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Small Business Saturday – Ridgeline Outfitters

The Northeast gets a bad rap when it comes to guns and training. Although it’s overshadowed by the Freedom crushing tactics of Massachusetts and Connecticut, the rest of New England is relatively pro-gun. Hell, New Hampshire is the Live Free or Die state. That’s about as plain spoken as it gets.

Companies like Sig Sauer have located their Academy to the Granite State. On any given weekend, you can find students from all over New England and as far away as New York attending classes completely unavailable to them in their “safe” zones. There is far less action shooting training in the Northeast than is offered elsewhere in the country, and when it comes to long range precision, forget it. Most popular ranges in this environment only go out to about 300 yards, and unless you happen to have some private land you’re going to be hard up to find a place to train for your next PRS match.

So what does any of that have to do with this Small Business?

Alex Hartmann of Ridgeline Outfitters is aiming to change the landscape of the New England shooting scene. He is catering to a clientele that wants Liberty and doesn’t mind traveling to find it. He created Ridgeline Outfitters to provide shooters with a high-end, quality shooting experience built on the principles of good gear, modern instruction, and unparalleled service.

Oh, and he has big plans for dedicated precision, action and competitive shooting facilities as well.

Hartmann is a retired USMC Scout Sniper who classifies everything Ridgeline-related as “what happens when a sniper goes to business school.”

Alex Hartmann - Ridgeline Outfitters

Hartmann realizes there are a lot of guys coming back from overseas and hanging out a shingle to be a trainer. The market is saturated. Curriculum are often the same and very rarely offer students anything other than “standard fare” (though everyone should have completely mastered the basics before looking further). There are many trainers who try to create something new and eye-catching in hopes of making a name for themselves. Hartmann relishes the lack of celebrity. He wants to stay a quiet professional and surround himself with partners of the same variety.

So what makes the Ridgeline experience different from other places? Says Hartmann,

“We’re starting to see a market correction in the training industry. Why? Because it’s hard to build a business solely around training. We think there’s a better way.”

He goes on to explain the difficulty of finding places for shooters to train in New England. Many local ranges put stringent rules in place, rules that prevent realistic training. No drawing from holsters, no movement, that sort of thing. And the good ranges that allow those things are jammed up with competitions on the weekends.

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“Ridgeline started by accident. I originally created OSOK Industries which centered around nothing but bolt guns because everyone else was just offering pistol/carbine. We grew into what we are now because of our love of teaching and by listening to what people wanted.”

After primarily teaching pistol and carbine to New England law enforcement, Hartmann realized the need to expand beyond just the training aspects of the business.

“Anything like tactical bolt gun competitions or PRS just doesn’t exist up here. Not only do we want to teach, but we want to actively and positively grow the shooting sports community in New England.”

Therein lies the driving philosophy behind Ridgeline Outfitters: to positively influence the pro-2A community in the area by respectfully engaging the anti-gun populations.

“Have you ever seen someone, regardless of their political stance, go shooting and not enjoy it? We have to start having conversations with people other than ourselves in order to have a positive effect of the community.”

Ridgeline Outfitters Storefront

Ridgeline Outfitters has a storefront in Nashua, NH. It opened in October and aims to be everything the stereotypical gun shop is not. Stocked with high quality gear chosen based on the aggregate experience of the staff, the store will be carrying optics like Aimpoint, Nightforce and Schmidt & Bender, rifle chassis from Accuracy International, accessories like those from Armageddon Gear, Benchmade, and many of the brands for which discerning customers so often search.

“We want folks to be able to come in, play directly with the products and ask us questions so that we can give them the best advice for their particular mission. If you are going to bet your life on something, it should be good gear. I’ll never use something or sell something that I don’t personally believe in. We have a responsibility to our customers to provide them with gear they can depend on. But we also understand that not everyone has the budget to spend on high end precision rifles. We’ll be able to help shooters at all levels.”

Again, it comes back to community. Hartmann wants Ridgeline to be a gathering spot for both experienced shooters and those folks brand new to the sport. This could be the catalyst that starts an active engagement from which everyone can learn. It is only through the constant education of the new shooters that the community can grow in the right direction.

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This leads us to the vision of the Ridgeline Marksmanship Park, a 242 acre shooter’s paradise nestled in southern New Hampshire. The Park has 115 acres dedicated to land navigation, tracking, Outward bound type youth programs, and corporate team building events. Designed by Clark Vargas, the facility will begin construction in 2017, at least provided all of the zoning meetings with local officials go according to plan.

Even with the bureaucracy, Hartmann stays cautiously optimistic, though he’s under no illusions. He realizes the challenges that face him. Opening a facility of this nature in this part of the country will not be easy.

We were able to view some mock-ups of the site and if it comes to fruition, we think Ridgeline will quickly become a much-preferred destination for anyone serious about training. Current plans include a 600 yard range with moving targets, a dedicated 1000 yard range, 25 private pistol and carbine bays, known and unknown distance ranges out to 850 yards, an intermediate range that goes out to 750 yards in three directions, and five large pistol and rifle bays suitable for any type of training or competition. These resources will allow for an outstanding range of training opportunities.

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“Shooting sports and New England do not go hand in hand in the minds of people that do not live here. But if you are here in New England, you know the tradition that we have and that it runs deep. How do we defeat the agenda of the anti-gunners? It’s through education. People hear things like ‘ghost gun’ and believe it. We just want to get the dialogue open and have the conversation.We believe that you have to integrate in the community and be a good neighbor with the understanding that not everyone loves what we do, or even understands what we do. By being a good neighbor, we hope to also help many of the surrounding businesses whether that’s the gas stations, the hotels, or the restaurants.”

The website description of Ridgeline reads,

“Ridgeline uniquely combines over 50 years of Sniper and Special Operations experience with nearly 30 years of management experience at a Fortune 50 company. Ridgeline is a Veteran Owned and Operated company that specializes in exceeding today’s demanding needs for Civilian, Law Enforcement and Military training. We are equally dedicated to delivering only the best products that we have hand-selected and personally tested.”

It’s the team that Hartmann surrounds himself with that makes will likely make the facility a success. The core cadre of Ridgeline is made up of accomplished former and active snipers from the Army, Navy, and Marines.

For example, SFC Rudolph “Rudy” Gonsior recently joined Ridgeline. Gonsior was part of the winning team at the 2014 International Sniper Competition at Ft Benning. In fact, he, Hartmann, and Dave Seymour (another sniper and Ridgeline cadre member) recently took part in the 2016 competition.

After leading the field for most of the week, they ran into an equipment issue that cost them a stage, but they were still able to place third overall. Excited as they are about competing, it is the chance to change minds in the Northeast that has Hartmann singularly focused.

Rudy Gonsior - Ridgeline Outfitters

“This is our passion: being stewards of the community. The better educated we can get people [through our training and service] and offer them the ability to see, try, and purchase legitimate gear so they don’t waste their money, the community will be better for it.”

It’s a high bar to set in such a defining region of the US, but Ridgeline is dedicated to walking the walk. They intend to improve everyone who steps through the door, regardless of the type of shooting they enjoy.

Ridgeline Outfitters can be found on the Web, Facebook, and on Instagram.

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