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May 7, 2020

Key Elements of a Successful First Shots Experience

NSSF’s First Shots® is a program designed to help member ranges attract new customers—and as you saw in our last column, it’s highly successful at doing just that. The program includes a flexible, easy- to- follow curriculum, a survey feedback system, class resources and a rebate program funded by NSSF® and its partners that, essentially, pays new shooters taking part in a First Shots class to come back to the range.

“We’re eager to see all our member ranges adopt First Shots as a way to introduce shooters to a fun and safe firearms experience,” says Zach Snow, Director, Retail & Range Business Development. “But the real key to making First Shots a program that has a return on investment is how your range integrates it into its environment.”

First Impressions Matter

“Make your new shooters feel welcome,” says Patricia Quattrini, Events Coordinator of Shooters World at The Villages in Florida. “A shooting range, especially one as large as ours, can seem daunting. Meet them, greet them and put them at ease.”

Orlando Gun Club

“Take an objective look at your environment,” says Craig Davis, Vice President of the Texas Gun Club in Stafford, Texas. “A warm and friendly environment goes a long way toward putting first-time shooters at ease.”

Anticipate Questions, Listen to Feedback

The First Shots curriculum is designed to support your range’s instructors as they work with new and returning shooters, all of whom will have lots of questions. First Shots includes a unique feedback system to help answer those questions included at no charge as an NSSF range member benefit. At the conclusion of the class, you and your instructors will encourage participants to take the survey using a link and code provided by NSSF, and by taking part in that feedback survey, participants are able to claim their $25 rebate coupon. That works to encourage them to return to your range, but the truly great thing about the survey is that you’ll have access to all the results to help refine your classes.

First Shots - Training

“Our survey results are phenomenal,” says Quatrinni. “I read them and share with the instructors.”
“We’re using our survey results to create new marketing materials,” says Davis. “We love getting the survey results!”

“I share the survey results with the instructors,” says Jessica Keffer, Marketing Manager of The Sportsman’s Shop in East Earl, Pennsylvania. “You can tell the students are excited and confident as a result of taking part in First Shots.”

Make it Easy to Come Back

First Shots is a proven, people-friendly way to get consumers to try shooting. But, as a business, what you really want is for those new customers to return. To do that, it’s important to let them know what’s available at your range, such as other classes, private instruction, range time and retail options, then reinforce how easy it is to continue the journey with you as their guide and host range.

Those making the most of First Shots say that the quicker a range can schedule its First Shots clients for another stepped-up experience, the more likely they are to come back.

“We work to get students to sign up for another class before they leave the range,” says Quattrini. “If they sign up as a range member, we waive the initiation fee that day only and encourage them to use the First Shots rebate on range time or the purchase of a firearm later.

“We start the class by having students write the rebate redemption instructions in their handbook before we even begin the class and remind them they’ll get $25 to use on anything,” says Davis. “At the end of the class, we remind them again and let them know about additional incentives.”

Texas Gun Club - First Shots

“I stay behind in the classroom while the instructors take batches of students to the range,” says Kyle Harrison, General Manager of Top Gun Handgun Training & Shooting Center in Houston, Texas. “It’s my chance to answer questions about the range, talk about training options and discuss what they learned in the classroom. We always end the class with this call to action—‘Do you want to make $25?’—and put a QR code up on the screen that takes them directly to the survey enrollment page,” Harrison adds. “We encourage students to open their phones and start the survey/rebate process immediately.”

It’s important to underscore that your instructors are critical to a good First Shots experience. Being well-trained and having a positive attitude and sincere desire to deliver a great experience will turn your First Shots participants into long-time, loyal customers.

“We incentivize our instructors to gain participation by our First Shots customers in the survey and to have class participants sign up on the spot for their next experience,” said Davis.

“Our instructors position the survey as a favor to us, a sort of give-back for allowing them to take the class for free,” says Carmen Lout, Assistant Store Manager—Range, Shooters World of Orlando. “The instructors say, ‘If you had a good time, we need feedback so we can keep this program going,’ and people start the survey right there in the classroom.”

Some host ranges have chosen to add additional incentives over and above the $25 rebate provided by NSSF. Ideas include:

  • Membership initiation waiver when the First Shots customer enrolls that day.
  • Additional “coupon page” with multiple ways to save on things a new shooter needs, including retail and instruction. All have a redemption deadline to encourage First Shots students to come back promptly.
  • Business card-sized coupon to present at their next visit and save 20 percent.
  • Exclusive next-step class discount if they sign up immediately. For example, at Texas Gun Club, the Handgun 101 class is regularly $125, but if a client signs up immediately after the First Shots class, it’s only $99.

About NSSF’s First Shots
NSSF, the trade association for the firearm industry, encourages all member ranges to utilize its First Shots program in a way that best fits their facility and community. To explore adding First Shots to your range’s training curriculum, please contact Ann Gamauf, NSSF Retail & Range Business Development Coordinator, at or 203-426-1320 ext. 247.

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