How to Start a Shooting Range

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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.

Business Overview

A shooting range provides a place for people to shoot their own guns, or the range may have guns available to rent. Sometimes they offer training or even host competitions.

Industry Summary

According to IBIS World, the shooting range industry size is $3.8 billion and expected to grow 4.2% during the year.   It has grown at a rate of 4.1% per year for the last five years. According to Transparency Market Research, it is expected to increase at an average of 7% per year through 2030.

Related Industries

Firearms Training
Gun Shop

Industry Trends

The industry is recovering after the pandemic and is expected to increase as the economy recovers because shooting range spending is considered discretionary.  The potential for new gun laws is a threat to the industry due to the possibility of more limited gun ownership.

Target Market

Your target market will be gun owners and people who want to learn to shoot.

Skills, Experience, and Education Useful in Running a Shooting Range

There are several specific skills that you will need to open a shooting range.

  • Experience.  Experience working in a shooting range is valuable, particularly in management.
  • Knowledge.  Extensive gun knowledge and knowledge of gun laws are essential.
  • Business knowledge and experience.  You will need to have at least some basic knowledge of marketing, finance/accounting, and human resources.
  • People skills. You’ll need to build rapport with your customers so that you retain them as customers and keep them coming back.

Costs to Start a Shooting Range

Here are the typical costs you will face when you open a shooting range.

  • Land for the range $100,000 – $500,000
  • Range construction, preparation, and installation ( shooting stalls, ballistic baffles, ventilation systems, trap and skeet targets, etc.) $250,000 – $500,000 +

Steps to Starting a Shooting range

Step 1: Write your Business Plan

After coming up with the idea, the next step in starting your shooting range should be to write a business plan.  The business plan will make you focus on some important aspects of the business, such as who your customers are, how you plan to reach them, projecting sales and expenses, your value proposition to use for marketing, and more. You’ll also need to do some research to calculate exactly what your startup expenses will be and what your ongoing expenses will be.

Not only will a bank require you to have a business plan if you need financing, but multiple studies have shown that having a good business plan increases the odds of starting a successful business. Writing the plan helps you to think through all the aspects of the business and then serves as a guide as you begin.

Related:
How to write a business plan
Free sample business plans

Step 2: Name the Business

Finding the perfect shooting range name can be challenging. Not only does the name have to reflect what you do and be appealing to customers, but it also has to be available to use. You can check your state’s website to see if the name is available and register your name.  Your name should make you stand out, reflect your brand, and tell potential customers exactly what you do.

Step 3: Form a Business Entity

A business entity refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business entities to choose from, which include a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC).  Each type of entity has its own pros and cons, such as liability exposure, costs, and administrative requirements.

RelatedComparison of Business Entities

Step 4: Select your Location

You will need to find land that does not have zoning restrictions for a shooting range. Outdoor ranges provide more versatility than indoor ranges, however, weather will be a major contributor to the amount of money you can make.

Zoning requirements for your facility will be important to research upfront as many states and municipalities have several rules and regulations on where a range can be located. Additionally, there are typically noise and safety concerns from neighbors, which can make securing a location more difficult than most businesses.

Related: Choosing a business location

Step 5: Apply for Business Licenses and Permits

In particular, shooting ranges, especially outdoor ones, need to be aware of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.

In addition to shooting range-specific regulations, there are general registrations such as a business license, sales tax permit, and Employer Identification Number.   

Related: Common business licenses, permits, and registrations by state

Step 6: Find Financing

Coming up with a good business idea and having the skills to run it are one thing but getting the funding to start a shooting range is another.  In order to get a loan, the borrower(s) will need to have good credit and be able to invest 15-25% of their money towards the total startup costs.

Related: Finding the money to start a business

Step 7: Open a Business Bank Account

Keeping your business and personal finances in separate business bank and credit card accounts makes it easier to track the income and expenses of the business.

Step 8: Get your Marketing Plan in Place

A shooting range will need to set aside a budget to cover marketing costs on a continuous basis. Common marketing techniques for a shooting range include social media marketing and online advertising. Developing a website can be a significant expense, but it can also give your shooting range greater visibility online.

Related: Low-cost ideas to market a new business

Step 9: Get Insurance

A commercial shooting range needs several types of insurance for full coverage:

General liability insurance can help protect you from third-party claims of bodily injury and property damage.

Professional liability insurance protects you from claims of professional errors or negligence that result in a financial loss.

Worker’s compensation insurance covers expenses like medical bills and legal fees that a business might face if an employee were ever hurt while working.

Insurance policies will vary. To get the most accurate idea of what to budget for insurance, request quotes from multiple providers. When comparing the quotes, consider not only the premiums but also how the plan exclusions, coverage limitations, and deductibles compare.

Related: Common types of insurance a business may need

Step 10: Hiring Employees

You will need employees to help you run your shooting range.  Make sure that you select people with appropriate experience and training.

In addition to salary costs, your budget will also need to include other employee-related expenses. Workman’s comp insurance, unemployment insurance, and paid time off are common expenses that a business will need to cover when hiring staff.

Related: Hiring your first employee

Step 11: Set up an Accounting System

Setting up an accounting system for your shooting range is critical to the long-term success of your business.

Staying on top of taxes not only keeps the business out of trouble with the government but the numbers can be used to track and monitor trends and cash flow in the business and maximize profits.

Related: Setting up accounting for your business

How Much Can You Potentially Make Owning a Shooting Range?

Your revenue is hard to predict, but profit margins are relatively high.  If you are able to get a lot of repeat customers, you could easily bring in revenue of over $100,000 per year.

Adding a shop to sell firearms and accessories will help improve profits. A Federal Firearms License is required for gun shops through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

Things to Consider Before Starting a Shooting Range

Running a shooting range or any business will have its challenges.  You need to be prepared and make sure that you know what you’re getting into.

Marketing and acquiring customers will be your biggest challenge and an ongoing expense.  Your business depends on first getting customers and then getting them to come back.

You will face competition, so your range needs to be well designed to be successful.

It is expensive to start and run a shooting range, which is a big financial risk. You will need a solid plan to get enough customers to make money.

You will need to stay on top of all gun laws to make sure that you are in compliance.

Talk to other business owners for tips on starting a business and do your homework to determine costs.  Research other shooting ranges to see what they offer and what prices they charge.

Resources:
National Rifle Association (NRA)
National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF)

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