A quiet trend has begun in firearm industry and, judging by the response, the approach could quickly spread. While more and more gun companies are holding highly successful free events that provide fans a chance to take their latest models for a short “test drive” at a range, a pair of precision-rifle companies have launched something very different.
Their events border on a value-added service for their customers, imparting an intimate knowledge on the operation and capabilities of the company’s rifles, while building skills. Both Bergara and Christensen Arms now hold multiple-day, long-distance seminars in which attendees send hundreds of rounds downrange, not a half dozen. That volume is fired under the watchful eyes of expert instructors, each eagerly dispensing advice that helps stretch distance and build confidence.
They are not free, unlike some others, yet the relatively new events are fully booked months in advance. Higher education is the main attraction—along with the chance to rub shoulders with staff members from each firm—but there’s much more. Enthusiasts of all skill levels are welcome, attendees get behind the host manufacturer’s guns—loaners or those owned by the attendee—and the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly.
Make no mistake, though. Instructors are still eager to dive deep into judging distance quickly with reticles and other advanced principles, but their primary focus is instilling and building on the basics. There’s no calculus required when doping wind at mind-boggling distance at either seminar and the focus is trigger time. Everyone takes home the knowledge and experience to connect with eerie regularity at long distance, build a range card and adjust for wind.
The eldest statesman of the pair, The Bergara Academy—Long Range Shooting School “…was started six years ago to educate shooters and familiarize shooters and hunters with Bergara’s highly accurate rifles,” Bergara Director of Advertising/Media Relations Chad Shearer said. It, “ … allows students to spend three days learning and shooting while building friendships that last a lifetime.”
In June 2021 Christensen Arms launched its Quest program. Company Senior Vice President of Marketing Stephen Graham explained, “The mission behind Quest is to provide consumers an environment that represents actual hunting scenarios where they can improve on their skills while also understanding their limitations in making an ethical shot. Doing so requires applicable or situational training from skilled/advanced instructors combined with hands on knowledge of their firearm, optic and shooting tools.”
The Quest classes have received little to no promotion other than a few posts on social media,” Graham said. “The word of mouth has been so successful that our remaining three classes are sold out for this fall and we are looking into adding a second class in March . In fact, we are starting to see repeat students coming back for the two-day training and even a number of students returning for the advanced four-day training.” Christensen Arms ran seven Quest events in 2022—and the program only began in mid-2021. Next year it’s planning nine.
“The response has been overwhelming with schools booking typically a year in advance with a waiting list for future schools,” Shearer said about Bergara’s Academy. All of its events for 2022 are booked. Dates for 2023 will be announced soon.
It was a big gamble when the companies launched their programs. Instructors, food, housing, staff time and other resources add up quickly. Both Graham and Shearer said registration fees barely cover the investment—and that was before inflation’s recent acceleration.
The real return on that investment, according to the pair, is the feedback and interaction made possible when meeting and shooting with owners one-on-one and face-to-face. It also breeds brand loyalty when enthusiast witness, first-hand, how well the rifles perform.
Judging by the overwhelming demand the investment is paying big dividends. Don’t be surprised if other companies follow suit—hopefully at a location near you.