Youth Shooters Are the Future of Your Business

Taking a family-friendly approach with youth guns, gear and instruction will make your business and the shooting sports stronger.

Youth Shooters Are the Future of Your Business

It wasn’t his fault. He was just a dad trying to get his son excited about shooting.

The boy was wearing hearing protection and shooting glasses — it was obvious dad was promoting safety. The gun was just too long. The length of the stock and height of the scope prevented the boy from getting a good cheek weld. He couldn’t see properly through the scope and when his finger hammered the trigger, the recoil of the .30-06 rocked him back.

“I hate this gun,” the boy barked at his father. “I don’t want to shoot anymore.”

I could see the sadness in the father’s eyes and the frustration in his son. I had to intervene. As it turned out, father and son had been to a pair of gun shops, both of which offered zero youth offerings. When I asked him why he’d made the decision to purchase the adult-sized .30-06 for his son, he told me a disappointing story.

“I just got into shooting and hunting a few years back,” he told me. “I love it. I want my kids to love it. It’s so much better for them than sitting in front of an Xbox console. I shot a deer last year, and it’s weird to say but the experience changed my life. I want that for my kids. Both shop owners I talked to told me I needed to get a gun he could grow into. They told me he would adjust and figure out how to shoot it until he grew. I wanted to start him out with a .243, but they told me the gun was too light for deer and that I needed to get him something with more knockdown power. They told me a light gun would be better for carrying around the woods, but this thing really kicks. He’s ready to quit, and I don’t know what to do.”

Two hours later, after sending a box of ammo downrange from my son’s Savage Model 11 Trophy Hunter XP Compact chambered in .243 Win., the boy’s joy was restored. His last three-shot group at a distance of 150 yards could be covered with a quarter, and had I not run out of ammo, he would have kept on shooting.

I cringe at what may have happened had I not been there. Would the boy have ever sent lead downrange again? Doubtful. Would he have joined the ranks of new hunters and shooters? Probably not.

Youth recruitment is shrinking, and if not exposed to the shooting sports in a fun and positive way, it will continue to shrink. The youth of today are the shooting sports consumers of tomorrow, and you play a big role in giving them a good start in the sport. Here are five things you can do to foster youth recruitment and sell more firearms.

Have a Range Day

If you don’t have a shooting range of your own, partner with a local shooting club and have a youth range day. Sure, it will take some work and planning, but it will be well worth it.

Get some local volunteers — shop regulars as well as guys and gals you trust — and get the ball rolling. Design some posters and flyers and get them out in the community. Advertise your youth range day event on local radio stations and plaster it across your social media channels. Be sure parents understand that youth don’t need to bring their own weapon and ammunition, and let them know that experienced volunteers will be on hand to ensure safety and promote shooting education.

Make it an all-day event. Start with lessons and classes in the morning and maybe have a few for-fun competitions after lunch. Be sure to have some of the youth models you carry at your shop on the range.

Make the event fun. Play music, grill hot dogs and be social. Get the parents involved and get them excited about the fact that their youth are joining a sport with such a deep and rich history.

Be a Voice of Reason

You know as well as I do that more deer backstraps have hit the grill by way of a well-placed .243 round than most all other calibers combined.

I’ve been in plenty of shops where a new-to-hunting dad comes in wanting to buy his 10-year-old son a lightweight .300 Win. Mag. Why? Because he got some bad information. Some random somebody told him that if he went with a .243 Win., .308 Win. or 7mm-08 Rem., he would be chasing lots of wounded deer. You want to preach shooting comfort and accuracy, right?

A simple explanation about recoil, proper fit and a quick story or three about how the above-mentioned calibers will anchor a deer and other big game quickly will often get them back on the right track.

Tell the Truth

I’ve also seen new-to-shooting parents and youth come into shops having been given misinformation about economical rifle/scope combos. They’ve been fed lies — told that combos were cheap, inaccurate shooters not worthy of being toted to the range or woods. You know the truth. A rifle/scope combo is a great option for a youth shooter, and really simplifies things for the parents. Remember, most new shooters aren’t going to be trying to bang gongs at 1,000 yards. They just want a gun that will perform.

Two years back I bought my son Savage’s Model 11 Trophy Hunter XP Compact chambered in .243 Win. The gun came topped with a factory-mounted and bore-sighted Nikon 3-9x40mm scope, which promises ease-of-focus and adjustment. The scope is clear and performs well in lowlight situations. Aside from the scope, the gun itself has a lot going for it. The synthetic stock is ultra-durable and AccuTrigger technology allows for fine-tuning of trigger pull. At 8.02 pounds, the gun is not too light and not too heavy, and offered in calibers of .223 Rem., 243 Win., 308 Win. and 7mm-08 Rem., recoil is never a worry.

As for the gun’s accuracy and in-the-field performance, last season my son dumped a pair of big-game animals — a sizeable pronghorn buck and a monster 8-point whitetail with a pair of well-placed Federal rounds. The shot on the pronghorn was taken at a distance of 196 yards and the shot on the whitetail was 263 yards. He practices a lot and has refined his skills, but it just goes to show that an economical ($639 for the gun/scope combo) package can serve the in-the-field needs of youth and adult hunters alike.

As for those who will say a cheaper 3x9 scope won’t hold zero — that you’ll be sighting-in constantly and blowing through ammo — my son’s Nikon hasn’t had an elevation or windage adjustment made to it in two years of shooting.

Combo options move well in gun shops, especially when it comes to new adult and youth shooters. When prospective buyers can look at a price tag of under $1K and know that they’re getting a good weapon that will serve their needs, it’s easier to open the checkbook. The process of choosing a gun, scope, rings and bases has been eliminated. They get the whole package with one purchase. Have a good selection of both youth and adult combo options on hand and you’ll move more guns out your door.

Of course, not all youth rifles come as combos. That’s fine. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t carry them. Just be sure to have some quality, economical scope offerings on hand and be willing to mount and bore-sight the rifle for your customers. I’ve been in a couple of shops that created their own rifle/scope combos, and they seemed to move really well.  

Explain Ammo

While you’re setting up your new youth shooter as well as educating new-to-shooting parents, be sure to take the time to explain their ammunition choices. You know that all ammo is not created equally, but they may not. Find out what their needs are — what they plan on doing with their newly purchased firearm — and provide them with some ammo options that will serve their needs.

Offer Classes

I know, you have more than enough to do, but adding a few shooting classes can really boost your bottom line and grow your business. Again, if your shop doesn’t have an outdoor range, partner with a local range. Partnering can be a great deal for your shop and the range. If you pay the range a fee, they will most certainly advertise for you and let visitors know about your shop.

Offer classes for beginner and novice shooters alike. One major problem that many youth face, especially those living in urban areas, is finding a place to shoot. If you can be that place and parents know that their child is going to be exposed to a safe and educational environment, they will be all about it.

There it is. You can boost your shop’s income and help promote the future of the sport you love so much. It’s a win-win situation.

Great Youth Guns

In addition to Savage’s Model 11 Trophy Hunter XP, there are a few other youth rifles you should consider putting behind the shelf.

Winchester’s XPR Compact Scope Combo is fitted with a Vortex Crossfire II 3-9x40 with BDC reticle scope and Weaver rings and bases. The bolt-action rifle showcases a precision button-rifle barrel, steel receiver and a compact composite stock with a 13-inch length of pull. The built-in M.O.A. Trigger system promises precision and the two-position thumb-safety boosts accuracy. MSRP on this package is $709.99.

Thompson Center’s T/C Venture Compact promises the same guaranteed MOA accuracy as the full-size Venture, but provides a more ergonomic fit and feel for smaller-framed shooters. A 1-inch spacer is included with the Venture Compact to allow for length-of-pull adjustment between 12 ½ and 13 ½ inches. Trigger pull can be adjusted from 3 ½ pounds to 5 pounds, and T/C’s rifling ensures precision accuracy. MSRP is $537.

Remington’s Model 700 SPS Youth Rifle chambered in 7mm-08 features a solid steel cylindrical receiver housed in a won’t-let-moisture-in black matte synthetic stock complete with defined grips and dual sling swivel studs. The stock’s length of pull is 1 inch shorter than standard 700 SPS rifles, and the R3 Recoil Pad was specifically engineered to reduce recoil by over 30 percent. This rifle is not offered as a rifle/scope combo but hits a pleasing price point of $604.

At a full 5 inches shorter than the standard Ruger American, the Ruger American Rifle Compact boasts a 12 ½-inch length of pull and an 18-inch barrel, making it ideal for youth shooters. The Compact version comes with a cold-hammer-forged free-floating barrel, and the one-piece receiver promises rigidity. The gun tips the scales at just 6 pounds and is offered in an array of calibers. MSRP is just a tick over $400.


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