chance to see the good your business does, and by offering a spiff (gift certificate/free class/coupon) for participating, your staff has an unprecedented opportunity to do more than say “Thanks for dropping off that can of beans.”

For ranges, charity shoots are a no-brainer. They’re also a spectacular way to get new people involved in the shooting sports when that charity or cause has wide appeal locally. Animal shelters, public parks, hiking trails and other recreational spaces, scholarships for the area high school’s top graduates, even the local library, community center and boys’ and girls’ clubs are things that everyone can get behind.

While that common cause is a great starting point, it may not be quite enough to get someone who doesn’t know anything about firearms to your store or range. This is where you’ll want to get your current customers on board with NSSF’s +ONES Movement, which is all about having experienced shooters introduce someone new to the shooting sports.

Your customer who has the “I Love My Rescue Dog” sticker on their car window? Yup, they’re your best choice for inviting all the other rescue dog people they know to your .22 fun shoot raising money for the local animal shelter. All those regulars who wear “Fighting Badgers!” sweatshirts in support of the high school football team? “A Shoot for the Goal Posts” sporting clays tournament with the proceeds going to purchase new helmets and jerseys for the team could be the ticket for doubling your customer base.

The list could go on and on. The key to success is knowing your customers, knowing what’s going on in their lives beyond your store, and then putting that knowledge to work in a way that appeals to people outside your core customer base. 


We mentioned NSSF’s +ONE Movement in the paragraphs above. To help build the strength of this initiative, NSSF created a number of resources to help your retail store or range promote the movement year-round. +ONE resources (found at NSSF.org/plusone) include:

    1. Banners, Posters, Gun Mats and Tent Cards — Retailers and ranges can display these on countertops, store and clubhouse walls and other high-visibility, high-traffic customer areas.
    2. Selfie Frames — The selfie is as popular as ever, and new retail and range customers using +ONE and National Shooting Sports Month selfie frames and posting to social media help spread the word to other non-shooters about how inclusive and enjoyable the shooting sports are. Remember to have your customers use the #PlusOneMovement and #LetsGoShooting hashtags when they post their selfies to all their social media platforms.
    3. Online Marketing Toolkit — A collection of free, downloadable +ONE logos, branding activation guides, scripted social media posts, digital ads, public service announcements and professionally photographed range and hunting images for use in marketing and social media communications.
    4. +ONE Stickers and Challenge Coins — Exclusive to the +ONE toolkit, these mementos of a great day at the range or in the field can go a long way towards encouraging return activity. Give the stickers to those who’ve had a great first time on your range or taken their first firearms safety class, while also rewarding mentors who’ve taken the time to pay it forward with NSSF’s special +ONE Challenge coins.

For more information on National Shooting Sports Month, NSSF’s +ONE Movement, First Shots and how your store or range can get involved year-round in any or all efforts, contact Ann Gamauf, NSSF retail & range business development coordinator, at agmauf@nssf.org or 203-426-1320 ext. 247. She has lots of ideas to help you host a successful event and make the most of NSSF’s initiatives to increase participation while growing your customer base. 

Zach Snow is the NSSF director of retail & range business development.


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