National Shooting Sports Month A Big Boom for Texas Range
by Warren Berg
“Last year we had a range day with Col. Allen West, featuring F1 Firearms and a ‘Try-Before-You-Buy’ day with Smith & Wesson,” says Will James, President of Defender Outdoors, LLC, as he begins unwrapping for me a hefty and impressive package of activities his indoor range, separate outdoor shotgun range, brick-and-mortar retailer and e-commerce entity did in 2017 for National Shooting Sports Month. Though finding out about National Shooting Sports Month at the very end of July last year left Defender Outdoors with only a short time to craft and promote unique events in time for August, it pulled it off. “Luckily, we had already planned some special community shooting events for August, so it was easy to co-brand,” he says. “We’ll be a lot more ready this year.”
In addition to the special appearance by Col. West, Defender Outdoors brought in Texas Republican state Senator Konni Burton (D10) for a special National Shooting Sports Month version of Defender Outdoors’ famous “Ladies Shoot ‘n’ Sip” that James says is “the perfect event to connect with other like-minded ladies, network, learn about firearms and, afterward, enjoy a glass or two of vino.”
Political dignitaries aside, James explains one of the most exciting events the facility had during the month was a weekend where one of the range’s friends, professional shooter Patrick Kelley, came in to meet shooting center members and give some special lessons. “We also launched a gun sweepstakes that month in a partnership with Savage Arms and Vista Outdoor,” he adds, noting that their strong relationships with manufacturers has those brands acting as ambassadors to amplify the range’s message.
Throughout the month, James says Defender Outdoors consistently used #LetsGoShooting to help raise awareness and set the stage for increased future turnout.
“In our blog and press release regarding National Shooting Sports Month,” he says, “we encouraged 250,000 readers to engage with Defender Outdoors and the NSSF using the branded hashtag.”
Defender Outdoors’ digital efforts extended beyond simply Facebook and Instagram, which are both big draws for them. “We also have our weekly emails we send out to members letting them know about upcoming events, and our blog sends out a weekly content newsletter that features more coverage of our events,” he explains. “Our Savage Arms gun giveaway was a massive success that grew our Instagram following substantially, while serving as a lead-generation tool for our web sales and local shooting range. This contest introduced Defender Outdoors to tens of thousands of new shooters, and, in turn, they were exposed to the NSSF program.”
Both the gun giveaway and live Facebook streaming of National Shooting Sports Month events brought considerable growth to their social media followings, says James. “We definitely saw the needle move. Our live stream of the women shooting during the Ladies Shoot ‘n’ Sip was our most watched live stream up to that point, with over 3,000 people tuning in. That was soon eclipsed by our Gen5 GLOCK Reveal live stream on the 26th, which got over 16,000 views. Before that, we were 750 max on our social media views.”
Unfortunately, pushback from Facebook would be an “understatement,” according to James. “We get a substantial amount of pushback from Facebook, but we keep hammering at it. It won’t allow us to advertise anymore, so we just generally push out good content on a regular basis. We try and strive to put out not only sales pitches, because there’s a lot of great information we put out through our training staff and upcoming events. We just really try to engage our customer base. By doing so, we lessen the impact Facebook in its trying to push down the shooting sports.
“We really want to knock National Shooting Sports Month out of the park in 2018,” he continued. “We’re starting much earlier this year and working with the NSSF to gain local and national exposure.”
Though he hasn’t completely outlined all the events for this August yet, James plans on some special range days where manufacturers bring new and interesting guns and allow people to try them out at the range. “Of course, we’ll continue with our very popular Full Auto Fridays in August, and we’ll be setting up some additional events as we near closer to National Shooting Sports Month,” he adds.
Beyond simply coming up with ideas for new activities, James and his team are brainstorming to come up with creative ideas to get word out and encourages their members and others in the community to bring friends to shoot for the first time and to reactivate shooters. Already he’s acknowledged that he can’t do the gun giveaway the same way as last year because Facebook has since flagged it and informed Defender Outdoors that it has been removed. “We have to be careful, because we depend on social media so much that we don’t want our page to disappear entirely. “Subscribe to our newsletter for more information,” he suggests.
“We have more time in 2018 to prepare for National Shooting Sports Month,” says James, “so we’ll be able to include the #LetsGoShooting hashtags in more of our social posts, have more supporting content and feature the National Shooting Sports Month logo on more of our event graphics and materials throughout the month.”
Retailers and Ranges—Add Your Events to the National Shooting Sports Month Calendar
National Shooting Sports Month is all about getting people involved in the shooting sports and providing ways to better connect with the ranges and firearms retail stores in their communities. One of the best ways to do that during the month of August is to post your events and promotions here on shootingsportsmonth.org. All events you list there will be cross-positioned on our StepOutside.org and LetsGoShooting.org sites, which are designed specifically for consumer viewing and use. Bonus!—List your events here and we’ll send you a supply of National Shooting Sports hats, T-shirts and other materials to help boost your promotions throughout the month.