Written by Crystal Ward Kent
Even in the midst of a pandemic, TerryAnn Bowen of Manchester Firing Line Range in Manchester, New Hampshire is grateful. “I know it sounds strange, but we’ve seen unexpected opportunities come our way, and I’m grateful for all of them,” she says. “My passion has always been to empower women. I never thought that I’d operate a firearm business, but it’s given me a wonderful platform for supporting and encouraging women, and with the pandemic, we’ve seen more women than ever before want to learn about firearms. In fact, the number of women visiting us has tripled! My mission is to educate people–about how to protect themselves and their families, and how to own and operate firearms safely. This situation has opened more doors to do just that. I’m not happy that we are having the COVID Crisis, but I am glad that I’m able to be of service in some way during this time.”
Manchester Firing Line works with top law enforcement and military personnel to educate the public about safe and responsible gun ownership. The facility also offers free Intro to Gun Ownership seminars, and teaches women both self-defense and defensive awareness classes. Bowen is proud of how her business has accommodated the COVID regulations, providing a safe environment for anyone who comes there. “We already had a state-of-the-art air filtration system that constantly changes over the air in order to limit dust and particles, so this was a huge advantage, but we quickly implemented sanitizing, masks, social distancing and reduced class sizes. Our customers have responded, saying that they feel safe coming here, as do our employees.”
As customer demand grew, Bowen realized she needed to double her staff in order to fully meet people’s needs. She did that and immediately noticed the customer appreciation. “Now, people can spend however much time they need with an instructor, getting their questions answered and having someone work with them for as long as needed. We want people to feel comfortable here, whether they are learning gun safety or simply want to be educated about firearms. We are here to be a resource, and I’m very proud of our staff for rising to the occasion.”
Even though her business has done well, the COVID Crisis has still provided challenges. “Running any business during this time is challenging,” admits Bowen, “but I’ve found it’s the non-business aspects that have been the hardest. I volunteer, I coach, I work with inner-city teens and all of those activities have been impacted. Missing my daughter’s wedding was really hard; but she lived far away and plane travel was not safe at the time. Like so many women, I’ve also suddenly found myself being a school teacher. Overnight, I became a fourth-grade teacher! I told my son that I’m learning right along with him, which is true.”
Bowen says that the pandemic has shown her that obstacles can become assets if you take the time to think things through and find solutions. “I’ve listened harder than I ever have in my life,” she says, “to staff, to customers. We always try to look at each employee as a complete person and ask what are their needs? How can we better meet those needs? Everyone’s juggling extra duties these days and we need to be sensitive to that. I think because we have listened, our team is stronger than ever.”
The firing range usually does a lot of events, such as for birthday parties and bachelor/bachelorette parties, and many of those were cancelled because of the pandemic. They also do many charity events, including raising thousands of dollars for breast cancer research through their October-long “Boobs & Bullets” campaign. Despite the COVID Crisis, Bowen is still committed to her charity efforts, and is pleased to see strong support.
Bowen isn’t looking to make many changes for 2021. Like everyone, she hopes to return to a non-COVID world soon, but otherwise her main mission hasn’t changed. “I want to demystify firearms and educate people about their intended role in society. I want to continue to educate and help remove some false perceptions. And, I want to continue to support women because an empowered woman can accomplish amazing things.”