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Behind the Firing Line: Bristlecone Shooting, Training & Retail Center

July 10, 2018

Behind the Firing Line: Bristlecone Shooting, Training & Retail Center


By Peter B. Mathiesen

Bristlecone Shooting, Training & Retail Center, Lakewood, Colorado

Constructed in 2014, this range and retailer is located in western suburban Denver just off Route 6. The facility encompasses more than 20,000 square feet, including a 5,000-square-foot retail store carrying an inventory of more 300 firearms and a stock of 100 rentals. Bristlecone employs a staff of 25 full- and part-time employees. The facility operates seven days a week: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

There are 14 25-yard lanes along with a tactical shooting bay, a large customer waiting area, office space, a conference room and classrooms with a capacity for 70 students. Lane rental walk-in pricing starts at $20 per hour. There’s a $3 discount for women, a $4 military discount and a $5 price reduction for youths between ages 10 and 17. Rental prices include $15 for handguns, $20 for long guns and $25 for firearms with suppressors.

Summer memberships begin at $99. A continuum of annual memberships including individual, couple, family, military, law enforcement and first responders. Bristlecone also offers weekday-only memberships. Individual yearly memberships are $425.

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. Owned by Bryan and Jacquelyn Clark, we interviewed Jacquelyn for this column, focusing on the range’s genesis, how it attracts shooters and how it grows its business in this large, western metro area.

Bristlecone Shooting, Training & Retail Center

Experiencing a Watershed Moment

The Clarks came to shooting later in life. Their interest was heightened by the trauma of a home invasion that occurred when they were living in Atlanta.

“Everything changes once you truly don’t feel safe in your home, everything. Although our situation was frightening, it could have escalated into something horrific. Thankfully, it didn’t,” said Jacquelyn Clark, Bristlecone co-owner. “There’s just no forgetting the helpless feeling while you’re waiting for the police to come. The event brought us to the shooting community and truly changed our lives,” she said.

Seizing Opportunity in the Mile-High City

While living in the Atlanta area, the Clarks frequented several gun ranges. They quickly learned what they enjoyed as customers. Then a business opportunity prompted a move to Denver, where they quickly found what they did and didn’t like on the local range scene.

“When we started to look at shooting facilities in the Denver area, they were dark, dirty and not necessarily friendly. Hardly what I would call a destination for the shooting sports. This provided a unique business opportunity,” said Clark.

As the couple’s interest in opening a range in Denver heightened, they turned to the NSSF for professional assistance.

“I can’t say enough about the tremendous help and strategic planning NSSF provided us. The Market Research Report defined the size of our market and broke it down into lifestyle and economic demographics. It even told us how many FFLs were in our area. We had a clear picture of our market, the local government and what our next steps were,” she said.

“Of course, NSSF also helped us set the standards for design and build practices for the range,” she continued. “We had a clear picture of who our customers were and how far they would drive to use our facility — but I’m not sure we would have ever moved ahead without NSSF. There’s no telling how many mistakes they kept us from making.”

After NSSF helped the Clarks survey and map the marketplace and its demographics, the couple knew they had the support and information they needed to make good decisions throughout the building and design processes. One of the easier steps was applying with their local township for a permit. Issues were quickly dispelled and the facility won the full support of the Planning and Zoning Board.

Capturing Members During Construction

Clark said one of the most successful marketing strategies they implemented was promoting memberships during construction of the range.

“We printed brochures and offered hard-hat tours while the facility was under construction. It turned out to be a powerful marketing tool. We gained an impressive number of memberships before the doors were even open,” she said.

Individuals who purchased memberships before the facility opened were enrolled in the Bristlecone Club. These charter members receive exclusive range benefits and discounts.

Motivating Clients Through Graduated Training

Bristlecone prides itself on expanding training opportunities for its clients. Clarks found graduated training scenarios serve as a strong motivator for clients to remain active and regular guests at the range. In fact, the couple designed their facility to encourage next-step training for their customers. A simulator and the shoot house, for instance, provide guests an opportunity to engage their skills beyond lane shooting and traditional classroom training.

“We have an extensive, live-fire shoot house. Our clients come to grips with real-time contact with aggressive ‘bad guys’ everywhere from a doctor’s office to a home invasion,” said Clark.

Most courses require students to have a minimal set of skills established on the traditional range before moving on to the shoot house, which has moveable walls, doors and hallways. Shooters use live-round “marker ammunition” with converted Glocks. Clark says the experiences are “intense and addictive.”

Bristlecone Shooting, Training & Retail Center

A dedicated following for events featuring the shoot house, as well as the Ti Outdoors Virtual Training Simulator the Clarks added, took some time to develop, but now in their second year, the event calendars are full and expanding quickly. Clark said that although the dedicated rooms and the computer gear required a large investment, it has been impressively worth it. She also stated that she never realized just how many trips she would make to Goodwill to buy shoot house furniture.

“As a client graduates though the ranks of the different styles of shooting, we always have something new to try. It’s part of Bristlecone’s commitment to increase our clients’ confidence and skills, while ensuring safety and fun,” said Clark.

About this Column
“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 own improvement. For more information on NSSF’s Star-Rating Range Program, visit www.nssf.org.

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