Need help dealing with newbie shooters on my range

Discussion in 'Training & Safety' started by GunStoreOwner, Jul 10, 2013.

  1. GunStoreOwner

    GunStoreOwner New Member

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2013
  2. Mouser

    Mouser Active Member

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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.
     

  3. The1Monster

    The1Monster New Member

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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.
     
  4. danf_fl

    danf_fl Retired Supporter

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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.
     
  5. JD1969

    JD1969 New Member

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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.
     
  6. vincent

    vincent New Member

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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...:cool:
     
  7. c3shooter

    c3shooter Administrator Staff Member

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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.
     
  8. GunStoreOwner

    GunStoreOwner New Member

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    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.

    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."

    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.

    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.

    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.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2013
  9. rn-cindy

    rn-cindy Active Member

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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.
     
  10. txpossum

    txpossum New Member

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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.
     
  11. vincent

    vincent New Member

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    Was afraid of that...the CCW idea...not knowing what state you're in, occurred to me as I hit 'submit'...

    How many RSO's do you have on staff? Sometimes folks need babysitting...

    Maybe you could encourage volunteer RSO's with free/discounted range time?
     
  12. GunStoreOwner

    GunStoreOwner New Member

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    Wow this is really great feedback. I really appreciate it.

    Currently I do not do memberships for my range because people who are members will abuse range time. Seems like "members" believe that they are entitled to spend as much time as they please and come to the range whenever they please. I'm not sure how to go about a membership thing in which members cannot abuse their memberships.

    I'm familiar with this concept. But I still like to have as much protection as possible.

    I do come across as rude and abrasive at times; I am a very blunt person.

    I'll do that; thanks for the tip.

    This sounds like a very good concept. I will look into NRA first shots.

    That does come up at times. I do not accept the cup and saucer method except from people who were trained to hold it that way in the military. People do get offended sometimes when I don't accept the cup and saucer method.

    That makes a lot of sense. And if it's a "free" membership, they won't have an expectation to abuse range time.

    I can't afford to hire employees right now. And it's a small range anyway. However, a short video/orientation class followed by a 1-on-1 evaluation, then free membership, might be the answer.
     
  13. DrFootball

    DrFootball disappointed & disgusted, But DETERMINED... Lifetime Supporter

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    One thing you CAN do...

    If and when you can hire someone is to Hire a Full time RSO to be stationed in the Range itself. My Range makes sure there is an RSO on duty at all times and if new shooters are using the range the RSO is there with them!! Although i am "experienced" No one told me (no RSO or store employee) that i was an incorrect shooter....I had not shot In well over a Year Last Dec. when we started using that range. I have always observed how the staff treats each customer like they were spending a lot of money even if they were shooting for 1 hr and buying one box of ammo!!

    Good luck!
     
  14. Doc3402

    Doc3402 New Member

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    GunStoreOwner,

    We have a local range that requires an annual membership. At the beginning of that annual membership before you ever fire the first round you must attend a class on firearms and range safety as well as on the range rules. You must complete the class before you can use the range. If you cop an attitude you don't get to finish the class. Don't let the doorknob hit you where the dog should have bit you.

    I don't know what your insurance costs are, but I feel sorry for you. Our annual liability insurance for each rescue truck could have bought me a 2 bedroom house in a very nice neighborhood.
     
  15. orangello

    orangello New Member

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    If the NEWBs are of the younger crowd (21-30ish), maybe you could evaluate/critique their performance on a first person shooter game's training module? That might be more palatable to the age group.
     
  16. Overkill0084

    Overkill0084 Active Member

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    The local Go Kart Track makes you sit through a 15 to 20 minute video the first time you use their facility. Then you sign the applicable forms. There is very little in the way of life & death issues here. It's their facility and their equipment and if wish to use it, you play by their rules. Why should a gun range be any different?
    My local Gun Shop/indoor range basically does an interview tied to a safety briefing for each new range user to determine their level of experience. There is also a person manning the counter to make sure no-one gets too stupid. Of course purchase of a firearm gets one 30 days of free range membership. An interview/safety briefing seems like a small price to pay in light of this.
    As for the regular members thinking they own the place, here, they get to go to the front of any waiting line, but they are still on the clock (1 hr session limit), same as everyone else.
    For those that wish to take classes, you might think of offering Basic/beginner Classes at significant discount with the purchase of a new firearm.
     
  17. rn-cindy

    rn-cindy Active Member

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    The targets go back and forth on a track, so there is never a "cease fire". And the RSOs keep a close eye on everything. I know people that were raised around guns, and handling guns for years, that scare me....I dont care if somebody gets their feelings hurt....i dont want to get shot by the person in the next lane...
     
  18. danf_fl

    danf_fl Retired Supporter

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    Even as an NRA Instructor, I have to view the video at one of the ranges on annual renewal of membership.
     
  19. rn-cindy

    rn-cindy Active Member

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    Thats what they do...If you buy a new/used handgun , You get the safety class, and 2hrs range time. RG is the instructor on Thurs nights, and Sat mornings....
     
  20. 7point62

    7point62 Lifetime Supporting Member Lifetime Supporter

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    GSO...you've admitted sometimes coming across as blunt and abrasive. Unfortunately poor people skills and social media can kill a small business. I don't think there's anything wrong with your requirements for range usage but to quote my grandma you can get more with honey than you can with vinegar. In spite of the inherent dangers and liabilities of operating a gun range it is still a business that has to deal with the public. And people perceive a public gun range as a place where they can gain experience. Sounds to me like you need find a better way to communicate your requirements. Good luck to you.