4 Tips for a Good Firearms Rental Experience

If your range rents guns, you know the pitfalls. This is how you rent guns properly to avoid problems.

4 Tips for a Good Firearms Rental Experience

Purchasing a firearm is a very subjective experience, especially for new shooters. After all, even though a shooter can “train up” to use a particular firearm, how one firearm feels compared to another can significantly affect a shooter’s comfort and performance. That’s why the rental experience at a firearms store can be an important tool in the store’s marketing efforts. Since the market is teeming with new shooters and soon-to-be new shooters, giving them some hands-on experience may help them focus and go from browsing to buying. Here are four tips to make the rental experience a good one, even if you don’t have a range on your retail premises.


Tip 1: Promote ‘try before you buy’ in your marketing

It should be abundantly clear in your store’s marketing communications not only that you provide a rental experience with a range but also encourage it as 1) a great way to prepare for the gun ownership experience and 2) a great way to decide exactly which gun is right for your customer. Tell your customers, again and again, the rental experience is the fitting room, the test drive, or the trial run that will help them make a well-informed choice about what firearm is right for them. This, of course, applies more to new shooters than experienced shooters. But even experienced shooters are customers who may be seeking additional firearms.

Your store’s exterior and interior signage, website, and all other marketing communications should proclaim loudly and clearly that you have a range on-site and rental guns for customers to try out. Your store’s staff should be well-versed on how to winsomely convince a customer to make the rental experience a part of their decision-making process. And your rental experience area (including the loaner guns, the range, checkout area, etc.) should be a retail masterpiece — well-lit, inviting, clearly marked, safe, clean, etc.

Idea: Even if you don’t have a range as a part of your store, you could partner with a local range and offer a “try before you buy” day to your customers. It requires a bit more planning and logistics, but it may provide customers with a good reason to set an appointment and make it happen. Plus, it provides an opportunity for the store and the range to work in tandem — each promoting the other to meet the needs of various customers.


Tip 2: Offer a simple but comprehensive, clearly priced shooting experience

For new or soon-to-be new shooters, it’s better to be simple by offering a single price covering a value-laden rental experience than to be complex by offering parts of the rental experience a la carte. In other words, simply charge $XYZ and include the use of a firearm, ammo, targets, eye/ear protection and a professional guide instead of charging individually for the firearm, the ammo, the targets and gear, and the range or instruction.

Like other retail tryouts such as the fitting room or the test drive, there are some costs that you as a retailer will simply have to absorb. But expenses such as wear and tear on a firearm may be recouped when you retire the firearm from retail/rental duty and sell it used. Be prepared to explain to a customer that the rental experience you’re offering is a key component of their buying decision. Would they rather invest a few dollars up front to better understand how a particular firearm feels in their hands, firing it in a controlled environment? Or would they rather risk making an uninformed decision, possibly resulting in the financial loss that could result in having to sell the gun used? Emphasize in the rental exercise the idea that customers are paying for a value-laden, informative experience — shooting a supply of ammunition through a firearm on a range. Moreover, help them understand they’re learning whether a particular firearm is the right one for them — before they actually buy one.

Idea: In your rental experience, offer a two- or three-gun tryout so a customer can feel the difference — in one session, right there at the range — between various guns. The mix of guns can be the same caliber or different, a variety of styles/actions (DAO autoloader and DA/SA revolver), and select sizes (compact, mid, large frame) to help them understand the pros and cons of each.


Tip 3: Offer a lesson as a part of the rental

In this context, a “lesson” is more about teaching the nuances of certain guns and how to operate them as opposed to teaching how to shoot via drills or how to carry concealed. Some may object that it’s difficult to spend this much time with a customer, but if a rental experience is priced correctly, there’s really no loss. Moreover, if the experience results in a purchase, then the store has won a customer who is more likely to return for additional range time and purchases. What you want to avoid is customers thinking the rental experience demands some knowledge on their part they may not have. The goal is to eliminate fear, uncertainty and doubt by offering the help of a calm, seasoned shooter who will gladly guide them through the use of new firearms.

Idea: Introduce the “instructor” and his or her credentials early and often in any customer’s retail experience. The quicker you can communicate that a friendly, helpful, knowledgeable instructor can be a part of their buying experience, the quicker a customer will be convinced to explore and ultimately purchase.


Tip 4: Provide an incentive for those who purchase the same day they rent

How you price your firearms and how you try to recoup these rental/marketing costs is of course up to you, but customers aren’t wrong to expect some of their rental experience expense to offset a portion of the final purchase amount. Keep in mind they may have had other expenses to get to this point — e.g., a concealed pistol license class or the licensure application process. The key is to consider their buying journey holistically — the purchase of a firearm is just one part of the journey. As such, consider providing an incentive, especially if they purchase the same day as their rental experience (or close to it). All incentives are more or less financial — e.g., X% off MSRP or an in-store credit for a certain dollar amount or a discounted membership — but some are less tangible and more customer-service oriented, emphasizing, for example, the on-going relationship a customer can enjoy with store staff as he or she uses the firearm over time and needs related gear or accessories.

Idea: In any case, consider incentives that get customers to return to the store. Offering half off the next range time with an included “checkup” from the staff means a greater opportunity to upsell related accessories and ammo — and keep the customer in the frame of mind that spending time at the store is a helpful, value-laden experience.


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