Go Back to Shooting School

Professional instruction can give you an advantage when it comes time to educate your customers.

Go Back to Shooting School

Shooting schools offer great instruction in controlled settings, and if you want to help customers prepare for their long-awaited mule deer or elk hunt, or make a foray into long-range shooting, you need to understand the game.

We’re talking about true long-range targets to 1,000 yards and long shots at big game in the mountains. Or perhaps even a long shot in the Southeast, which may be 400 yards but instead of sitting in a shooting house near a patch of brassicas it’s stretching across a cotton or bean field at a wary old buck. 

Attending shooting schools led by professional instructors can give insight on different weapons and scenarios that can help you relate to customers. Plus, these events help you network, allow you talk with consumers and other retailers, and improve your shooting skills. They're fun and they’ll help your business.

Improve Your Skills

In June 2020 I flew to Utah to attend the Outdoor Solutions Corp. long-range shooting school. We were northeast of Coalville near the Wyoming border at the R&K Hunting Company. It was hard to ignore the gorgeous scenery but our crew focused on the steel targets set from 100 to 1,000 yards. 

We used Benelli Lupo rifles in 6.5 Creedmoor with Jaeger 30 suppressors, Zeiss Conquest V-4 6x24-50 optics and Barnes 140-grain Precision Match ammo. Eyes and ears were protected by Leupold Packout sunglasses and Tetra hearing protection, which offered multiple levels of protection with in-ear devices. Our crew of about a dozen shooters included military veterans, a father-son team, some diehard competition shooters and writers with diverse experiences with hunting and guns. 

Other than the instructors, only one of the crew had shot to 1,000 yards. Most were in the 350- to 400-yard range as personal bests. Our opening night after dinner included a couple of hours of safety discussion, gear and range overview, and Q&A. The next morning, we hit the ground running, going through spotting and calling on targets, adjusting optics and ballistic calculator apps, and advancing from 100 yards to 1,000 by lunchtime. The afternoon session involved a mix of work and fun shooting. Reaching 1,000 is pretty doggone cool, and the confidence boost makes 300 seem like a breeze. 

The next day our skills were tested even more at about 8,000 feet of elevation with targets set across ravines, in shade or otherwise difficult but not impossible locations. To boot, we were seated, kneeling, standing (with sticks) or shooting off mats from prone — whatever was best to hit the target. This was all going on with an average wind speed of 23 mph and gusts to 37 mph. 

We hit targets. We missed targets. We surprised ourselves, gained confidence and met new people who enjoy shooting and the outdoors.


Why This Matters

Shooting ranges and instructional weekends are fun. What they can help you do, other than improve skills, is better understand what your customers want or need. 

For example, on the second day of the Utah event we were shooting prone, kneeling, propped or however was best to get situated. We used squishy bags filled with small poly beads that molded over knees, around ribcages and under arms to provide support. They filled the dead space and helped us get situated easier. Knowing that via firsthand experience could help you relate better to customers and make a sale. 

At the Utah event we used about a dozen products, learning why each one was used and its specific task. The 5.11 Tactical backpacks easily handled our gear and were quick backrests if needed. Shooting mats helped spread out without (much) concern for cactus spines or a rock in an elbow. Smoke canisters gave us a good idea of how the wind carried over a ridge, down into a ravine and then dissipated toward the target. 

“Everything you have to hump up a mountain or wherever you’re going, you better make sure it has a purpose and is worth carrying,” said Erik Lund, our main instructor in Utah. “You don’t want to carry anything that has no value or purpose. Can you take out something that has minimal or no value and replace it with something more beneficial? If so, you probably should.”

That may sound simple but that’s good reinforcement to tell your customers. They may have a backpack with a frame when you could recommend a smaller but just-as-tough model that is lighter. The scope they’re thinking about might not be the best for their hunting trip or the match shooting they want to get into. Learning about holsters with other gun enthusiasts and instructors could make you rethink your store’s selections. Firsthand experience at a shooting school could be the difference in a happy customer or one returning a product.

Stronger Relationships

I’ve also attended the Sig Sauer Academy in New Hampshire a couple times to try the then-new Tread rifle, M-18 pistol and learn about the Fire Control Unit along with the introduction of the P320 AXG. 

Sig’s 140-acre multi-range facility offers long-range rifle shooting, close-quarter battle, indoor, pistol, marksmanship, a running course and an indoor course. The company has held numerous CHALK sessions — the name referencing jump groups of paratroopers — for dealers, bringing in hundreds from across the country to tour the headquarters and manufacturing facility, see the new products and shoot at the range under the tutelage of top instructors.

“After multiple Dealer CHALK events, we can say qualitatively and quantitatively that it was successful,” says Tom Taylor, chief marketing officer & executive vice president, commercial sales for Sig Sauer. “Virtually all CHALK participants left telling us they had a new or higher understanding of why Sig is what it is: a high-quality brand designed, built and tested by passionate employees. We also followed up tracking Sig sales results for stores with CHALK attendees, and the sales lift was significant.” 

Dealer attendance is also a bonus for the host companies. If you attended a Sig Sauer or Outdoor Solutions event, the next time the Sig, Barnes, Zeiss or Benelli rep drops by to visit you could talk about the positives and negatives of the experience. That could lead to a better relationship with them. 

“We get dealer feedback in many ways, including CHALK sessions, sales rep interaction, SIG Rewards, trade show interactions and other long-term relationships at many levels of the company,” Taylor says. “CHALK is for all kinds of dealers. It includes Elite and Master dealers as well as buy group and other dealers. While direct “Sig dealers” have a few benefits, we support all dealers. At Sig Sauer, we believe the local retailer is the most important part for now and the future. Large retailers are very important to us, and we know eCommerce is growing dramatically, but we view the local retailer as pivotal.”


Make the Time

Professional advancement is big in many industries, as are leadership conferences and sessions at fraternal organizations. Can you get away for a few days? It depends on your employees and trust level to be gone for period of time. If you go on vacation you can get away for three or four days to improve your knowledge. Attendance may be a tax write-off, as well; check with your tax advisor about this.

Outdoor Solutions has events in Utah, Texas and Michigan. Sig Sauer has a 10-person training and events team dedicated to the commercial market. This team also supports sales reps with events throughout the United States at stores and regional shows. Taylor says the Academy has partnerships with ranges for localized training, “and that strategy will grow dramatically. As you know, with the millions of new gun owners, training will be critical for the future.” 

Meet the needs of these new gun owners and the experienced shooters who come through your doors by attending a shooting school. You’ll have a good time, learn a lot and be ready to talk on a first-hand basis about what your customers need to buy.


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