August 29, 2019
Behind the Firing Line: FRC Firearms Range & Clothing
Welcome to NSSF’s column for firearms range owners, managers and staff. “Behind the Firing Line” works to recognize ranges that have met the stringent requirements necessary to achieve NSSF’s Five-Star rating for excellence, while explaining 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. For more information on NSSF’s Star-Rating Range Program, visit www.nssf.org. — Zach Snow, NSSF Director, Range Services
FRC Firearms Range & Clothing, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
This range and retailer is located on the northeast side of Baton Rouge and is open seven days a week. The recently renovated building encompasses more than 25,000 square feet. There are seven 25-yard shooting lanes, and the range’s 60 to 70 rental firearms see regular use. All eight full-time employees are range safety officers (RSOs). The complex includes a large customer waiting area, a lounge, offices, a conference room and two large classrooms, but one of its most popular features is an expansive two-story, fully furnished shoot house.
There are two range membership levels. The Silver Membership level at $400, the Gold at $500. Silver patrons shoot at no charge, with a guest at half price, $5 gun rentals, a $25 transfer fee on firearms and five percent off on branded store merchandise. Gold patrons shoot at no charge with a free guest, free gun rentals, free transfer fees, a free monthly gun cleaning and five percent off on training classes and branded store merchandise. There are no monthly dues. For non-members, lane rental walk-in pricing begins at $20 per day, while firearm rental prices start at $10 per gun for handguns and $15 a day for long guns.
As an NSSF Five-Star 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. I interviewed John Hanchey, General Manager and Chief Instructor, for this column and we focused on the commitment this range has to high-level training, its unique retail sales structure, and its special relationship with its community.
Online Ordering Only
Retail firearm sales are a high priority for this retailer, but unlike most FFLS, FRC doesn’t keep a single gun for sale on hand. Instead, all sales are handled through an online kiosk on the retail floor, or through the company’s website.
“When a customer shows interest in a purchasing a firearm, we are all about trying before you buy,” said Hanchey, talking about the attention they give to engaging their clients via their rental guns. “Frequently, a first-time purchaser has been told what to buy from an acquaintance. But often the information they receive may not be ideal for the experience level or needs of that shooter. So, we listen to the customer, evaluate their physical shooting skills and ask about their needs, then make a suggestion. We’ll even pull in the friend who recommended a particular gun to them and allow the new customer a free basic lesson with an RSO where they can compare the two firearms and make a decision on the spot,” said Hanchey.
This personal walkthrough of a shooting purchase is an important strategy in customer development. New customers quickly develop a trusting relationship with the RSO and will usually move on to more training in the facility or membership. Hanchey said it’s one of their most effective tools to win the trust of a customer.
Once a gun is selected, the RSO and the customer head to the kiosk and order the firearm. “Our distributor is in Fort Worth, Texas, and if we order the gun in the morning, it will be here the next morning, two days at the most if the order is in the afternoon or evening,” Hanchey said. While the order can be processed through the company’s website, the staff prefers to walk the customer through the sale at the kiosk, keeping the purchase tied to the experience in the store. Hanchey says, “The customer gets it the next day, and they usually shoot it as soon as it arrives. We have many customers who love to buy this way and have completely stopped buying from other online vendors.”
Ditching the Attitude
If you ask any staff member about FRC’s goal in its community, you’ll get a clear answer: professional training for the public. It’s the range’s core mission and what every staff member is passionate about, and Hanchey emphasized that journey starts with relationship building.
“When I first came to this facility three years ago, I was looking to cull any existing employee that had the slightest “gun-guy attitude.” I couldn’t find one. Our staff is highly experienced, with every RSO having extensive military and or police careers. Everyone has the experience, and most importantly the skill set, to listen to our clients and never show the slightest attitude. We’re here to help you learn, not tell you what to do,” said Hanchey.
Training That Gets Real
Once members and guests have completed a series of basic courses, they are eligible to train in the 3,200-square-foot shoot house, which is also frequently used by several branches of the federal, state and local law enforcement. “Yes, you can take a conceal carry class and numerous other basic training classes that we and other ranges offer. That said, it won’t prepare you for an invasion at 2 a.m. while you’re in bed at home. This training will,” Hanchey said.
That “Force on Force” training can last all day and utilizes simulation. The building can be reconfigured in a short time and can include a breach door for law enforcement practice. “We even have live bystander extras to complicate scenarios. It’s amazing how far a trainee can come. It’s as real as it gets,” he said.
FRC offers extensive training to schoolteachers, hospital staff, and other public service personnel at a reduced cost or even free. Day rates are kept low and affordable for most other classes. “The rest of the country doesn’t realize it, but we are still recovering from Katrina. Our community still doesn’t have a great deal of disposable income,” said Hanchey, speaking of the massive Category 5 hurricane that wreaked havoc on the region in 2005.
When asked what the most rewarding part of his job was, Hanchey said, “Helping the public feel safe.” He sighted a day when a woman, visually shaken, had walked into the facility and told the staff that she had just escaped an armed home invader in the middle of the night. She had come to the range after filing her police report. She was scared and didn’t want to return to her home. Today this customer has had extensive training, owns several firearms and knows how to use them safely. “This woman sleeps comfortably at night and is no longer a prisoner in her own home. She even shoots in our pistol leagues.
“This is why I come to work. This is why we all come to work, to improve our community, and make them feel safe,” he said.