I had the opportunity to attend NRA’s Range Development and Operations Conference in Pittsburgh. If you’ve ever been to NRA’s Law Seminar, it’s a similar format, except a smaller crowd. If you’re a Director or Officer at a gun club, I highly recommend you get your club to send you, or even go yourself if you can swing it. It was an eye opener for me. It’s three days. It can be rough to sit in a conference room for three days and hear presentations if you’re not the classroom type.
Takeaways for me:
- First takeaway is that if you don’t do this for a living, in other words, if you’re not presenting at the conference, you don’t know everything. This conference will just explore the tip of the iceberg of things you don’t know.
- The worst thing you can do as a club is stick your head in the sand and pretend everything is right, and everything is fine. Seek expert advise. NRA will come evaluate your range for free. The results are kept confidential. If you’re really worried, coordinate through your lawyers so any results are privileged. Ranges that stick their head in the sand likely do not have an extended future. When those ranges inevitably go under, we won’t replace them.
- There’s lots of expertise and technology available to help ranges get on the right track. My club send people to the RDOC about 15 years ago, and we had a few Board members who figured it would just be the same. It was not. Range technology is evolving fast. One presentation on the economics of the industry mentioned that while there is definitely a “Trump Slump,” the baseline of shooters is still much higher than it was a decade ago, and there’s investment. Shooting ranges actually do less business when people aren’t buying as many guns.
- At some point, the firearms industry will need to replace lead styphnate and lead azide priming with something non-toxic. That’s proven illusive, but it’ll have to be done. Lead bullets are a far more manageable problem than the lead emitted from primers, which have to be cleaned up and disposed as hazardous waste.
- Does your range have an environmental stewardship plan? If not, you need one. This is becoming standard industry practice. We’ve long been big on recycling in our sport, but a plan will help ensure people know all the best practices. There are people who will help you write one who are experts in this stuff, know environmental engineering, and who are not tree huggers looking to shut you down. NRA’s Range Services and the professionals who work with them are trying to keep ranges open, not help them get shut down.
Now, some things I didn’t like about the conference:
- The classroom format is a bit rough for some people. Not sure there’s so much you can do about this. I found the Vendor room, and networking with the pros, to be just as useful as the conference itself. Maybe more here.
- Get presenters to hold questions off until the end. Letting an audience of people interrupt speakers with (often stupid) questions is a recipe for a presenter having to skip over material at the end or rush through. I wanted to see some of that material! It’s better to be able to cut off questions at the end. We had a few “class clowns” and various other people who liked to hear the sound of their own voice monopolizing or interrupting the speakers.
- Asking people to introduce themselves at the beginning individually is a nice touch, but it does signal to a certain kind of individual that the world gives a shit, and primes them to believe the world wants to hear their wisdom.
And the biggest takeaway for me?