Meet Niki Jensen, Entrepreneuer & Competitive Shooter
Tell me about growing up in Arizona. Did you grow up around guns and hunting? Who got you into that?
I did grow up around guns. I have family members in the military—my cousin Steven joined the Marines when I was eight years old. But my dad was the one who really got me into guns. He always wanted me to be a girly girl and a tomboy. We would shoot cans in the desert—just recreational shooting. My uncles in Kentucky hunted, and my dad used to hunt, but I didn’t start hunting until October 2021. I have always loved guns!
So what took you from shooting cans in the desert to training like you do now?
About five years ago, I started buying guns with my husband, and I realized I wasn’t a very good shooter. So I decided I wanted to take it more seriously and not just post on Instagram with guns but have the skills behind it. So in the last six months, I’ve gotten very serious. I train two to three times a week for three to five hours each day. I’ve seen huge improvement, and I’m starting competition shooting.
It’s pretty new but what has been your most memorable hunt so far, and what is your favorite thing to hunt?
My most memorable hunt was my second one, an elk hunt near Flagstaff. It was with my cousins, including Steven who is super into hunting. He helped me get through the whole process. My husband and brother were there too. The first animal I ever got was an elk. It was a very emotional experience. I was so excited to pack my freezer for the year, but it was also emotional because I took an animal’s life, and I never want to take that lightly. It was an amazing experience, and I learned so much from it. We hiked seven to 10 miles every day. I didn’t see anything until the fourth day of the hunt. It was very gratifying when we finally got one.
My first hunt was for deer. It was an all-ladies hunt, which was really fun. Buck Chasers set me up for that in Illinois. I just went back with Buck Chasers for my first turkey hunt. It was raining and cold, but it was still awesome.
Tell me about Retro Rifle, the company you own with your husband, and where you get your entrepreneurial spirit.
My dad started his own business so I got my entrepreneurial drive from him. He always believed in my brother and me and encouraged us not to limit ourselves. I met my husband when we were in college. I left school and married him, and we lived on a sailboat for a year. Then we moved back to Arizona and started Warrior Flask—now Warrior Co.—and then our apparel brand Retro Rifle. We sell online at retro-rifle.com, and we are currently in 105 retail locations across the country. We recently got picked up by Scheels, which was a big deal for us.
What’s your favorite gun?
My Taran Tactical Combat Master Glock .34. I use it all the time, so it’s like my baby. And I love shooting machine guns—they’re so fun. And my Taran MPX too.
On your hunts so far have you had a good one-that-got-away story?
On the fourth day of our elk hunt, we hadn’t seen anything so I was getting discouraged. I was tired—it was freezing—and we were up at four a.m. and at it all day. We were driving to another location and suddenly a herd of elk just walked right in front of. We pulled the car over, and everyone was trying to get out quickly and chase them. I kind of froze. I finally got out of the car and grabbed my gun. We started chasing them into a valley. I have asthma so I’m huffing and puffing. We tried cutting them off on this hill, and they got away. I was so discouraged.
Social media is a big part of your business. What’s your approach to social media?
My tactical page is more professional but with a personal side. And that’s why I started my YouTube channel, because it was just another avenue to gain traffic but also for people to see my personality. I do use it for business, but I want people to be able to relate to me and see the person behind the products. I’m goofy. I show my mistakes. I like to make people smile, so it’s professional but with a fun side.
As a woman in the gun industry, do you see yourself as a role model for other women?
I get messages from people saying that I’ve inspired them to go shooting. I’ve had women thank me for that. And I think it’s that I show everything and not just the good stuff so it’s attainable. I do a lot of behind the scenes for my training so it’s realistic. I like to show my progress. From the beginning, I’ve showed my flaws.
When I first started shooting, I wasn’t holding the gun correctly so I would show that. I’ve helped my girlfriends and my mom to try shooting and helped them feel more confident. You don’t need to know everything to start. You need to know the safety rules and have someone with knowledge who wants to help you, and that’s where I want to be. I want to encourage more women because we need more women out here.
You’ve started to enter shooting competitions. Where do you want to go with that?
Every Wednesday night, we have a local steel night so that’s how I started. My coach is really pushing me to get deeper in the competition side. I love it. It pushes me, it’s a lot of fun, and it makes my mind work in a different way. I want to be taken seriously and be really good. So now when I see myself progress, it’s the most gratifying feeling. And I get to travel. We’re planning on going to Alaska in June for a competition.
What do you do when you’re not working or shooting?
I like to do everything. I love scuba diving! I ski. I mountain bike (fun fact, I can ride a unicycle). We like to go to the lake and Jet Ski and wake surf. I dabble in golf.
What’s your five-year plan?
Businesswise I would like us to be in more and bigger stores and the Retro Rifle brand have more exposure around the country. I see kids in the next five years. And I want to own another sailboat. And maybe win some shooting competitions—I want some trophies!
This post originally published in 2022.