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June 26, 2019

First Shots Brings More to Morr Indoor Range and Training Center

By Scott E. Mayer

When Tracy Fornwalt teamed up with her cousin Nate Morrison to improve the outlook of his small gun shop in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, she brought with her not only plant and operations management experience from a career with such well-known brands as Coca-Cola, Miller Brewing Co. and Kellogg’s, she also brought insight into how to appeal to one of the fastest growing segments in the shooting sports — women.

“There aren’t a lot of ranges owned by women themselves or in partnership,” explains Fornwalt, as she describes how she and Morrison grew the business by adding a range and training center onto the shop, something that had long been Morrison’s end goal. “It has a comfortable feel, a less tactical look, with subtle, neutral tones,” she says, explaining how the lighter atmosphere of Morr Indoor Range and Training Center appeals to women without turning off the guys.

Morr Indoor Range and Training Center - Exterior
Morr Outdoors recently expanded to include a shooting range and training center. As part of that expansion, the center began offering First Shots® courses.

A Natural Entry Point

It was that expansion and addition of the range and training center that prompted Morr to start offering First Shots® classes.

“It’s a great way to get folks interested in our industry,” she says. “NSSF® has been a great partner and it provides resources to help make First Shots affordable. It gives us an avenue for new shooters to learn the fundamentals — the basics of safety, safe firearms operation, safe handling — and get started with an instructor right beside them.”

Morr Indoor Range and Training Center - Retail
Fornwalt created a more comfortable feel by using subtle, neutral tones verses the stark black tactical. She says the lighter atmosphere appeals to women without turning off the guys.

According to Fornwalt, there is no “ideal person” to market to for First Shots.

“The great thing about First Shots is that anyone can participate,” she explains. “We have had folks aged 11 to 76 years participate, and they come for all different reasons.”

Morr Outdoors’ two main avenues for recruiting new First Shots students are through the range’s website and conversation with people coming into the store.

“We’ve been filling our classes and we haven’t had to be too creative,” Fornwalt says of her success and marketing efforts. “They’ve been coming in the door and finding us on the website and those things, so it’s having the right fundamental marketing programs that drive them to participate, and it’s also having my team very versed in offering First Shots to anyone who comes in the door or calls.”

Co-Op Funds Help Get the Word Out

That said, Fornwalt does advertise and even designs her own ads. She’s not sure that anyone does marketing perfectly, especially because of the limitations ranges have with things such as Facebook, but she doesn’t think you can advertise too much and, according to her, “Letting brand new shooters know that you have a path for them to learn how to participate safely is absolutely essential to getting those new shooters in the door.”

She has taken advantage of NSSF’s First Shots co-op ad dollars and is hoping to replicate that effort in the future.

“We did a postcard mailing,” Fornwalt says of the initial co-op advertising effort. “We had just a retail store from 2010 until we expanded into our current location about 15 months ago. A big part of what I was looking for was to get our name out, so I mailed out 20,000 postcards to the surrounding area, using the co-op money for that.”

Keeping Them Coming Back

Morr Outdoors charges students $30 for First Shots classes and it hosts the class once or twice a month, depending on the time of the year, though it has held as many as three or four classes a month when demand ran high.

As for how First Shots affects her bottom line, Fornwalt says she doesn’t currently have that data to know specifically what the monetary effect is but says it’s a certainty that “A great deal of the folks participating in the class are coming back and using the range.” To maintain future engagement with First Shots shooters, Fornwalt says those new shooters generally engage with her email campaigns and other marketing and social media efforts.

Morr Indoor Range and Training Center - Women Shooters
One of the fastest growing segments in the shooting sports is women and Morr is finding ways to appeal to them without alienating male shooters.

“It’s been good to follow up with our First Shots shooters and, frankly, they’ve been coming back. We haven’t found a need to retarget them.”

As far as actually implementing First Shots, like most other host range owners, Fornwalt found the curriculum easy to follow and tailor to her range’s specific needs.

“We fine-tuned a few things for our location, but definitely I would say it was easy to implement.” Response on feedback forms from both new and even experienced shooters is also overwhelmingly positive. Just overcoming their fears and getting a chance in a very safe and comfortable environment to understand the basics and then to begin the shooting process with an instructor right beside them is important to new students,” she says.

Morr Indoor Range and Training Center - New Shooters
Tracy Fornwalt says letting brand new shooters know that you have a path for them to learn how to participate safely is absolutely essential to getting those new shooters in the door.

Fornwalt’s “words to live by” probably best sum up the First Shots experience for new shooters. According to her, “People may not remember exactly what you did or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel,” and to her, First Shots is about making new shooters feel comfortable, safe and confident with the shooting sports.

Fornwalt finds that students are coming in very open to learning and she is very appreciative of the First Shots program for meeting that willingness, saying, “It’s a great way to get new folks into the industry and into the sport in a safe comfortable environment,” she says, adding, “If ranges aren’t providing some sort of program like First Shots, they definitely ought to, because it just gives folks the foundational skills they need and sets them on a journey to continue to expand their knowledge and continue to participate.”

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