Welcome to NSSF’s column for firearms range owners, managers and staff. “Behind the Firing Line” works to accomplish two things. First, it recognizes ranges that have met the stringent requirements necessary to achieve an NSSF Star rating for excellence. Second, it works to explain how these ranges met specific criteria within the Star-Rating Range Program, so that other ranges working to make the grade can discover ideas and guidance for their own improvement. For more information on NSSF’s Star-Rating Range Program, visit www.nssf.org
Opened in 2012, this range is located in northern Illinois, 20 miles south of the Wisconsin border and 50 miles north of the Chicago city limits. The shooting lanes utilize over 20,000 square feet under roof. An additional 3,000-square-foot retail store stocks an average of 250 new guns, with a revolving stock of 125 rental guns. There is also a customer waiting area, an office space, and training rooms.
The shooting facility offers 12 75-foot pistol and 12 additional 150-foot rifle lanes. OnTarget employs a staff of 24 full- and part-time employees, which includes 12 certified NRA range safety officers. It operates Monday to Saturday 9:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m. and Sunday 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. The range is open for all holidays except Christmas and Easter.
As a Five-Star NSSF range, the facility meets best practices standards for state-of-the-art design. This ensures a high level of safety and comfort for workers and customers.
Many ranges have found that involving their company with the local community is a practical and important part of the business. OnTarget is no exception. One of the goals this company set when it opened was to support local charities.
“There were so many great organizations that needed our help. We realized setting parameters would allow us to better serve their needs. To accomplish this goal, we needed a plan,” said Judy Claxton, Business Development Manager.
The plan was simple. OnTarget decided to support one charity each quarter, and there were two primary criteria in selecting each charity. First, the organization needed to be local. Second, it must provide a service to the community. These parameters established local flexibility. The charity could work at supporting anything from helping family members of the Armed Forces to the Scouts or the community food bank. After the charity is selected, the next step is to bring awareness of that quarter’s chosen origination to OnTarget’s clients.
“Although it continues to be refined, we start with a customer email blast. The next step is to create donation boxes at the check-out. Meanwhile, we make sure that all of our employees have an understanding of what the charity is and how it impacts our community,” said Claxton.
The primary donations come from selling specially designed targets.
“Our charity targets are sold for $1.50 a piece. After the $.45 we have invested, that leaves $1.05 that goes to the charity,” she said.
While that may not sound like much, given the volume sold, it adds up quickly. Claxton commented that having a different charity target creates an environment in which some customers won’t be seen without one and others by groups of targets. The counter staff is trained to always ask if the client would prefer the charity target, and the instructors and retail staff often comment positively to the clients regarding the charity. This creates a gentle sense of appreciation in addition to a spirit of competition.
Giving Back to the Local Community
One of the charities that OnTarget has contributed to is the Fallen Heroes’ Children’s Education Fund. Donations are used to start or support 529 college funds for a child whose parent was killed in action. For the Crystal Lake Food Pantry, the range had a cash and food collection drive. This combined effort resulted in close to a $3,000 donation, as well as a delivery of a pickup truck of food. Another charity was Mady’s Way, which trains and gives service dogs to insulin-dependent diabetic children.
OnTarget Donations -Donations – Community Charity impacts the bottom line
“Although the list of charities is long, we really try to bring attention to a variety of issues that affect our community on a personal level,” said Claxton.
Expanding Reach by Auctioning Range Memberships
While the targets and donation boxes are major contributors to the charity fund, memberships are often donated for fundraising auctions.
“We attend or give memberships to be auctioned at numerous nonprofit organizations. We can only designate four charities a year, but we can expand our reach notably by having memberships auctioned off by the many charities we believe in,” said Claxton.
In 2017, OnTarget donated more than 30 memberships, valued at $250 each, to local nonprofits. The average auction bid typically varies from $200 to $250 with some going as high as $300. Claxton believes the enhanced exposure at these auctions is significant, and it equates to advertising for the range while, in turn, benefitting the community.
Impacting Nonprofits and the Bottom Line
Between the donation boxes, target sales, and auctioned memberships, at the close of 2017, OnTarget had raised just under $20,000 dollars for local nonprofits. The benefit of creating goodwill and the feeling of making a connection to local community members and clients is important, yet, as Claxton put it, being a good neighbor is really just good business.
“We hear from our clients all the time about how they enjoy being a part of a worthwhile cause. These positive comments show up in our Google reviews as well. We hear it most when individuals renew their memberships,” she said.
Providing the Most Amazing Gift
As we concluded this interview, Claxton shared a personal story. She explained that one of the range’s employees was in dire need of a liver transplant and struggling to find a match.
“I thought the least we could do was send out an email blast to look for potential donors. I was simply astonished by the response,” Claxton said in an emotional tone. “Even individuals who didn’t fit the parameters personally forwarded the email to their friends and family.
“The result was an astounding 30 individuals who offered to be tested to be a matching donor,” she said. “This employee is alive today because of the generosity of the shooting public. We are so proud that so many people responded and unselfishly wanted to be a part of saving someone’s life. I had never worked in the shooting industry until we opened OnTarget in 2012. I really had no idea this fine group of people was so benevolent. It makes me incredibly proud to be a part of it,” said Claxton.