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September 28, 2018

First Shots: Centennial Gun Club Fills Every Event


By Warren Berg

“We’ve been able to fill that class once a month for six-and-a-half years, and it just continues to fill up every single time,” says Centennial Gun Club’s CEO and General Manager, Richard Abramson, as he told me about what surprises him the most about the NSSF First Shots events the club hosts. “People absolutely love it,” he explains. “It’s their first opportunity to shoot a gun in most cases and to find out it’s not as scary as they thought it would be and actually have fun. They get a real respect for shooting sports, and a lot of them are continuing to shoot.”

To bring in such a steady flow of new shooters, Centennial primarily uses a combination of its email list and social media to promote its First Shots events. Though the club has not used the co-op dollars NSSF offers for First Shots, he says it has used NSSF-provided promotional material as part of their social media campaigns. “I think that’s an area where NSSF continues to find ways to support us,” he says with respect to being an established First Shots host, adding that ranges that haven’t held a First Shots event would also find NSSF’s help with logistics and planning useful.

Centennial Gun Club First Shots - New Shooter .22
Blocking off part of the range and using .22 rimfires to reduce the recoil and noise that can turn off new shooters.

Centennial charges $29 for First Shots, which Abramson says reduces the number of no-shows. “When we first started, we were not charging for it, and we generally had somewhere of 50 percent no-shows when it was free,” he says. Participation is limited to 30 shooters per monthly event, and Abramson finds First Shots appeals to all ages, races and demographics. “The demand is certainly there,” he says of the monthly schedule, “and we’ve even talked about possibly this winter stepping it up to doing two a month and seeing if there is enough demand to keep that up.”

As a range manager, Abramson finds a lot to like about First Shots, calling it “very turn-key” as far as difficulty in setting up, and “a good way to bring brand new people into the range and introduce non-shooters to the shooting sports.” After First Shots, Centennial maintains email contact with these new shooters, providing them with lists of other range events and activities and encouraging them to sign up for additional training.

“We follow up with the students and encourage them toward membership or using the range or purchasing firearms,” says Abramson, who adds that a lot of them do come back and buy their first firearms or ammunition. “We’ve had a number of them join as members,” he adds. “A lot of them want to get involved in various training classes and eventually things like bowling pins and fun events that we do. Not everyone is interested in a gun for self-defense. For a lot of them, it’s just a fun experience. They’re into the recreational side of it.”

One thing Abramson thinks surprises new shooters the most is that shooting is actually fun and not as scary as they thought it was going to be. “We block off a chunk of range so we can take them in, and they all shoot .22s, so there is very little recoil, there’s not a lot of noise. I think that the main hesitation of people coming in is that they’re just afraid of what they don’t know. They have their own preconceptions, and many of those are just not true. They come in, they take the class, they go on the range and they walk away having had fun with a smile on their face.”

Centennial Gun Club First Shots
Centennial Gun Club finds that many of its First Shots students are into shooting for the fun and recreation it provides.

As far as effort, First Shots is “a very easy program to start,” says Abramson, explaining that Centennial likes the overall course content and has made only a few modifications to the program to personalize it for their venue. Modifications include information on other ways to become involved with Centennial Gun Club, various activities new shooters can get into and details about the club’s membership program. “We’re an indoor pistol and rifle range, and we’ve had people ask about how to get involved in shotgun activities, sporting clays and that sort of thing, so we try to cover all that in the class as well.”

Because of its ease of implementation and overall success, First Shots is the only introductory course Centennial has ever used. “It is definitely tailored to that first-time shooter,” says Abramson. “We’ve done NRA Basic Pistol, and that’s a beginner course, but it’s not a ‘Let us tell you about shooting sports in general’ course that gives you an easy way to get started and take your first shots. I think it’s just a real solid, basic program, and we’re certainly going to continue to use it.”

This October, Centennial is even planning a First Shots reunion as part of a bigger retention and reengagement program and to celebrate how First Shots is just a really simple, fun way to get new people involved in the shooting sports and dispel misunderstandings about our industry. Abramson’s bottom line when it comes to First Shots? “I think every range should get involved and do it,” he says.

About the Author
Warren Berg is a 25-year veteran of the shooting, hunting and outdoors industry. He has penned hundreds of articles under many names for American Rifleman and Field & Stream. He has produced award-winning television programs on personal defense and has hunted extensively in North America, Europe and Africa.

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