Sig Freedom Days Opens the Range

Sig Sauer is working to give more people a proper welcome to the shooting sports.

Sig Freedom Days Opens the Range

When Sig Sauer officials began planning the first Freedom Days consumer event, they believed it would be a success. How much of a success, as with anything new, was uncertain. 

The three-day event staged at the Ben Avery Shooting Range northeast of Phoenix was an overwhelming success. Despite a few typical first-event hiccups, some obvious and some behind-the-scenes, there were no major issues. Before it ended, Sig Sauer officials were kicking around ideas about where and when to have the next one. 

More than 4,000 people from 46 states bought advance tickets, which got them entry into the range for hands-on shooting experiences and the seminars. Walk-up attendance was strong, as well. Lines the first morning were about 10-wide and more than 50 yards long, and growing. With the mid-May sun and heat bearing down, everyone remained patient to get their mandatory wristband for entry and swag bag from participating exhibitors. Sig Sauer officials deftly handled the crush and were ready the next two mornings. “That’s one of those good Champagne problems,” one exhibitor said, laughing. The entry process was added to the list for post-event review and improvement. 

The diversity of those in attendance is a strong indication of the interest in the Freedom Days events. One morning in my hotel, I spied a man from Kentucky in a can’t-miss blue Kentucky Wildcats shirt. His son, graduating high school with honors, wanted a trip to the Freedom Days event. A Sig Sauer official said a couple had flown in from Oregon. They came from all over and left wanting more. 

“As a company, we challenged ourselves to find a way to bring our brand right to the consumer outside of the typical trade show and retail environment,” says Tom Taylor, chief marketing officer and executive vice president, Commercial Sales, Sig Sauer, Inc. He says officials “wanted to offer enthusiasts, Second Amendment advocates, Sig lovers, curiosity seekers, and everyone in between, with an authentic hands-on total Sig experience. Sig Freedom Days connected the consumer with the product in a first-of-its-kind range event and exceeded all our expectations.”

On Target

Attendees had the opportunity to see and shoot everything from Sig Sauer’s airguns to its new Next Generation Squad Weapons selected by the U.S. Army. Many were topped with Sig’s own red-dot optics and traditional scopes and matched with the company’s precision ammunition.

The list of available firearms to try was impressive. It included the newly released Spectre series, the EDC P365 series, the P320 series including the Army’s P320-M17 and Marines Corps’ P320-M18, the MCX rifle in different configurations, and many others. Sig Sauer unveiled its just-released Cross PRS for precision match shooters and big, feature-laden 10mm P320 X10. A handful of attendees had the chance to shoot the new MCX-Spear and LMG XM250 machine gun. Both of those are part of the NGSW systems designed by Sig Sauer for the military. 

Daily presentations, some with Q&A sessions, were a hit, too. They featured Sig Sauer’s professional shooting team members including Max Michel and Lena Miculek, the United States Concealed Carry Association, a K9-vehicle “bad guy” demonstration with Justin Melnick, a book signing with Jack Carr, long-range rifle tips with Daniel Horner, and shotgun loading sessions with Jerry and Lena Miculek. 

Premier sponsors included familiar industry names: United States Concealed Carry Association, Black Rifle Coffee Company, Mossberg Shotguns, Xpedition Archery, 5.11 Tactical, and Fieldcraft Survival. Additional sponsors were Axil, Arizona Fish & Game, Camburg Energy, Galco Holsters, Gray Guns, Hogue Knives, Horse Soldier Bourbon, Icarus Precision, L2D Combat, Mirzon Grips, Nine Line Apparel, Silencer Shop, Swagger Bipods, Tactacam and Timney Triggers. Non-profit partners included the Best Defense Foundation and the Firearms Policy Coalition.

“With the undeniable success of Sig Freedom Days and the demand for more experiential events from Sig we already are planning for the next SIG Freedom Days event,” Taylor says. “Fans should expect an announcement in the very near future.”

The next big event for the company is the mid-July opening of its expanded and improved Sig Sauer Academy in New Hampshire. On more than 140 acres roughly an hour north of Boston, the academy’s facelift includes new indoor and outdoor training ranges, meeting facilities, force-on-force village, maritime training area, tactical areas, shoot house and store. With more than 100 courses taught year-round, the expansion was inevitable.

Long-Term Gain

Attendee and exhibitor fees didn’t cover the cost of staging the first-time Freedom Days event, but Sig Sauer CEO Ron Cohen didn’t mind. He knows getting something started takes time. 

“Financially speaking, this is not a smart decision for Sig,” Cohen says. “Not today. Maybe in a year. If you think I can make money here, it’s not possible. But that’s not my objective.”

Cohen’s objective is to get people at the range, get them feeling comfortable and confident, and get them excited. He recalls the days of taking his young sons to the range. Like most kids, they were rambunctious and a bit rebellious. But at the range, they snapped into place. They enjoyed the procedures and focus and discipline required, Cohen says. While they had fun shooting and competing with each other, being at the range gave them confidence and a sense of success. Your customers, and probably you and your staff, remember those first range visits when you hit the target, burst a milk jug at 100 yards, or nailed the center-X repeatedly.

That’s what Cohen hopes to get established, possibly nationwide with more events.

“You take a .22, give it to an individual who never shot a gun, take away the fear, the noise, the recoil,” he says. “I think we can show them under one umbrella the legitimacy of defense, safety and the decency of the people around you. That’s probably the most important thing. It’s not a Rambo who looks at you and says, ‘Hey, who the hell are you?’ We don’t have those people at Sig. My hope is that (attendees) will bring somebody who doesn’t shoot and show that we’re not evil. And that it’s fun. And that you can learn something.”

The Ben Avery complex northwest of Phoenix is a sprawling, wonderful facility for shooters of all disciplines. Before I got to the Freedom Days event, I stopped at the range headquarters to look around. In the parking lot, on the range and in the shop, I saw a super diverse group: black women with rifle cases, older men with military backgrounds, young and old, couples, singles. I saw a guy with tattoos who looked more skateboarder than shooter. It was great. We can’t let appearances fool us. Surely, in the last few years in your shop, you’ve seen more diversity within your customers. Embrace it.

Cohen knows some people go to a range or shop and never return. They don’t enjoy it, or are looked down upon. Perhaps their ignorance about guns and ammo causes someone more experienced to say something unhelpful. Or their visit is a once- or twice-yearly thing, instead of becoming a regular part of their lives. That’s what Cohen would like to change.

“There will be shooters here that maybe the last time they went to a range was a year ago, or they don’t go for another year for some reason,” Cohen says. “I want that shooter to think maybe next Saturday or three Saturdays from now, we’re going to hit the range. It’s so much fun. If we can do that, we’ll [ensure] the Second Amendment. So, I take my kids. I take my friends. I take people who are anti. Because they expect to see people who are a different nature. Not ‘normal.’ They come here, see the discipline, see everything going on. I believe we can do that.”

Sig Sauer has not announced future Freedom Days events yet. Don’t be surprised when it does, though, and expect more of them in the future.


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