Dan Fritter: 12 Tips to Run a Successful Gun Club Open House

Global News Guns Blaze at Kelowna Gun Range
Screenshot of Global News article. Source: GlobalNews.ca

TheGunBlog.ca — Global News ran a story last week on a gun club open house, calling it “a firearm enthusiast’s paradise” for an expected 1,000 people. Daniel Fritter, the club president and publisher of Calibre magazine, shares some of his takeaways.

By Daniel Fritter
President, Joe Rich Sportsman’s Association
Publisher, Calibre Magazine

We learned a LOT from this first one, which is great because the only reason we did it was to learn how to do one of these, in preparation for a second public event (much bigger) this September.

Main Takeaways, Recommendations

1. Safety Briefing on the Line, Control the Crowd

  • Two safety tips (because that’s the biggest thing): Any safety briefing beforehand is a waste of time; they’ll forget it all the second they step up to the line.
  • Second, control the crowd. Cordon off the shooting area and allow one person at a time to step up to the line. Keep the rest four to five feet behind. If they want photos, offer to take them for the guest. Always have one volunteer per guest on the actual firing line. You might need another volunteer just bombing mags (especially .22 and pistol mags).

2. Simple Guns, Sponsored Ammo

  • Restrict the guns a bit to keep ammunition requirements simple. The majority of the guns we had were 5.56 mm, 9mm, and .22 LR and it worked great. Try and get a shop to “sponsor” the event by providing ammo at a rebated cost.
  • We asked a local shop if we could return the ammo we didn’t shoot, and they agreed to let us take the ammo without paying.
  • Tomorrow I’ll be bringing back what we didn’t shoot. From there, we’ll add up how much we shot, and only pay for that. Makes it a very low-risk activity, financially. We put their logo on the poster in thanks.

Joe Rich Sportsman’s Association Poster

3. Keep Guns Easy or Spectacular

  • Put guns out there that are either a spectacle or easy to shoot. So to make easy-to-shoot guns, put optics on rifles and red dots on pistols to make them more intuitive. Let people shoot rifles off front rests. Make it easy for them.
  • And throw a few guns out there that exist for the “wow” factor alone: .50 BMG rifles, Deagles, .44 Mag revolvers. We had a Magnum Research BFR. You can make a lot of money off those guns because it’s the “When will you ever shoot a .50 again?” factor. Plus they kinda advertise themselves, and you can play on the whole “We have limited ammo for this, so it might get shut down later in the day.”

4a. Attend for Free, Pay for Ammo

  • Make it free to attend. I made a mistake listening to some folks and putting a registration fee on it. You’ll raise your funds off ammo sales, and even a nominal fee is just going to keep people from attending.
  • If it’s free, they’ll come up because there’s no cost, and then once they are there they’ll go, “Well, I’m here, may as well do some shooting.” Then, they pick up a gun for the first time, and because it’s easy to shoot they enjoy the instant gratification of hitting things, and spend another $200 shooting before they leave.

4b. Make Money

  • This is a personal thing because I’ve belonged to rich and poor clubs and am of the opinion that successful clubs are run like for-profit businesses because it allows for a much nicer club experience.
  • So with that in mind, in terms of pricing, we basically doubled the ammo cost. So 10 rounds of .22 was 71 cents and we took a $2 ticket. 10 rounds from an SKS was $4, 10 rounds from a 9 mm was $6, 10 rounds from a 5.56 was $8. Shockingly, people thought this was cheap, and really didn’t mind buying a ton of tickets.
  • It sorta reminded me that while shooting is a pretty normal thing for us, for families coming up for a day’s event, shooting is something pretty special, like renting jet skis, or a fast car. It’s not something they do frequently, so they expect it to be a bit pricey.
  • A volunteer yesterday also pointed out that while we think they’re paying for ammo, what they are actually paying for is the use of our guns and range, too.
  • I think we managed to hit a sweet spot where the club still made money off it (which is important, because you want to have something to show for the effort so the club is motivated to do more events), but we also provided it at a price where we all felt like we were doing a good job of keeping it approachable.


5. Shoot Things That Do Things

  • Shoot things that do things. Steel is a godsend since you don’t need to keep closing the range to change targets. Clays on backstops. Balloons stapled to target backers. We shot zero paper yesterday and it was the best thing ever.

6. Keep People Shooting

  • Cycle range closures. We took a 30-minute lunch break and closed everything at once. That was a mistake.
  • Our next event will probably have staggered 5-minute closures every hour for each range (we have three ranges) so volunteers can reset some targets, clean up a bit, go to the bathroom, etc. Then, lunch breaks will be 30 minutes and again, staggered so guests will always have an open range to shoot at.

7. Keep It Short

  • Limit the hours. 9-5 was too long. 10-4 is adequate. Honestly, 10-3 would be fine, too.
  • Tailor it to your volunteers’ ability. If you don’t have a ton of volunteers, shorten it up a bit. The perfect situation would be to have two shifts of volunteers, trading off midway through the day.

8. Use Whistles, Not Radios

  • Put a rape whistle on every range for the Range Safety Officer in case of emergency, or to signal a range closure to target reset.
  • We set it up where one long whistle was a closure, three short was an emergency, and we had an air horn that could repeat that signal to shut the whole facility down.
  • Radios are useless with that much gunfire going on. Non-verbal comms cues are life.

9. Pick a Date and Go

  • If you want to put one on, set the date. Don’t think about it too much, just make the date, put it on a calendar, and go. Until there’s a date, your club will keep talking about “when we put it on” without ever actually working towards prepping one.


10. Work With Community Partners

  • Find partners in the community to work with to lighten the workload, and make it better.
  • We had a Scout troop come up and run a BBQ. They made some money for the troop, and at the end of the day, they got to shoot for free for a bit.
  • We had an airsoft club doing demos. We wish we’d asked a couple gun shops if they wanted to come up to show off their wares, as well as having had a PAL instructor come up to sign people up for licences.
  • We got a lot of families milling around, and while they enjoyed the shooting a TON, having the airsoft and Scouts up there demonstrated that more tents, showing more stuff, would have only helped the spectacle.
  • We got the question “How can I get a gun?” so many times that by the end of the day we REALLY wished we could have pointed to a PAL instructor and just said: “Ask him!” Hell, we’ll even ask the local military museum if they want to put up a display. More stuff = more better.

11. E-mail Media Again and Again, Mention ‘AR-15’

  • In terms of media exposure, I actually just emailed the local outlets, and they were all eager to run it. Always invite them up and make sure they know they can participate for free.
  • Mention that you’ll have some guns for them to shoot and always mention the AR-15. They hear that, and they want to put it on screen, because it always gets attention.
  • If they don’t respond to the first email, email again … and again … and again. Until they tell you to buzz off, keep trying!

12. Use Square for Payments

  • It’s a good idea to get a Square set up to take credit-card payments. It’s cheap, easy, and you never want to not be able to take people’s money because you’re unable to get it.
  • I would say use Square or something similar. Square doesn’t allow the sale of firearms or ammunition, but we used it to accept payment for tickets at the open house. I don’t know if there’s a better option.

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