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May 1, 2020

Lots of New Customers? First Shots Sets Them on the Right Path

By Zach Snow, NSSF Director, Retail & Range Business Development

Our retail and range industry members, with the exception of those in a handful of states, have been fortunate in remaining open during the coronavirus situation. So fortunate, in fact, that we know those ranges and retailers have acquired tens of thousands of new customers who have become firearm owners for the very first time.

As states begin to lift their stay-at-home orders and businesses beyond ours reopen, we know you’ll be reaching out to those clients and start the work to convert them to regular, loyal customers. In doing that, you’re going to start with the basics—safe handling, safe storage and basic marksmanship skills.

While many of our member retailer/ranges have basic safety, marksmanship and CCW classes as a part of their instructional curriculums, those same ranges also include NSSF’s First Shots® introductory events. CrossRoads Shooting Sports in Johnston, Iowa, is one of those that immediately made plans to put First Shots to work for them as the health crisis shows signs of easing.

“‘I’m here to purchase my first gun’ has become a common interaction at the counter over the past two months, fueled by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic,” said Ethan Settle, CrossRoads Program and Training Coordinator. “Initially, the flurry of firearms sales was seen in AR-15 platform rifles, home-defense shotguns and a steady stream of handguns while products remained in stock. As supply chains began to dry up, pistol-caliber carbines and semi-automatic handguns continued to drive sales, along with rationed supplies of 9mm ammo. Throughout this period of panic buying, a constant forethought for the staff at CrossRoads was delivering proper training to first-time gun owners and developing their relationship with the firearm community. Enter the First Shots program.”

First Shots - CrossRoads Shooting Supply

“Our indoor range has had a relationship with the First Shots program for the better part of a year now, as we’ve found it to be an exceptional introduction into the fundamentals of firearms handling. The provided First Shots materials and Powerpoint presentation that NSSF® developed gives our students a solid basic understanding of the firearms they handle in the range portion of the class.”

Settle noted that First Shots has been an excellent way to impart the topics of safety and responsibility to those who’ve purchased a firearm for concealed carry and home-defense.

“Iowa has no set standard to qualify for a permit to carry, other than some form of instruction by a certified instructor. We use the First Shots program as the backbone of our training curriculum, including that for CCWs. It supports the goals of those in training, be it for sport, self-defense or simply an empowering hobby. We believe this is because First Shots helps us to present firearms and their ownership in a simple and tangible way that redirects the nervousness of a first purchase to the excitement of owning and shooting a first firearm. Many of our class attendees become repeat customers and members after their First Shots experience at CrossRoads.”

Though sales were booming during the early months of the health crisis, demand for firearms by first-time purchasers was hampered by Iowa’s permit-to-buy process. CrossRoads staff eased that burden with a creative sales process coupled with incentive to return to the range after those new clients made it through the purchase process.

“With many first-time buyers, the need for training and a permit to purchase a firearm was a challenge. Especially with firearms flying off the shelf, the possibility of having a gun in stock ‘next week’ became unlikely,” explained Settle. “We helped ease that situation by offering purchase on layaway or to purchase a firearm and receive half off of a training course such as First Shots. This customer-centric approach not only assured our customers that they could still acquire the firearm they wanted once they received their permit, it gave them an avenue to do so.”

With that approach gaining traction, CrossRoads quickly ramped up its post-pandemic training plans.

“In Iowa, we haven’t been placed under restrictions as strict as what those in other states have experienced. Our main restriction limited gatherings to 10 people or less. We took our governor’s directive on that and limited our First Shots classes to six or seven participants, spaced out around the classroom. At times, we offered as many as three separate First Shots classes per day,” Settle said. “We also maintain social distancing between our students during the range portion of the class while disinfecting surfaces and training materials throughout the day to protect our staff and customers. Our First Shots courses generally receive steady interest throughout the year, but we’re continually adding courses to keep up with the demand, wait-listing and adding new courses as necessary.

Settle emphasized that this uptick in First Shots classes isn’t a one-time thing for CrossRoads, rather it’s an integral part of the range’s success and one that’s critical to properly servicing the wealth of new firearm owners.

“All in all, the model that First Shots has given us has been a positive for Crossroads and, ultimately, our customers,” said Settle. “For our staff members, one of the most satisfying firearms sales to make is someone’s first purchase. After that, it’s seeing them return to the range with a smile on their face each time they shoot. Crossroads has been very pleased to work with First Shots and NSSF to deliver the best the shooting community has to offer to its newest members.”

NSSF’s First Shots—Get Involved

If you have instructors, available range time and an interest in growing your customer base while nurturing the new gun owners who have entered your marketplace, then First Shots is the easiest way to accomplish these goals. As a First Shots host range, you’ll receive support in the form of targets, ammo, participant handouts and more. NSSF even sends your participants a $25 reward coupon to return to your range for more shooting fun.

Add First Shots to your course offerings today and start reaping the benefits the program provides to host ranges nationwide. To learn more or to start hosting First Shots events, contact Ann Gamauf at or complete this form.

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