On Thursday, outdoor specialty retailer Gander Mountain will lower some of the fees it charges at its Wichita Gander Mountain Academy.
Officials from the St. Paul, Minn.-based company also said it will launch a membership program at the Wichita firearms training center and range that can be renewed annually and will provide additional discounts for use of its live-fire, virtual and simulated ranges as well as training.
“We saw an opportunity to help provide our service and felt it was our civic duty to provide a service to our customer to learn how to safely and effectively operate … their firearms,” said Chris Juelich, national director of Gander Mountain Academy, which operates five other academies at stores in Florida, Minnesota, Texas and Wisconsin.
Juelich added that the privately held company has seen an “uptick in the interest” for firearms training.
Specifically, the Wichita Gander Mountain Academy will drop the cost from $25 to $15 for hour-long sessions in its live range and half-hour sessions in its virtual range and simulators.
The academy’s new membership program, which costs $50 annually, will provide discounted rates such as $10 for use of the live range for an hour, or half-hour use of the virtual range and simulator. The membership also will provide a 10 percent discount on its training classes and a 20 percent discount on private instruction sessions.
The move will make the Wichita academy “even more accessible” and “more affordable” for customers.
Two independent gun shop and range owners said gun sales, range use and demand for firearms training have slowed over the past year, after a huge upswing that began in 2008, when political rhetoric seemed to fuel sales and interest.
“It’s all down at the moment,” said Don Holman, owner of the Bullet Stop at 2625 W. Pawnee, which sells firearms, has an indoor range and provides training.
“This was a very, very hot business for a long time,” added Mike Relihan, owner of Bullseye Shooting Range, 1455 N. Terrace. “We’ve kind of now, for the last couple months, gone back to normal times.”
Juelich said the academies have had “a successful run.” Wichita was the last of the six academies Gander Mountain opened. The 7,000-square-foot academy inside Gander Mountain’s WaterWalk store opened in late 2011.
Juelich acknowledged that there has been a slowdown nationally in the sales of firearms.
“Nobody’s meeting the comps they did in 2013,” he said.
But, he said, there is a “significant amount of interest” in the training that Gander Mountain Academy offers, such as fundamental handgun training and safety, concealed carry, hunter safety and defensive shooting. He thinks much of that interest is from people who bought their firearms last year.
“We decided to do this as a way to reward our best customers,” Juelich said.
He added that customers of the academy have been asking about a membership program since the academy opened.
“We decided we would try it, test it in … the Wichita marketplace,” he said. “It’s ultimately the goal to make sure people who are buying the products know how to use them safely.”