A long time ago, in what now seems like a galaxy far, far away, TTAG put on an event intended to let folks come to a nice shooting range, pay one price and shoot guns all day long. Just because. The original idea was to replicate the SHOT Show Media Day experience, but make it open to the general public. It lasted three years and was a huge success in all ways other than financial. Oh well. As a great man once said, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
In the last few years, SIG SAUER’s gone a different way at SHOT Show, putting on their own media event separate and apart from the NSSF’s Media (now Industry) Day at the Range. They rent the Clark County Shooting Complex north of Las Vegas and showcase their products the day before the NSSF’s media shindig in Boulder City. Now SIG is bringing their version of the SHOT Show media day to the people.
This past weekend was the inaugural SIG Freedom Days and judging from the throngs at the the Ben Avery Shooting Facility north of Phoenix this weekend, John and Jane Q. Public were plenty happy for the opportunity.
SIG’s Chief Marketing Officer Tom Taylor told us that just under 4,000 people bought advance tickets for the event. And that doesn’t count the hundreds of walk-up attendees who were there each day. Freedom Days was a big enough draw to pull ticket buyers from 46 states. The only laggards were Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island and West Virginia (WV? WTF?).
The temperatures may have been high in Phoenix over the weekend, but it was a dry heat and it didn’t keep the thousands of attendees from coming out to walk the seemingly endless Ben Avery facility and trying out SIG’s pistols and long guns.
SIG used the event to let the public get a first peek at a new, yet-to-be announced P320 variant, the XTEN 10mm pistol. But what drew the attention of lots of curious hoplophiles were the Army’s recently selected new squad weapons, the XM5 rifle and XM250 machine gun. As you can see, people wanted to get their hands on the next generation guns . . .
Plenty of those who were there got themselves registered and then made a bee line for the far end of the range to check out the new Next Generation Squad Weapons.
Lots had questions about the new guns and the round that powers them, the 277 SIG FURY 6.8×51 cartridge. SIG had knowledgeable people there to talk about the guns, the ammo and let people get some hands-on time with them.
SIG put on a few scheduled demonstrations of the XM250 to wow the crowds.
A few people — 50 to be exact — paid extra to get a little trigger time behind the new machine gun.
We’re told those 50 tickets sold out in less than an hour. SIG would have let more people get behind the gun if they’d had the ammo to feed it.
The new 277 SIG Fury ammunition isn’t in full production yet, so SIG didn’t have enough of the stuff to let everyone who wanted to try the new gun pull the trigger. That’s sure to change in the coming months.
We talked to SIG SAUER’s CEO Ron Cohen on Friday about the impetus behind the SIG Freedom Days event. Unlike the dearly departed Texas Firearms Festival, Freedom Days isn’t meant to run in the black. While he was happy about the response by the ticket-buying public to the event, Cohen made it clear that Freedom Days isn’t a profit-making venture.
Financially speaking, this is not a smart decision for SIG. Not today, but in a year. If you think I can make money here…it’s not possible. But that’s not my objective.
Cohen’s focus is more cultural and he’s taking a long-term view of Freedom Days and its impact.
Take a .22, give it to an individual who never shot a gun, take away the fear, the noise, the recoil…. And now…after a couple times, you make them love our way of life. And turn the diversity into bigger handguns, sub guns, MPX’s, and then you go all the way to see what our soldiers carry.
I think we can show them under one umbrella, the legitimacy of defense, safety and the decency of the people around you. That’s probably the most important thing. It’s not a Rambo who looks at you and says, ‘Hey, who the hell are you?’ We don’t have those people at SIG.
My hope is that (attendees) will bring somebody who doesn’t shoot and show that we’re not evil. And that it’s fun. And that you can learn something.
Freedom Days is meant to introduce the public — both experienced and new shooters, gun owners and those who may be thinking about it — to the brand and to the fun of shooting as an activity.
There will be shooters here that the last time they show was a year ago. I want that shooter to think maybe next Saturday or three Saturdays from now, we’re gonna hit the range. It’s so much fun. If we can do that, we’ll [ensure] the Second Amendment. So I take my kids, I take my friends, I take people that are are anti. Because they expect to see people that are a different nature. Not ‘normal.’
They come here, they see the discipline…take a kid. Take a ten, eleven-year-old kid that at home doesn’t listen to you. Take him to a range…it’s a different kid.
I remember my kids growing up, I was afraid in the car to take them to the gun range…they fight. I bring them into the range — whoa — these are adults. They straighten up, ‘yes sir’, ‘no sir’, hold the gun on the target, leave the gun, check safety….My kids, on the drive home, became adults.
Make no mistake, Freedom Days is meant to promote the SIG SAUER brand and let people see and shoot their ever-expanding range of firearms. Cohen and the scores of SIG personnel who were there all weekend want to sell more SIG guns. That is, after all, their job.
But SIG Freedom Days is intended to be more than that. It’s an opportunity to get more people shooting more often and maybe even convert some people who aren’t current gun owners. In other words, to show people that guns are normal (and a hell of a lot of fun).
The good news is this weekend’s SIG Freedom Days isn’t a one-off event. SIG has more Freedom Days planned for different parts of the country. Details on where and when will follow. More events like the one in Phoenix spread around the country mean more people able to make it out and see the guns, shoot some of them, and just have a good ol’ time.
TTAG’s Texas Firearms Festivals were intended to at least break even. Unfortunately, as much fun as they were for everyone involved, they never really came close to covering their costs and weren’t sustainable.
SIG SAUER, on the other hand, knew the financial reality of this kind of even going in. The company has the resources and the vision to take a longer term view of what this kind of even can do and be.
SIG SAUER can use Freedom Days to promote their brand around the country, bring new shooters to the sport, and preach the gospel that guns are fun, gun owners are friendly, normal people, and there’s a place in the gun culture for literally everyone. It’s a worthy undertaking and one that we can’t wait to see play out over the months and (we hope) years ahead.