Dry Run: Dry-Fire Training Aids

Should your shop invest in dry-fire training aids to let customers see how a handgun fits their shooting style?

Dry Run: Dry-Fire Training Aids

As much as I would like to think otherwise, there are some handguns I just don’t shoot well, and likely never will. Maybe the grip is too fat, or it seats in my hand in such a way that getting on the sights takes longer than I would like. 

Those things show themselves pretty quickly to an experienced gun buyer. We know what we like and what we don’t, so when we encounter it, we can make the purchase or move on to the next thing. 

There are other times that flaws in shooter fit aren’t quite so obvious, and only after expending hundreds of rounds of precious ammunition, hours at the range, and likely a few expletives do we arrive at the conclusion that this gun just isn’t a good fit for us. 

That’s for an experienced shooter. 

What about those folks new to firearms? How is a new shooter supposed to decide if a gun fits during the decision-making process if live fire isn’t available?

Why not use dry-fire training aids? 

Why Should I Care?

A gun counter can be a very busy place. Lots of people coming and going, guns being handed back and forth, questions, more questions, opinions, and anecdotes flying around like clays on a skeet range. Why on earth should I burden the buying process with laser cartridges and training aids?

To me, the answer is simple: Happy customers are return customers. The lifetime value of a customer far outweighs the cost of a little extra time with a purchaser who is new, or not fully confident in their decision making. Going that extra mile for a pleasant customer experience should always be your goal, but even more so when working with customers who need that little bit of personal touch. 

The figures over the last few years are mind-boggling. The number of first-time gun buyers entering the system is almost unbelievable, but talking to shop owners around the country verifies what the data is telling us. These shoppers are out there, in huge numbers, and they’re coming through doors for the first time looking for a firearm. Being aware of these customers, and making small changes to cater to their needs, likely makes a lot of short-term business sense — and long-term the argument only gets easier.  

Let’s not forget the old chestnut, “you only have one chance to make a first impression.”

If one of these first-time gun buyers comes into your store and is welcomed by a staff that is helpful, patient and kind and that goes above and beyond to ensure that the shopping process is stress-free, fruitful, and rewarding, you’ve very likely to retain that customer for years to come. All the subsequent ammunition, accessory and hopefully future firearm purchases happen at your shop. 

Everyone should be doing everything they can to retain customers and deepen those relationships. 

Dry Run Options

If you decide you want to give customers a chance to get some shot feedback to ensure a gun fits them, there are a few things you can do. One would be to simply use a laser cartridge to work with the shooter to verify that where the customer is aiming is where the barrel of the pistol is ending up at trigger pull. 

Obviously, before we go any further, we need to address the potential safety issues. While a laser cartridge is not live ammunition, we are loading a cartridge into a firearm that the first thing we do when we take it out of the case is inspect visually and tactilely that the chamber is empty. 

If it were my shop, and in the shop where I have seen this done, there is only one person that assists the customer in this situation. It is not something that is done for the casual shopper or on a whim. This is a process that is reserved especially for newer shooters who benefit from the feedback, and who are down to the final decision making between a couple of models. 

Ideally there is a location in the store where this can be done away from other customers. 

Regardless of the exact layout of the store, having a single person performing this service for the customer is the best way to ensure the safety of all involved and minimize any confusion. 

With a suitable place to dry fire a few times, the customer can start to build confidence with a firearm that is indeed aimed where they think it is, or identify potential issues with grip, stance, or alignment that are causing shots to land somewhere other than intended. 

This is another place where a knowledgeable staff can support and inform the shooter on proper form. It may be that these suggestions bring the shots into alignment, or it may also be that corrections don’t improve the situation. The ergonomics of every gun don’t fit every shooter. 

Better to find that out before the purchase than after, don’t you think? 

Another option for dry-fire feedback is with a unit like the Mantis X10 sensor. If your shop doesn’t have a live range to be able to shoot with a customer, this can be an especially useful piece of equipment for those new shooters who are learning as they go. 

For those not familiar with the Mantis X10 system, it is a feedback device that mounts on a gun (via rail) and provides information about what the shooter is doing before, during, and after the trigger press. If the shooter is heeling the gun, using too much or too little trigger finger, pushing, or exhibiting myriad other bad habits that can cause accuracy issues, the Mantis X10 is able to decipher that and report it to the shooter. Beyond just learning what they may be doing, the shooter also receives instructions on how to resolve the issue. 

This is an excellent system that’s tied to a smartphone app. A dedicated tablet at the gun counter is a good idea if your employees don’t want to use their personal phones. In addition, the Mantis X systems are available for sale to any customers who want to do serious dry-fire practice at home.

Anyone who has ever tried to help someone else improve their shooting form and accuracy knows how frustrating that process can be. Anything that helps abbreviate the feedback loop, provides additional context, and can help be the eyes for the employee helping that new shooter learn to shoot gets everyone on the page quicker and more efficiently. 

There are other options as well, but either of these provide a tool to prevent your staff from guessing at what may be happening when a new shooter pulls the trigger, educates your customer, and improves the shopping experience for all involved. 

Hidden Benefits

Beyond the obvious tangible benefits to the purchase process and ensuring that the customer is getting a firearm that they will be happy with, there are some hidden benefits you can take advantage of by incorporating dry-fire devices into your purchase process. Chief among them is boosting your accessory sales. 

Accessories aren’t always the easiest things to sell. Experienced shooters may already have a box or two of the odds and ends they might need from past purchases. New shooters don’t always know what they need to be considering and are hesitant to make a significant investment in accessories when they’ve already invested so heavily in the firearm itself. 

What better way to promote the use of a dry-fire training aid than by letting the customer test drive the product during the shopping experience?

Seeing where that laser is impacting against where they think they are aiming can be a humbling experience. The little gyro gadget that is the Mantis X10 can humble some shooters who think quite a bit of their skills. 

When introducing a new firearm owner to the responsibility that comes along with firearm ownership, safety and skill development are the top of the heap when it comes to what your staff should be imparting on that specific customer cohort. Maybe it’s just the addition of another item or two to the initial cart of your customer; maybe your shop offers ongoing training that training aides can help illustrate the need to use. Whatever the case may be, there’s no negative for your shop in this instance. 

We have already touched on it, but the perception of your staff cannot possibly be overstated. For the most part, the products you are selling are commodities. These are items that are widely available in-person or online. Very few customers or items require them to make the purchase inside your shop. 

Every interaction with your staff should be the thing that makes customers choose your shop. Finding opportunities, like using dry-fire aides to ensure the fit of a firearm to a new shooter, to let your staff shine, may well be the thing that sets your store apart from the competition. It’s not about the dry-fire training aides themselves — it’s about the custom feel and concierge service the aides allow your staff and store to convey.


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