August 24, 2018
Behind the Firing Line: Carolina Sporting Arms
Carolina Sporting Arms, Charlotte, North Carolina
This range and retailer, located in suburban Charlotte just off the Interstate 485 and the I-77 connection, was the first of its kind. The facility encompasses more than 21,000 square feet on two floors, and the 5,000-square-foot retail store carries an inventory of more than 2,000 firearms, with an additional stock of 137 rentals.
The range’s 14 lanes are split between two floors. Downstairs are handguns at 20 yards, while upstairs are rifle and tactical lanes at 25 yards. Each booth is four feet wide. There is a large customer waiting area, office space, a conference room, and classrooms.
Military memberships are $255 for individuals and $355 for military families. Individuals are $399 and families are $499. Corporate memberships are $599. Memberships include free rentals, a 10-percent discount on training classes, 50 percent off guest fees when using the same lanes and 50 percent off on gun cleaning. Other benefits include exclusive use of the first two hours on Saturday, member-only sales and access to use training rooms for corporate events.
When the shooter supplies their own equipment, lane fees start at $20 per day. A second shooter in the same lane is an additional $10 a day. Rental prices are a flat $20 per gun. Full-auto firearms are $65 per session.
Carolina Sporting Arms employs a staff of 23 full- and part-time employees. The facility operates six days a week: 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Saturdays.
As a Five-Star NSSF range, the facility meets best practices standards for its state-of-the-art design. This ensures a high level of safety and comfort for workers and customers. We interviewed David Drummond, Owner and President, for this column, with a focus on how it competes and attracts shooters in a crowded market and how it defines service to its customers.
Approaching the Range With a Retailer’s Mindset
Carolina Sporting Arms actually began as a retail gun shop. Through consistent growth over two decades, this range still has a definite retail focus. “We started as a gun shop, and we’re still a serious full-service firearms store,” said Drummond.
Over the years and during multiple expansions, though, this retailer learned one absolute truth about owning a range: There is simply no comparison when you have a range.
“That’s what drove us into the range business originally. You want to buy that gun? Let’s go shoot it and see how you like it. There are so many circumstances when a customer finds out they either love a gun or feel uncomfortable with it. We can ascertain the customer’s comfort level in just minutes. If there’s a better choice, we can redirect the sale to a product that’s more suited to the customer,” said Drummond.
This range owner’s retail mindset and strategy translate to greater range profits.
“It’s simple. If they like the gun, they’ll shoot the gun far more than if they were uncomfortable with it. That means we’ll sell more accessories, more ammo and more range time,” he said.
In North Carolina, firearms owners are required to store guns away from the reach of a minor. This is another area that generates sales, as well as a consistent focus on safe firearms handling and storage by the staff. This company’s sale of lockable storage is significant.
The Shine on the Floors
When Carolina Sporting Arms opened its range in 2012, it was the only such facility in town. Today, the range has three competitors. Drummond feels that the competition keeps them on their game. And while Drummond said he’s realistic about trading customers with his competitors, he knows that many of his best members drive past the competition to get to his range.
“Having competition is not a bad circumstance. First, it helps define our strategy and what sets us apart from the other ranges. We’re not the biggest, but we believe that we are the most customer-driven. We want to know our customers’ names and their interests. And we provide service to them with enthusiasm. While one of our competitors is considerably larger than our facility, we believe they don’t have the personal relationships we strive to foster,” he said.
Drummond said that a clean range is another one of the ways they separate themselves from their competitors.
“When I say clean, I really mean that we invest time and money in making this place sparkle. We are constantly evolving to a higher standard,” Drummond said.
Earning Their Way to Five Stars
One of the primary competitive benefits this range knows that matters is its Five-Star rating with NSSF.
“I would have to say that achieving it was a significant investment of time, construction and design. However, I’ve found it to be worth every penny. It defines best practice standards. That breeds health into our industry and protects us all,” he said.
Drummond, a retired FBI agent, acknowledged the cost and the paperwork that took a month to complete was intense. Yet, he said the rating makes him competitive and translates to a high-quality environment the customers can see and feel. He also noted that by creating a high-quality work environment for his employees, the NSSF standards improve their health and wellbeing.
Keeping the Community Involved
Like many ranges, Carolina Sporting Arms finds daily opportunities to be involved with community organizations. Drummond and his staff have dedicated time and research to establishing a strategy that makes responding to multiple inquiries simple.
“We get requests from charity organizations every day, so we needed to find a system and define criteria that allowed us to give an answer quickly and efficiently. We look at three factors: Does the request further our industry, does it have an affiliation with a local church, and will it benefit young adults? When we can say ‘yes’ to those three questions, we can usually respond with a donation,” he said. Drummond said that memberships provided for auctions are the most popular donation requests, and they’ve proven to be a benefit for both the supported organization and the range.
Carolina Sporting Arms has identified proven strategies to grow its business in a competitive environment. By focusing on building strong community ties and maintaining NSSF Five-Star standards and industrial cleanliness, while also fostering personal relationships with its clients, Drummond feels confident in the future of his business.
“Behind the Firing Line” works to accomplish two things. First, it recognizes ranges that have met the stringent requirements necessary to achieve NSSF’s Five-Star rating for excellence. Second, it works to explain how these ranges met specific criteria within the Star-Rating Range Program, so that other ranges working to make the grade can discover ideas and guidance for their improvement.
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