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Old 07-10-2013, 04:24 PM   #1
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Default Need help dealing with newbie shooters on my range

Hi folks, I own a gun store and handgun range and I'm looking for advice because I have an ongoing issue that I don't know how to deal with. My top priority is safety. Everyone who goes on my range needs to have experience with handguns and they need to know a minimum amount of safety knowledge about handguns and range procedures. If they don't possess the necessary skills and knowledge, they don't go on my range.

I do not let inexperienced shooters or people who have never shot a handgun on my range. Period. Some people don't like me for this and they leave negative reviews online. I find that my customers have an expectation that they should be able to shoot on my range; they feel entitled to be able to shoot just because they showed up, and they do not understand that it is a very dangerous activity and that I have a responsibility to everyone else there and to myself to ensure that my range is safe at all times. All these people know is, they showed up, they have money in their pockets, and I won't take their money. Then they go home and leave bad reviews and talk bad about me behind my back because I didn't let them on my range. These people I am talking about are those who failed my safety and experience evaluation; they either had insufficient experience with handguns or insufficient safety knowledge about handguns.

Why don't I just fill them in and teach them, you ask? Because it's too much liability on me. I will allow newbies on the range if they bring an experienced shooter with them who will teach them, and I offer a beginner's shooting class that goes over everything and more, but these people perceive that when I offer them that option, I am just trying to get their money. My beginner's shooting class is the cheapest one in town, trust me, I've checked. I have a certified, insured instructor who teaches the student.

But that is something else people do not understand: liability.

Let me tell you about my evaluation procedure. I developed this years ago when I noticed that people would come off my range bleeding because they had no clue what they were doing and the slide bite got them. I start out by asking them if they know how to be safe with a gun, how to handle it, and what their level of experience is with handguns, if they have ever been taught to shoot.

This is where the trouble begins. This feels like a hassle to some folks. I have been told that I create a "tense, abrasive" atmosphere. But this is guns, folks, this kills people. They don't understand how serious this is.

So just by asking those questions I guess I've created a tense, abrasive atmosphere. If the person says they have never been taught how to shoot or they aren't sure about the other questions, then I take the evaluation further, asking them to show me how they will hold a gun, using a blue gun sitting on my counter. If they hold it incorrectly they automatically do not get to go on my range until someone has taught them how to shoot and they can show me they know what they are doing.

This is where people begin to feel insulted. I have even had one couple that left and then called me saying that they felt "humiliated, talked down to, deeply insulted" etc. The woman broke down into tears. Needless to say, this completely ruined my entire week and I nearly closed down the business.

How am I supposed to evaluate people for their skill level and safety knowledge without creating a "tense, abrasive" atmosphere and without making them feel insulted, humiliated, and talked down to when they have no idea what they are doing? How do I tell people "no, you can't go on my range" without them becoming angry because they feel entitled to get to shoot just because they showed up with money in their pocket?

It feels like people have this expectation that I should just teach every newbie shooter out there how to shoot, but that isn't my job and I can't afford the liability.

Thanks. I appreciate any feedback.

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Old 07-10-2013, 04:40 PM   #2
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A small business owner must do what he/she thinks is right...it is your rear on the line, nobody else's. I applaud your stance on safety though I do not know where liability starts and ends so far as your involvement in training new shooters.

This I know, you can not control how another person feels...only treat people with respect and dignity even if you reach a disagreement. As an experience shooter, I would be very inclined to be a regular to your range as I know you have standards that help protect me. As a newbie, I would want to know/see a path to reach an experience level...that is why I would likely be at a range in the first place.

If you can navigate the legalities of bringing inexperienced shooters to an experienced level, might be a good business opportunity. I just know I can only control myself and I tend not to loose too much sleep if I have a disagreement with another person...such is business and life in general.

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Old 07-10-2013, 04:56 PM   #3
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Explain that the range is privately owned, and is used by invitation only. Problem solved.

In most instances, online reviews are directly linked to business websites. Make SURE this condition is posted on the site prominently, and don't be afraid to post a review yourself, pointing out this condition.

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Old 07-10-2013, 04:57 PM   #4
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How about getting a short video on firearms usage and safety (include range etiquette)?

Get one where you are not in it (like from the NRA), and have all shooters view it when they come for the first time.

The shooter signs a liability release form saying that they viewed it.

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Old 07-10-2013, 05:00 PM   #5
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I would agree with Mouser, plus maybe add some signage around the area that clearly spells out your policy. Be firm, but be polite. That's really the best you can do IMO.

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Old 07-10-2013, 05:09 PM   #6
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What Dan said...

Liability form...

Questionnaire on actual experience?

If people can't understand that it's YOUR azz on the line should something go wrong, do you really want them around in the first place?

If you have to be a bit gruff to get your point across, then so be it, better hurt feelings than extra body orifices...It's not a playground.

Maybe limit it to only shooters who hold a concealed carry permit, and allow them one guest?

Very obvious signage stating the rules and regs?

Obviously you're not in this to get rich, but to promote our sport and I understand not wanting to alienate people but you have to expect some asshattery when dealing with the public...

Keep us updated on the situation...

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Old 07-10-2013, 05:31 PM   #7
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Owner- first, welcome to the forum. When you get a minute, drop by the intro thread and say hello.

Second- I belong to a range that requires ANY new member to attend an on-site safety briefing and walkthru- and NRA membership (we are an NRA affiliated range, and our insurance is contingent on all of OUR members being NRA members). There is also a liability release that is completed by all members and their guests.

I am NOT a lawyer, but there IS a legal concept of "inherent risk". When you go to a ballgame, there is an inherent risk that you CAN get hit by a foul ball. If you do, do not bother trying to sue the ball park. That was a risk you accepted by going to a ballgame.

Third, if you have THAT many folks upset, it is possible that you ARE coming across as rude and abrasive. You may be a sweet guy that loves puppies and kittens, but if you are perceived as Atilla- there is a problem. A gunsmith I like a lot, and spend time sitting and talking with, could scare paint off a fender. He speaks loudly, abruptly. I know why- he is damned near deaf- too many years of no hearing protection on the 30-06 range.

There is a newly opened LARGE commercial range/gun store here in Richmond VA- in an urban area, LOT of pistol shooters. Known as Colonial Shooting Academy. Phone number will come up if you Google them. They have a very nice safety brief and orientation that they do for ALL shooters. On video. You might give them a call, and see if they could share some insights with you.

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Old 07-10-2013, 05:34 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The1Monster View Post
Explain that the range is privately owned, and is used by invitation only. Problem solved.
I don't want to drive away potential business. If an inexperienced shooter wants to get on my range, they can, if they bring an experienced shooter with them or take the beginner's class. But if I'm telling people or putting on my website that it's by invitation only, I'm going to lose a lot of business. Can't afford that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by danf_fl View Post
How about getting a short video on firearms usage and safety (include range etiquette)?

Get one where you are not in it (like from the NRA), and have all shooters view it when they come for the first time.

The shooter signs a liability release form saying that they viewed it.
I do already have folks sign a liability release form. Regarding the NRA training video, that could be an idea. Folks would probably view it as a hassle or tell me "nevermind I'll just go somewhere else."

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Originally Posted by JD1969 View Post
I would agree with Mouser, plus maybe add some signage around the area that clearly spells out your policy. Be firm, but be polite. That's really the best you can do IMO.
I started getting a sign going yesterday; I am probably going to have it made soon. It spells out my range safety policy and it will be displayed on the front of my building. 3' by 4' in size or something like that.

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What Dan said...

Liability form...

Questionnaire on actual experience?

If people can't understand that it's YOUR azz on the line should something go wrong, do you really want them around in the first place?

If you have to be a bit gruff to get your point across, then so be it, better hurt feelings than extra body orifices...It's not a playground.

Maybe limit it to only shooters who hold a concealed carry permit, and allow them one guest?
In this state, that doesn't mean much. As long as someone has a clean record they can get one; it speaks nothing to their experience level or safety knowledge.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vincent View Post
Very obvious signage stating the rules and regs?

Obviously you're not in this to get rich, but to promote our sport and I understand not wanting to alienate people but you have to expect some asshattery when dealing with the public...

Keep us updated on the situation...
There has got to be a way (ways) to decrease this though. It's been an ongoing problem and I have thought about closing the business several times now because of it. The most recent incident involved a person who was referring people in his gun group to my business, and he sent me a nasty message online saying that he had lots of complaints from newbie shooters who were turned away and treated badly by me and that he wouldn't be referring any more people to my business. Apparently, members of his group are asking him where they can go to "learn to shoot" and he's referring those people to my business, but my business is not here to teach people how to shoot, it's to accommodate people who already know how to shoot or who are willing to take the time and effort to learn the right way. This guy didn't even call me; I asked him to and he didn't.

Maybe the sign will help mitigate some of this, but I'm just not sure. It's overwhelming dealing with this ongoing issue.
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Old 07-10-2013, 05:35 PM   #9
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The range i go to requires that you have an NRA first shots safety certificate.(unless you are LEO, or active duty military) It dosen't matter if you have 100yrs experience with firearms. They also have NRA certified RSOs, that wont hesitate to toss somebody out. The shop makes money on the training, and if you are on the range, you know everybody else there has had at least some formal safety instruction.

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Old 07-10-2013, 05:40 PM   #10
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While I appreciate your commitment to safety, I might get the wrong impression and be offended if I were questioned as to my suitability to shoot on a range; and what if, even though experienced, the way I have held my gun for fifty years isn't the way you expect it to be held?

I agree 100% that a person should feel safe at the place they shoot at. Mebbe a free "membership" to your range, with the requirement that EVERYONE watch a short video, or attend a short range orientation class.

To my mind, the best safety feature is having a range officer monitor the shooting line and enforce safety rules, and do the old "ready on the right, reading on the left, ready on the firing line" type of commands.

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