September 12, 2019
Behind the Firing Line: Guns N Gear Sports
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 and 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 improvement. For more information on NSSF’s Star-Rating Range Program, visit www.nssf.org. — Zach Snow, NSSF Director, Range Services
Guns N Gear Sports, Idaho Falls, Idaho
This range and retailer is located on the southern side of Idaho Falls between Interstate 15 and the Snake River. The recently constructed building encompasses more than 20,000 square feet and includes a large retail store carrying an inventory of nearly 3,000 firearms along with an additional stock of 90 rentals. Open seven days a week, Guns N Gear employs a staff of 12 full- and part-time employees with an additional seven training staff members.
The range boasts 15 lanes with adjustable distances, a large customer waiting area, VIP private lounge, offices, conference room, banquet room and classrooms. The facility also has a customer gun vault room in which clients can store their firearms. Lane rental walk-in pricing begins at $18 per hour for non-members. Firearms rental prices start at $45.89 per gun per hour with 50 rounds of ammunition. Full-auto firearms start at $65.89 per hourly session with 40 rounds of ammunition.
There are six range membership levels, ranging from the Basic single-person membership with a $385 registration fee and $39.99 monthly dues to the Corporate membership with a $1,749 initiation fee and $155.99 monthly dues. Couples, Family, Veteran and VIP memberships round out the offerings.
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. I interviewed Michael Loy, General Manager and Director of Training, for this column, focusing on how this successful range has grown even stronger through Loy’s innovative leadership.
Maintaining a Wide and Shallow SKU List
With 3,000 firearms in stock in an average makeup that is 80 percent handguns, retail sales and margins are a critical priority for this business. Loy noted that the store is rarely more than two deep of any SKU.
With this much inventory, shipping and receiving is a fulltime job for up to two employees, but Guns N Gear took the unique step of rotating its sales staff through shipping duties.
“Every salesperson is crossed-trained in shipping and receiving. In most cases, they spend two hours a day at those tasks as we rotate the staff. This has solved numerous problems and gives every staff member direct ownership ineffective actions at the loading dock,” Loy said. “It has significantly reduced mistakes. In fact, they are rare. It also keeps staff members from being burned out of both sides of the counter,” he said.
Selling with a Personal Touch
To encourage customers to order a gun from the range instead of the internet, Guns N Gear uses in-store signage that reads, “Order Any Gun, Have it in Less Than Four Days.”
“We can get a gun in the customer’s hands often in two to three days, and the staff member who fielded the sale handles the order personally,” said Loy. “Customers love getting a call that their gun is ready from an enthusiastic salesperson. It’s personal, fun and effective, and they don’t have to pay a transfer fee. Once we get them to try it, they almost never come in asking for a transfer,” he said.
An additional incentive to motivate sales is a quarter-percent commission on every firearm sold.
“It really doesn’t cost us much, but it keeps the closing of the order on the mind of the salesperson. They want to make that sale,” said Loy.
Loy also lets his staff roll the dice on their take-home pay — literally. Every pay period, the lead salesperson goes up to the roof to throw a giant pair of dice down to the parking lot, and Lloyd boosts their commission depending on what they roll.
“Everyone watches and it’s a great time. With both incentives, a salesperson can add between $200 and $600 per pay period. Again, it’s a method to keep them on track to close an order,” he said.
Keeping it Interesting
With concealed carry training being one of the most in-demand services the range provides, Loy likes to keep classes moving at a snappy pace.
“We want the shooter to experience a wide variety of services and staff when they’re here training. From the classroom to the range, we expose them to five trainers in five different situations,” he said. This not only keeps the experience from being boring, it allows the new customers to experience more of our services and connect with the training staff,” said Loy.
This approach has generated a greater bond and loyalty to the facility and its training staff. Often, customers identify and look forward to working with a favorite training coach.
Open since 2014, Guns N Gear has also added events and improved staff training in recent years, all designed to keep their customers having fun and coming back to the range. You can even skip the shooting and hurl an axe in the throwing class in the new indoor axe range.
NSSF Five-Star Ranges must meet rigorously high safety standards. Recently, Loy was struck by a comment from a local Army medic at the range. “There is all this emphasis on putting holes in paper, you should know how to fix them,” the medic said.
This comment spurred Loy’s thinking that everyone in the facility should have upgraded medical training to handle any range emergency. In response, he hired Justin Sherman, an Army medic training instructor. Sherman facilitated advanced staff training at a notably high mark above the typical Red Cross First Aid program.
“Our staff is fully trained to respond to a heart attack, stroke, diabetic event, blood control and wound care. Our collective goal is to provide life-saving measures during critical conditions to keep someone alive for up to one hour. Thankfully, our local first responder typically takes less than five minutes to walk through the door,” Loy said.
Recently, a patron had a stroke while at the range. After the episode, the entire staff met to review the procedures and watch the videotape of the event.
“We forwarded the staff-response video to our medical instructor and one of the treating physicians for review. We were pleased with the assessment these professionals gave us. Our patrons’ and staff safety is our first priority. We will continue to work vigilantly to improve and measure the effectiveness of these procedures,” he said. The range also invites the public to take these expanded first aid classes — for free.