Pent up demand for publicly accessible range lanes


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beatledog7
May 16, 2012, 08:49 AM
It seems to me that there is a lot of demand out there for safe, well managed, rationally self-regulated, reasonably priced, non-private range lanes of all kinds (rifle, pistol, tactical)...demand that's not being met.

If we define demand as the co-incidence of both the desire for something and the ability to appropriately compensate the provider of that something, then pent up demand for range services is pent up for only two reasons I can think of:

1) supply of range lanes is being stifled by regulatory, non-free market elements
2) there is an accompanying lack of associated market items: real estate, range safety and instructional personnel, etc.

The artificial elements include onerous government regulation (at all levels) and unfavorable public perception (that shooting ranges are inherently unsafe, environmentally destructive, and/or immoral). The combination of these suppresses the creation of new ranges.

Real estate, personnel, and other business costs are natural, market driven costs that reflect associated supply and demand markets, so I'm calling them part of the legitimate, free market.

I'm not sure into which category to place insurance costs.

In your mind, what are the reasons that there aren't enough non-private range lanes, or that existing ones come across as over-regulated, too expensive, or inaccessible? Are there other reasons I didn't think of?

Or is my premise flawed from the get-go?

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svtruth
May 16, 2012, 03:15 PM
I'm guessing most people/developers do not view ranges as desireable neighbors, and maybe insurance companies are not very favorable toward them.
Surely the NRA has info on this.

danweasel
May 16, 2012, 03:28 PM
The last two new ranges that I have heard off were cancelled in the planning stage. Reason: Neighbors threw a fit. I can't say I would want a range for a next door neighbor myself. But at the end of the street? Yeah!

drsfmd
May 16, 2012, 03:32 PM
On a calm day, I can hear the gun club down the road... and that's almost 3 miles away.

Warp
May 16, 2012, 03:43 PM
Ranges are expensive. The backstops for an indoor range, especially if you want some high powered rifles, are very expensive. The air handling system, very expensive. Insurance, same. People expect indoor ranges to also be gun stores and vice versa. All of that firearms inventory, setup cost, security measures, etc. Zoning. Neighbors.

Outdoors you need more land. And space from the neighbors.

If I ever win the lottery big I might set up a range...but it would be expensive and never turn a profit.

P5 Guy
May 16, 2012, 03:58 PM
The noise issue could be abated by removing the restrictions on SILENCERS.
And yes I am aware that is not the proper term. Sound suppressing devices on the muzzles of firearms can greatly reduce the "Noise Pollution".
I would have no problem with a range as a neighbor. A reduced membership dues would be a nice and neighborly thing to do.

Warp
May 16, 2012, 04:03 PM
The noise issue could be abated by removing the restrictions on SILENCERS.
And yes I am aware that is not the proper term. Sound suppressing devices on the muzzles of firearms can greatly reduce the "Noise Pollution".
I would have no problem with a range as a neighbor. A reduced membership dues would be a nice and neighborly thing to do.

I don't think that many people would buy suppressors, even if they didn't need to jump through hoops and get the stamp. It's a nice thought though.

I wouldn't mind a range as a neighbor, I could actually shoot with frequency and not fight traffic. But we are shooters. Most people seem to see it differently. :(

Sam1911
May 16, 2012, 04:06 PM
Many answers, probably.

1) Ranges -- especially rifle ranges, but shotgun as well -- take up a lot of room, themselves, and need a whole lot of room and/or very specific surrounding terrain as a safety buffer. The types of places with the greatest shortage of places to shoot tend to be areas that also happen to be very developed, with higher than average property costs. I was involved for a while with a club in southern MD which lost its outdoor range lands. The club searched for suitable property for several years and finally determined that they'd have to spend +/- $1Million to get an adequate piece of property and the only sort-of suitable one they found was an hour away.

On the other hand, up here in PA there are hundreds of places to shoot -- clubs of all kinds. Mostly quite inexpensive.

2) Litigiousness. Imagine opening a facility where you'll invite in the public to get together to practice chainsawing and felling trees. You don't know these people, some of them just bought their first saw and have never felled a tree. And they're going to be right next to each other buzzing away. Now, figure out how to keep them all safe so you haven't created a situation that will get you sued. Now, how much do you need to charge to cover all of your initial costs, operating costs, make some small profit, AND cover your legal fees? Does that business model work?

3) Cost -vs- benefit and perceptions thereof: "This range is a dump." "This range is too expensive!" "The facilities here are too limited." "There are too many rules." "This range is a dump, AND there are too many rules, AND it's too expensive!"

Anything can be done for a price. An utterly fantastic range could be built in any neighborhood or city with great safety, terrific features, and meet every need of the shooter. But there have to be enough shooters willing to pay the high price that would require.

Watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyq90LEZe4k

Would Americans pay for that? If we believe shooting should be free, and kind of rankle at having to pay anything at all to go plink, and we pretty much believe we should be able to do it on our own terms, without a lot of hassle and rules, the answer is probably no.

P5 Guy
May 16, 2012, 04:12 PM
I don't think that many people would buy suppressors, even if they didn't need to jump through hoops and get the stamp. It's a nice thought though.

The owner of the range could have some for rent?

Warp
May 16, 2012, 04:17 PM
The owner of the range could have some for rent?

And I just rent one to put on one of my Glocks, my GP100, my Garand, or my shotgun...?

What about wanting to test accuracy, performance, and reliability of my guns with my ammo the way I would use them if I had to? Putting a suppressor up front changes that, especially with pistols. I can't carry with a suppressor attached. (even if legal, it's not practical)

P5 Guy
May 16, 2012, 04:36 PM
Yeah I forgot about that little problem with revolvers, oh well.

Sam1911
May 16, 2012, 04:37 PM
2) there is an accompanying lack of associated market items: real estate, range safety and instructional personnel, etc.


The free market aspect of this question is quite intriguing.

Desire may be present in abundance, but desire has to be coupled with a willingness in the consuming public to pay what it costs to make the resources available. Real estate is an obvious bottleneck as I mentioned.

But so is competent staffing. A safety officer and certainly an instructor needs to be a very competent, educated, knowledgeable person who also has a very unique personality blending patience and friendliness with authority and strict enforcement of safety rules. How much is such a person "worth?" Just as a round number, lets say you can hire such a professional for ~$50,000 a year. That's $25 an hour to him for 2,000 hours of work a year, but then add the taxes and you're over $32 an hour just to have him on site. But that's ONE guy. And that's just 9-5, M-F. A range is going to need to be open a lot more than that, and will need a whole lot more staff.

So, for each of these pro staff members on site, you'll need to have at least two shooters paying to use the range for an hour who's fees will only go toward paying that guy, to say nothing of mortgage, insurance, power, licensing fees, maintenance, ventilation/filtration service, and the rest of the staff.

One of the big frustrations of the free market is that the market is free to say that some things are just too expensive to be "worth it." We really, REALLY want to have great facilities to go shoot. But we don't want it badly enough to pay the very high cost.

It is possible that this disconnect is partially exacerbated by the presence (somewhere out there) of cheaper more-or-less adequate venues. Even if they aren't convenient, and/or aren't really so fantastic, and there are no additional benefits provided like ROs and pro shops, they still tend to reduce our willingness to bite the bullet (ha!) and pay big bucks to shoot at a really great facility. It certainly may be possible (as it seems to have become in Europe) that if (or when) the more casual and cheap venues dry up, the fancier and more expensive places will get a boost in patronage/demand simply to the supply side shrinking.

beatledog7
May 16, 2012, 04:42 PM
Sam,

Thanks for the video link. Typical over-the-top German operation; I'd like to visit it but won't have time to pop over when I'm in Europe this summer.

I don't think many Americans would pay for that sort of thing; well, they might pay once just to check it out.

I recognize all the challenges you guys have discussed, but I still think there has to be some sort of happy medium between the family farm and the range represented in the German video.

Warp, I think you're right in saying people expect some kind of retail facility, like a pro shop, on the same premises. That's probably the easiest part.

I don't think most Americans expect to shoot for free, nor that they think there should be no rules. On the contrary, I think most of us expect to have to pay for what we want and to adhere to rules, just as in any sport. What I also think is that plenty of shooters are finding it hard to get useful practice, and that it's more about the lack of what they call acceptable facilities than the lack of personal time. It depends on where in the country one lives, of course.

There must be a viable formula for an inside-the-city, indoor, all-calibers range waiting to be discovered. While I don't yet have empirical data, I suspect that if that formula can be brought to light and shared, there is sufficient entrepreneurial impetus and capital out there to bring it to fruition.

I'm going to keep researching options in facilities, technology, insurance, etc. As I go, I'll post progress. Should be interesting to a few folks at least.

Warp
May 16, 2012, 04:53 PM
I have followed threads like this before (not on THR, but I only started frequenting the board like a week ago).

Long story shortened, none of them have followed through yet because the costs added up so insanely fast they didn't even really get started before calling it off. I recall them saying that you just couldn't get into it and expect to turn a profit

Sam1911
May 16, 2012, 05:04 PM
One way to try and keep operating costs down is to go completely lead-free as some ranges (like Sig Academy) have done. But, that makes the ammo costs rather sky-high which many shooters simply won't support, and brings in the necessity for either "intrusive" ammo inspections or allowing only ammo bought in the range shop to be shot -- which also really, REALLY annoys a lot of shooters.

However, lead containment and remediation costs are CRAZY.

But lead-free comes at quite a cost, too. I just checked SIG Academy's site. Their fee to run you through the IDPA classifier (which I've shot probably a hundred times), including 100 rds of lead free ammo is $125! That's a far cry from what most shooters would consider a "reasonable" cost.

Edit: This may be something you're chalking up to "onerous government regulation" or it may not. Either way it is part of the cost of doing business.

9mmepiphany
May 16, 2012, 05:45 PM
I seriously looked into this a little while back and while you think that demand is high...you're mistaken.

The problem is that there is demand, but it is demand up to a certain price point. After that price point is passed, demand falls off dramatically. While you may consider that to mean, "They are charging too much", what it really means is that the demand isn't high enough to justify the cost.

I once tried to set up a shooting class in the D/FW area in TX. Our normal cost for range rentals range from $150-500 per day. The range in the D/FW Metroplex wanted $1500 per day. To run a class at that range would have cost students $200 tuition + $100 range fees (15 students)...$300/day is higher than most students are willing to pay for a 3 day local class. Which is interesting as folks pay $1500/week to shoot at Gunsite.

The business plan that is usually taught is to keep rising your price until demand for your product matches your ability to produce goods. For some reason this plan isn't generally acceptable in the shooting community when it comes to ranges...as you reach the price that folks are willing to pay before you can usually offset you investment for new ranges

HoosierQ
May 16, 2012, 06:08 PM
Plus you can just do what I did. Pay $100 to join a private club, then pay $50 a year a shoot all you want at $1 a day. I gotta pee in an outhouse mind you but still...

That probably puts some pressure on public range demand and supply.

Warp
May 16, 2012, 06:25 PM
I joined my local indoor shooting range/gun shop, which includes four rifle lane, for around/just over $100 (forget how much) for the year. Walk in, give them the membership card, get a lane. Only cost is targets as I find bringing my own to be annoying. Yesterday I spent $3.75 and was there for an hour and a half.

I don't know how this helps the OP or the discussion at all, but it shows what you might need to match/what is possible.

JohnBT
May 16, 2012, 06:32 PM
www.colonialshooting.com

Richmond has a new indoor range. I believe they spent nearly $15 million. It was a furniture store.


I bought a yearly membership, but they rent lanes by the hour. They also have a private club on the 2nd floor that costs a lot more, but it comes with private lanes. I believe access is by fingerprint scans.

There's a shoot house in the basement for LE training, so they'll make some money there. And there's a cafe on the 1st floor along with the gun store.

It's so strange, having a clean, modern, new gun range.

"Imagine an indoor training facility that offers the law enforcement community 24/7 availability, a 1,800 square-foot tactical live-fire shoot house that can be reconfigured with minimal effort, and night or low-light training capabilities regardless of the time of day."

John

P.S. - I also belong to an outdoor range that's $150 a year and has covered shooting lines for ranges of 15, 25, 50 and 100 yards.

nofishbob
May 16, 2012, 06:51 PM
The factors permitting the opening of new indoor shooting ranges must be working out in the North Texas area as we have a new range near Ft. Worth (Shoot Smart) and another opening soon in Lewisville (The Eagle Indoor Gun Range).

Bob

9mmepiphany
May 16, 2012, 06:55 PM
The factors permitting the opening of new indoor shooting ranges must be working out in the North Texas area as we have a new range near Ft. Worth (Shoot Smart) and another opening soon in Lewisville (The Eagle Indoor Gun Range).

Bob
Are these public ranges?

That is what the OP is asking about.

In trying to set up classes, I found that TX has an abundance of ranges, but most of them required a membership

nofishbob
May 16, 2012, 07:03 PM
9mmepiphany:
Are these public ranges?

Yes they are/will be.

For more info:

http://www.eaglegunrangetx.com/

http://www.shootsmarttx.com/

Again, Eagle Indoor is not open yet, but when I have driven by Shoot Smart, it always seems busy.

Bob

Ramone
May 18, 2012, 03:19 PM
IMX, the two biggest factors come down to NIMBY- people just don't want a range in their neighborhood, even when the range was there first and the neighborhood grew to encroach on it.

The other factor is the real demand- not what people say, but how much they are actually willing to pay. The nicest range I have ever seen (C2 shooting center in Virginia Beach) gets 14/hr. I have no issue paying that- I'm going to burn more than that in ammo most days- but a lot of the locals I met immediately declare 'that place is a rip off!'.

ErikO
May 18, 2012, 03:35 PM
I can't say I would want a range for a next door neighbor myself.
Neither would I, I would get fired from work for nonattendance. ;)

Also, the ensuing job search would be hampered at best. lol!

oneounceload
May 18, 2012, 09:14 PM
To the OP - if you think there is such a great demand, then open up a range and make a great profit.

I suspect the reality of the situation will dictate otherwise

joecil
May 18, 2012, 09:52 PM
Well I live in Lexington KY and two years ago there was 9 lanes available in Paris ( a bit of a drive from Lexington) at the original Bud's (internet fame). Now Bud's has moved and built a multimillion dollar state of the art range that would have to be visited to see it all, much of which isn't seen by the general public at all. It would be not only 10 standard ranges for pistol/rifle shooting but another 10 used for private tactical training and general purpose training drills. The also have a reactive range for the general public as well as one for LEO that they can actually train using their cars from as well as set lighting for time of day. All of this is indoors with a ventilation system that can handle black powder shooters without problems at all. Now that covers the range I use most often and it is about 10 min drive for me to get there.

As for the others, one is exactly 4 min from my door to his with another indoor range similar to Bud's original range in Paris Kentucky though 50 yards instead of 25 yard max.

Both of the previous mentioned ranges have public access however range membership takes president over walk in traffic. Now even here where it isn't uncommon to meet gun people, the traffic makes it hard to open and sustain a simple gun range, let alone make a profit on one. Even at Bud's where it is standing room only on a Saturday, Monday through Friday mornings most ranges are completely empty.

Now their are also a few private out door ranges with in 20 minutes of me that also allow the public but real restrictive to times to the point of almost requiring an appointment to shoot.

So with that said the real reason more don't exist is local zoning rules, insurance requirements as well as need areas one can shoot safely especially in regards to out door ranges.

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