Are you a gun enthusiast and love to go to the shooting range? Having your own shooting range could be an excellent opportunity for you to do what you love and make a living with your own business.
With gun ownership on the rise in recent years, gun ranges provide a safe and controlled environment for firearm practice and recreation. Starting a gun range involves several key steps, including researching the industry, planning your business model, securing funding, choosing a suitable location, and navigating the necessary legal and regulatory processes. This guide is here to help by providing an overview of key steps when starting a gun range business.
A gun range, also known as a shooting range or firing range, is a facility designed for firearm practice. Gun range services typically include access to shooting stations or lanes, firearm rentals, ammunition sales, safety classes, and equipment storage. Gun range operators generate revenue through membership fees, usage fees, firearm rentals, ammunition sales, and training classes.
The market for gun ranges continues to grow as more people become interested in shooting sports and self-defense. According to a report by IBISWorld, in 2022, the gun range industry generated $4.2 billion in sales, and that figure is expected to continue growing.
The market has experienced steady growth in recent years, with an annual growth rate of 1.6%. Key trends supporting industry growth include rising national interest in self-defense and the growing popularity of shooting sports. The industry faces ongoing challenges from extensive safety regulations and public concerns surrounding firearm issues.
Steps To Start A Shooting Range
Step 1: Research Laws
The first step to starting a gun range is researching the laws and regulations governing firearms in your state. State laws can vary significantly, so it’s important to read and understand the state and local laws, including their definitions of “firearms,” “ammunition,” and other terms related to firearm ownership and use. In addition, you need to research other relevant laws, such as environmental and safety regulations.
Also, municipalities, counties, and states have zoning regulations that dictate where shooting ranges can be located and their design standards. You need to research and comply with your state and local zoning laws. Some cities prohibit the construction of indoor ranges in certain areas, while others may require specific construction standards to minimize noise pollution. Depending on your location, you may also need to consider environmental and wildlife regulations to ensure the safety of both the shooters and the environment.
Starting with this research will identify whether there are roadblocks that could legally prevent you from starting your gun range.
Step 2: Market Research
The thought of opening a gun range is exciting, but before pulling the trigger on this business idea, it’s important to conduct market research to make sure there is a need in your community.
The first step in market research is understanding your target market. To do this, take a look at population demographics and growth in your desired geographic area. This will help you determine if there is a big enough market for your gun range. Focus on the number of gun owners, concealed carry permit holders, and hunting license holders in your area. Knowing this information will help you to estimate the demand for your services.
The next step is to research the number of existing gun ranges in the area. Analyze their offerings, pricing, location, and range membership numbers. Drive by or visit competing ranges to observe their facilities and customer traffic. This will give you a good idea of how busy they are on weekdays and weekends, which can help you estimate demand.
Local gun retailers are a great resource for information on firearm and ammunition sales trends. Also, shooting clubs and conservation clubs can provide you with insights into what customers in your area are looking for in a range and what features and amenities are most important to them. Talking to these groups can also help you to gauge their interest in access to a new range.
Step 3: Write a Business Plan
Starting and running a business, especially a gun range, can be a risky move without careful planning and preparation. A business plan is a way to test your idea on paper before you start spending money. It helps you see your business from all sides. You’ll write about how you plan to get customers, staffing needs, what services you’ll offer, and how much money you think you’ll make and spend. It’s a way to see if your business makes sense financially before you jump in.
Related: How to write a business plan
Step 4: Source Funding
With the high cost to start, finding the funds to open a gun range can be a challenging step in transforming your business plan into reality. Here’s a detailed look at the common funding sources
Personal savings: The first source of funding to consider is personal savings. This approach is straightforward, and you use your own money to cover some of the startup costs. However, given the significant upfront costs associated with starting a gun range, such as purchasing land, building and equipping the facility, and obtaining insurance, personal savings alone may not be enough.
Bank funding: Traditional bank loans are a common source of funding for new businesses. Lenders typically require a borrower to invest between 15% and 25% of their personal funds towards the total cost of the project. Additionally, they will look at your credit score and require sufficient collateral.
If a bank considers your loan too risky, it might use an SBA (Small Business Administration) loan guarantee. This can help secure the loan, as the SBA guarantees a portion of the loan, reducing the risk for the lender.
Friends and family: Another potential source of funds is loans or investments from friends and family. If you choose this route, treat it as seriously as a bank loan. That means putting all agreements in writing to avoid any future misunderstandings about the terms of the loan or investment.
Microloans: If your funding needs are smaller or if you’re unable to secure a traditional loan due to credit issues, microloans might be a viable option. These are smaller loans that can sometimes come with additional benefits like business training. Organizations that offer microloans tend to focus on helping small businesses get off the ground and can be more flexible than traditional banks.
Investors: Gun enthusiasts in your community could be interested in investing in a gun range. Keep in mind that you’ll be giving up a portion of your business’s ownership if you go down this path.
Step 5: Select your Location
Finding the perfect location for your gun range tends to be more difficult than most businesses. The perfect site is not just about open space, as it involves navigating local laws, considering the neighbors, and ensuring a safe environment for customers.
When you’re on the hunt for a location, the first thing to check is the local zoning laws. Every city and town has rules about what kind of business can operate in different areas. For a gun range, you’ll need land that’s specifically zoned for shooting ranges. This can be tricky, as there are often strict regulations due to the noise and safety concerns associated with firing guns. The sound of gunfire can travel far, so areas close to residential neighborhoods or schools might be off-limits.
Once you find land with the right zoning, think about how people will get there. If it’s too hard to access, customers might not want to make the trip. Also, consider the climate. Outdoor ranges offer a lot of versatility and can be cheaper to set up, but they’re at the mercy of the weather. Bad weather can mean lost business, so the local climate should play a big part in your decision.
Step 6: Register the Business
Starting a gun range business involves several legal and regulatory steps. Every state has different rules, but here’s an overview to help you navigate this process:
Business structure: First, you need to decide on the structure of your business. There are four main types of business structures:
- Sole proprietorship: Inexpensive and easy to form, but the downside is the owner has unlimited liability
- Partnership: Shared ownership between partners, partners have unlimited liability
- Corporation: More complex formation, but owners have limited liability
- LLC (Limited Liability Company): A hybrid of the corporation and sole proprietorship/partnership, as owners have limited liability but is easier to administer than the corporation.
Related: Comparison of business structures
Forming an LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.
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Business name registration: After registering the business structure, you may need to register your business name. This process will vary depending on what business structure you pick. Sole proprietors and partnerships will often be required to register a “Doing Business As” (DBA), while corporations and LLCs register with the state during the formation process.
During this time, it’s also a good idea to check if the name you want is available as a web domain, even if you’re not ready to set up a website yet.
Zoning: Local zoning and land use laws will play a major role. You must ensure that your chosen location is appropriately zoned for a shooting range, considering factors like noise restrictions and safety concerns.
Business licenses and permits: There are potentially a few licensing requirements for gun ranges to be aware of. First, research state firearms laws and apply for any required gun range or retail gun dealer licenses through state agencies. Additionally, if selling guns, a Federal Firearms License is required for gun shops through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).
Shooting ranges will also need to be aware of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations and a plan for lead management. This can include proper ventilation, air quality monitoring, lead removal procedures, hygiene, etc.
Depending on your location, there will likely be a variety of general business registrations. These could include a local business license, seller’s permit, and Employer Identification Number (EIN).
Step 7: Set Up the Range
The design and layout of your gun range business are critical to both its functionality and safety. This is a big project, and you want to make sure you do it right.
The first step in setting up your gun range is designing the facility. The layout should be planned to maximize safety and functionality. For outdoor ranges, this includes firing lines, impact areas, shooting stations, and earthen backstops and berms. Indoor ranges require ballistic walls or thick rubber backstops, baffles, warning lights, and specialized ventilation and air filtration. Divide shooting lanes and restrict access between live fire and classroom areas. Include adequate storage space for firearms, ammo, targets, and other inventory.
Once your facility is designed, the next step is to stock it with the necessary equipment and supplies. This includes guns, ammo, targets, protective gear, cleaning supplies, and retail inventory. Secure cabinets and gun lockers will help keep firearms safe when they’re not in use.
Finally, you’ll need to establish and rigorously enforce standard operating procedures covering every aspect of range safety – limiting access, handling and storing firearms, ammunition management, hygiene, emergency response, etc. Require ear and eye protection at all times in the live fire area. Schedule regular maintenance and take a proactive approach to addressing risks.
Step 8: Hire Staff
As a new employer, your responsibilities are plenty, especially when hiring for a gun range. As a gun range, you may need customer service reps, instructors, range safety officers, maintenance crew, and range master to help run the business. All staff should receive training in firearm safety and how to run the range safely and efficiently.
Before you start hiring, you need to take care of some legal tasks.
- Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS.
- Check that every employee you hire is allowed to work in the U.S.
- You’ll also need to report new hires to your state, which has its own rules for this.
- Worker’s compensation insurance is a requirement in most states to cover any workplace injuries.
- Finally, you must understand and follow labor laws, which include how many hours someone can work and what you need to pay them.
Step 9: Prepare to Open!
As you prepare to open your gun range, there are several additional steps you’ll probably still need to take to ensure the smooth operation and success of your business. Below is a list of some common tasks that new gun range owners often need to address:
Business insurance: A comprehensive business insurance policy can safeguard your gun range from potential risks such as property damage, liability claims, and worker’s compensation issues.
Setting up bookkeeping: An accounting system helps for managing your business’s finances. You’ll need to either hire a bookkeeper or set up software to handle daily transactions, taxes, and financial statements.
Opening a business bank account: Keeping your personal and business finances separate can help you track your business expenses and income more accurately.
Creating a marketing strategy: You’ll need to spread the word about your new range to attract customers. This could involve creating a logo and website, using social media, or even traditional advertising methods like radio or print ads.
Joining Industry Associations: Becoming a member of industry associations such as the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the National Association of Shooting Ranges (NASR), or the National Rifle Association (NRA) can provide opportunities for networking and professional development.
Preparing for the grand opening: Finally, plan a grand opening event to introduce your gun range to the community. This might involve special promotions, demonstrations, or other activities to draw in potential customers.
Common Questions When Starting A Gun Range
How much does it cost to start a shooting range?
Opening a gun range requires a sizeable initial investment, typically between $500,000 to $1,500,000, depending on the size and features of the facility. Major costs include:
Business registration: The initial paperwork to form an LLC or corporation may cost $500 to $2,000.
Property: Purchasing land suitable for a gun range costs $200,000 to $1 million, depending on location and acreage required.
Construction: Building costs are $150,000 to $500,000, depending on the number of shooting lanes, backstops, and amenities. Outdoor ranges require extensive earthwork and berms.
Rental inventory: An initial inventory of rental handguns and rifles can cost $15,000 to $30,000.
Safety gear: Expect supplies of eye and ear protection, first aid kits, and locking cases to cost $5,000 to $10,000.
Insurance: General liability insurance is needed at a minimum, with initial policy costs of $5,000 to $20,000, depending on coverage.
Initial marketing: Print, digital, and radio advertising to announce opening runs $5,000 to $15,000.
Also, having 3 to 6 months of operating capital available provides a buffer for variable revenue during the business ramp-up phase.
How profitable is a shooting range?
The potential profitability of a gun range can vary significantly based on factors like size, location, pricing, and the specific services offered. However, we can make a rough estimate based on some industry statistics and common revenue and expense categories for gun ranges.
Revenue: Revenue sources for a gun range typically include lane rental fees, memberships, classes, gun rentals, and sales of ammunition and accessories. For example, if a gun range has 10 lanes, charges $20 per hour per lane, and operates 10 hours per day for 365 days a year, this could generate $730,000 annually from lane and gun rentals alone. Assuming the range operates at 60% average occupancy, revenue would be $438,000.
Expenses: On the expense side, gun ranges need to account for costs like lease or mortgage payments, utilities, insurance, salaries for employees, maintenance, and the cost of goods sold (like ammunition and accessories). If we assume total expenses amount to 55% of the revenue, this would be about $240,900.
Subtracting expenses from revenue ($438,000 – $240,900) would leave a profit of $197,100, which doesn’t include the cost of financing and taxes.
What is the NAICS code for a shooting range?
The NAICS code for a shooting range is 713990, which is broadly classified under All Other Amusement and Recreation Industries. This code also includes miniature golf courses, billiard halls, archery range, sports teams, dance halls, and more.
The NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) is a federal system to classify different types of businesses for the collection and reporting of statistical data.