Looking into starting a range... soliciting thoughts

This is a discussion on Looking into starting a range... soliciting thoughts within the General Firearm Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; About a year ago my husband and I started jokingly talking about starting our own indoor range and gun shop. However, at the time, we ...

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Thread: Looking into starting a range... soliciting thoughts

  1. #1
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    Looking into starting a range... soliciting thoughts

    About a year ago my husband and I started jokingly talking about starting our own indoor range and gun shop. However, at the time, we lived up in PA and there were plenty of ranges and shops available, and the competition was fierce.

    We still talked about opening our own shop, but then we moved down here.

    You'd think that Virginia would be crawling with great places to go shooting.

    There may be such places in other parts of the state, but there's not here. The only range within 50 miles that doesn't require yearly membership and a decent pistol range is over an hours drive from here. Also, there aren't really that fantastic of gun shops around.

    So, our joking around about it has become seriously thinking about it.

    We decided that we'd start the range first and worry about the gun-shop portion of it later.

    Of course that means we'd either have to build, or find a large enough building that could house an indoor pistol range.

    We'd also have to find a company that specializes in traps for said indoor range.

    On top of that we'd have to get one heck of an insurance policy and liability clause. We'd also have to have a great lawyer to right up a nice "I don't hold you responsible" form for our customers to sign.

    We want the range to be big enough where good size classes could be held (either CCW classes, private training classes (once JD and I both get our NRA certifications, which we would both do, and also if we could get some instructors on our payroll), we would also like to try to bring in some well known instructors and welcome local law enforcement to use our facility for trainings and qualifications if they have no such facility already).

    This of course means that we'll also need a classroom portion to the range.

    We'll also need to get in touch with some ammo manufacturers to bring in bulk ammo.

    However, we want to leave the possibility of a store in the future as well, with everything a normal gun stop would have.

    I've started picking some brains about some good dealers and what's necessary to get guns either from the manufacturers themselves or through other dealers.

    JD is looking in to what is required to get his FFL.

    Even if we don't start up the shop portion of the range for awhile, we would like to have the FFL so we could do transfers and have a few guns on hand as rentals and possibly even to sell if someone really loved them.

    Like I said, we have a pretty good general idea on how we would like to run the place, but we are completely new on the other stuff, like starting it up, where we would have to go, what kind of financing (if any) we would have to have, what our resources would be and such.

    Heck, we don't even know what we don't know yet.

    Right now we are in planning mode and looking for any information people could give us that would either make this a confident step forward or a "Forget That!" kind of thing.

    Any advice or thoughts? Any business owners want to chime in and tell us exactly how much we are planning to bite off?

    Thanks.

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    VIP Member Array farronwolf's Avatar
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    Accountant

    Talk around to some people and find a good accountant or two to run things over with. They will be able to tell you what you will need for the banks depending on your total project dollars. They will also, based on your information of what you expect, be able to run projections for revenue and expenses so that the bank, or the SBA, if you so decide can have an idea of the cash flow and the like to determine if it is in fact a viable business venture. Granted, nothing is 100% but this will help greatly.

    They will also be able to go over some of the hidden costs that you might not be aware of depending on your business structure in the area of taxes, workers comp, or things that are going to be required.

    Better to spend some time up front and have everything on the table than to get into it and find out that there are things popping up that you never thought of.

    Good luck.
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    It is a lot bigger of a project than one would think. I have very good friends who are about 3 years in the process right now. (I can put in touch with them if your serious, they would be a wealth of information to you)

    The biggest expense outside of the building is the venilation system. You have to have it. No way around it. EPA regulations are harsh, but there for a reason.

    You also need a plan to get rid of the spent bullets. If you can find a recyle company that will haul it away for free, that is best. You might have to pay someone to do it, and that gets expensive.

    Caswell and the others have great programs to help out with the process. The have reps. that will talk to you and hold your hand through out the process.

    NRA also has seed money to help new ranges get going.

    Yes, you will need an FFL even if its just a range.

    Dont underestimate the cost, time and aggervation the pinko's will cause you once they catch wind of any plan to build a range in their town. My friends had to fight that fight, and it was expensive.
    It was said that school busses would be shot at as they passed, that a lead cloud would hang over the city causing cancer to all, that lead and other debris would be dumped into water ways etc. Just be ready for that garbage.
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    VIP Member Array mcp1810's Avatar
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    Definitely get in touch with the NRA. They are an incredible resource for this type of thing. A friend of mine was looking into opening a range and was amazed at how helpful they were. Only things that stopped him were his new job with the county and that he heard one of the local shops was already working on opening a range a short distance from where he was looking.
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    Senior Member Array PaulG's Avatar
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    +1 on the financial advice.

    I would also talk to owners of gun store/ranges to get their take. Obviously, you might want to talk to stores out of your area where you won't be competing with them.

    Find out how many lanes they have, and what the percentage of usage is.

    I think you should seriously consider doing the gun store at the start. My belief is that a range will suck up money and the gun store will be needed to subsidize the range.

    Also, keep in mind that with a range, all you are really doing is renting space, so no matter how much you get your name out there or advertise, your income is limited by the amount of space you can rent.
    fortiter in re, suaviter in modo (resolutely in action, gently in manner).

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    Pretty much +1 on what SIXTO said. That's not a no-go by any means though; it just means you have to be willing to go to the effort and expense it takes.
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    Lima,
    I spoke with you once back at your old job in PA, and you mentioned your husband was a vet when you saw my AF shirt. I'd look into getting a small business loan through the VA. Good luck!

    http://www.vetbiz.gov/
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    Senior Member Array HK Dan's Avatar
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    NSSF also has some valuable resources, including some that will help you estimate costs and market share. NSSF was far more helpful than NRA when we started the process of building our club range (outdoor). The NRA will not help you with grants or funds unless you're building a public range; I've found a far better deal on insurance than the one they were offering as well. I was not impressed with their level of support.

    I think I have a good 'Hold Harmless' agreement, but like anything it's only as good as your lawyer is; anything on it can and will be contested (at great expense) if you ever come to a court room waving one. You want an "acknowledgement of risk, release of liability, hold harmless and indemnification" form. Finally--I am not a lawyer, so this advice is worth the price.

    Good luck! I hope you'll keep us posted on progress.
    HK Dan
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    Member Array LastManOut's Avatar
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    NRA has a book and/or a CD with plenty of info on constructing and running a range. I bought the CD a year ago and it is chock-full of info and drawings.

    http://www.nrahq.org/shootingrange/sourcebook.asp

    Good Luck

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    Lima,
    I can't offer much about finances and regulations, I simply have no knowledge of that. That being said, I am a member of a range and thought you might like some consumer input.

    The things I like best about the range I am a member of:
    Friendly Staff and Owner (they make you want to be there)
    Membership or General Public Use
    HIGHLY SUPPORTIVE OF LAW ENFORCEMENT ( I am not a LEO but very supportive and I won't do any significant commerce with local businesses that don't support the military and our local LEO's)
    Wide selection of rental guns

    Biggest Gripes
    Indoor Pistol Only - I used to live in Sacramento and really liked the facility there because they had an indoor pistol range AND an outdoor rifle/pistol range and a Trap Shoot facility. I really liked being able to take all of my guns and spending the better part of a whole day there at each of the three facilities. In addition they were able to hold lots more organized events there because they were open to the shotgun clubs, the rifle clubs and the pistol clubs, which of course supports the range and makes it better for everyone.

    Prices of the guns were too high ( A previous poster indicated that gun sales subsidize the range. I don't know if it is true but if it is, it would explain why they are so expensive.

    Mark Up on the Ammo - There ammo is simply not affordable if you know what you are buying. The casuals who walk in off the street may not know better when they get there. However, when they get home and realize how much it cost just to spend a couple of hours at the range with their friends, they probably won't come back very often.

    My $0.02, wish you well! Good luck!
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    Ah, poor folks........

    I looked hard at building an indoor range with a partner about 10 years ago. When we looked at the hard numbers versus the expected real world outlay and the legal battles we would have to fight just to get the doors open it became a not so hot proposition. Different areas may pan out better in the final numbers though.

    A few secrets are (at least in our spreadsheet), low cost facility whether you lease or buy. Sell ammo and targets at a minimum, they will be what really meets the overhead. Lane rentals usually barely pay for themselves. Try to at least lease space to a competent gunsmith or better yet hire one on the pay role. Gun sales can be a good thing but takes some healthy capitalization up front, talk with a bank about possibly doing a display floor finance deal.

    Be prepared to come up with a large portion down in cash. No one will give you complete financing. We needed 15% to make a very aggressive commercial bank even talk to us.

    Research very carefully the current EPA regs on air systems and disposal of spent bullets. Depending on the latest rules that "scrap" lead can be defined as hazardous waste. If it is you, as business owners, are responsible for it and how it's disposed of for the rest of your life! Even after you have payed someone to take it away. Don't take anyones word on this, talk with an environmental lawyer or hazmat specialty company. Ten years ago that was the law where we were and our business lawyer told us to think long and hard about that after some cases he has seen.

    Now for some good news. In the right location, with the right laws it can be a good business. Even better is if you can find an existing one that's grandfathered in to buy. Another way is an outdoor range in a rural setting and get a really good promoter to work with you for some big tournaments. Know of one gent who says four good tournaments at his outdoor range make his years salary.
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    Member Array Flippinstk's Avatar
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    Great Idea

    Lima,

    Great idea and its a BIG project. +1 on all the replies above. Major plus on contacting the NRA cause they are alway looking to help, especially with the instructional part of it. I know quite a few in Virginia and could put you in touch with HQ if you wanted. But if you visit their web site you could probably get the same info. Andy Landers visits here often and he is one of the top instructors the NRA has and is more than willing to lend info. I also know a top NRA training counselor here in Tidewater, just drop me a line.

    Also do your homework for the town you want to open it in. Zoning approval thru City Councils is hard. I know of a few projects such as yours that have been shut down because of City Councils not being properly approached. BE PREPARED!

    Hey.... whereabouts in VA?
    Alex G.
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    Two suggestions, if at all possible to buy an existing range do that if you can even if it means moving. I did a short look into it and the expense is great.

    Second, now this is nothing against you LE folks but it has been my experience that if you try to accommodate them you may end up having your range time taken over. Nothing will loose you customers faster than having to wait, and especially because LE has taken over all the lanes for their needs. Just keep it in mind if you are successful.
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    Quote Originally Posted by havegunjoe View Post
    Two suggestions, if at all possible to buy an existing range do that if you can even if it means moving. I did a short look into it and the expense is great.

    Second, now this is nothing against you LE folks but it has been my experience that if you try to accommodate them you may end up having your range time taken over. Nothing will loose you customers faster than having to wait, and especially because LE has taken over all the lanes for their needs. Just keep it in mind if you are successful.
    We anticipated this.. hehehe.. We were going to break up our range into a few sections so that there would ALWAYS be open lanes, whether there were LEOs training, or classes going on, or a league or whatever. We wanted to make sure there was plenty of room for the regular folks.

    Thanks everyone for the ideas so far. I knew it was a good idea to post here.

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    Lima,

    I can't offer too much advice for starting the range up :( I can tell you that I wished I lived in VA, because I'd love to help with the project :(

    Oh... one hint, and I'm not sure if it will be practical for you, but one of the ranges I used to shoot at in NJ had a small 5 lane archery range indoors. Most evenings, there were as many people practicing archery as there were pistol shooters in the gun range.

    --Jim
    Firefighter / EMT - Always Ready. Ever Willing.

    ~Never do anything that you don't want to have to explain to the paramedics...~

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