How to Start a Gun Range: The Complete Business Guide

how to start a gun range business guide shooting ranges startup

Across the United States, there are 7081 gun ranges. Almost every major city has at least a few shooting ranges. Yet few know how to start a gun range.

Are you considering getting into this industry? Do you love guns, tech, and sport shooting? Do you know what laws govern a gun range?

Opening a gun range isn't like opening any other business. Due to the potential for things to go wrong inside, you need to obey strict laws and codes. Then there are the normal business considerations. 

The task of opening a gun range is anything but easy. Yet it's certainly possible. 

Ready to take a closer look at how to start a gun range? Then keep reading!


Do Your Research

When you're figuring out how to start a gun range, there is a lot of research that you need to do. For a start, you need to learn the gun laws in your area before you open a gun range.

There are different laws regarding firearms in every municipality, county, and state. You need to learn the gun laws of your area inside and out. You can find out more about the laws on this page on the ATF website, which has a master list of ordinances across multiple states and areas.

For more detailed information, you can get in touch with law enforcement in your area. Ask them what the specific laws are regarding firearms and opening a gun range.


Check Out Licensing

Before you open a gun range, you may want to invest in a Federal Firearms License, or FFL. You don't need one to open a range, but there are a lot of advantages to getting one.

For a start, if you get an FFL, you can buy and rent out firearms to people who come to your range. This can attract new shooters who don't have gun collections to choose from and just want to come and shoot. 

There's another fantastic income stream that's available if you get an FFL: you can sell guns. You can also sell gun parts: everything from muzzle brakes to an AR 15 complete upper. While some parts can be sold without an FFL, having one takes away the stress of doing the research for each part.

While getting licensed can be a pain, it's well worth it. Especially as, if you stock popular firearms, you'll be able to make a lot of money.


Where Do You Want Your Range?

How to open a gun range? This question doesn't just involve laws regarding firearms, but zoning laws too. For instance, do you open a gun range that is indoors or outdoors? 

You will need to find land that can be used for commercial purposes. This narrows down your choice of land somewhat.

How big your gun range is can also affect the laws that come into play.

If you want to open an indoor gun range, you will need to meet EPA air quality standards. You will also need to find a safe and green way to dispose of lead. To meet these air quality standards, you're going to need to buy an expensive air filtration system.

If it is an outdoor range, then you still need to consider lead pollution. The EPA enforces rules regarding lead in soil, so you can't just fire into a hill.

You will need a backstop too, wherever your gun range is so that bullets don't ricochet back at the shooters or penetrate the wall. 


Indoor or Outdoor?

There are advantages and disadvantages to both indoor and outdoor ranges. Let's take a look at them.

An indoor range can be used all year round, which means that you're going to get more customers. Yet you will need to build or buy a building that is large enough and you will need to worry about air filtration. 

An outdoor range is cheaper to start: you don't need to buy a building or worry about air filtration either. The problem is that in bad weather, you aren't going to attract as many shooters. Even shelters for the shooters aren't going to completely change this.


Write a Business Plan

Gun ranges may be a unique business, but they still need some of the same fundamentals to be taken care of. First and foremost, you need to write a business plan.  Let's take a look at some of the considerations you'll need to plan for.

Pricing

How much are you going to charge customers to use your gun range? What should you charge shooters for membership, gun hire, and time spent on the range? How many bullets will customers get for free, if any?

If you're going to be selling guns, how much will you charge for these?

Finances

You need to get funding before you can open a gun range. Who is going to give you investments? Can you self-fund the business?

You can also look at crowdfunding as a way to secure finances. Local shooters may want a new range: if they do, they might want to contribute to help get it started!

You will also need to make some financial projections. How much will you need to make to survive?

Market Analysis

Before you open a shooting range, you need to make sure the market isn't too saturated. If there is a gap in the market, that's where you should open up. 

If the market is saturated, what is going to make your business stand apart? Why should shooters visit your store and not a competitor's gun range?


Network Before Opening a Gun Range

Before opening a gun range, you need to become known. There are a lot of advantages to networking: you can build a customer base, find contacts in the industry, and get advice.

So how should you network? You need to get on your feet and head out to gun shows and start chatting to sellers and customers. Find out what they want in a gun range and what they look for when considering a new range.

If you make contacts with gun manufacturers, you may have an easier time sourcing firearms to sell in your store too. Doing this before you open the store is the winning strategy: don't wait until you've opened or you might lose money.

You should join industry associations too, like the NRA and the National Shooting Sports Foundation. These groups exist to support business owners and you may find their newsletter and representatives to be a great source of advice in the early days of your range. 


How to Start a Gun Range Safely: Get Insured

Before you open up your store, you need to make sure that you have the right insurance in place. Your store should be insured against theft, fire, and any other forms of damage or loss of property.

Of course, with shooting ranges, you have another bit of insurance that you need to consider. The last thing that you want to happen is for someone to get injured in your store and for them to turn around and bankrupt you. 

To counteract this, get business liability insurance. If someone is injured or dies at your range and a lawsuit is filed against you, this could be the difference between destroying your business or staying afloat.

We're sure that you will be as careful as you can be, but accidents can happen to anyone. Make sure that you're covered in case.


Zero In Your Marketing

You can't just open your doors and expect people to flood in. You will need to make a concentrated marketing effort if you want to get people to come to your range.

There are a lot of different ways to do this. You can put ads in newspapers and on the radio, for instance, but we'd recommend focusing more on digital marketing.

You could, for instance, put out Facebook ads that target people in your local area who are interested in firearms. You should make a website and focus on SEO so that customers who search for "gun range" and the name of your town are brought to your website instead of a competitor's.

You could also become active on social media. Young shooters, in particular, are active on platforms like Instagram and Twitter, which means that if your site has a solid presence on these platforms, you'll be more likely to gain their interest.


Opening a Gun Range: Not as Hard as You Might Think

You read this because you're wondering how to start a gun range. As tricky as some elements of this may seem, like getting insured and licensed, the fundamentals of launching a rifle range are the same as starting any other business.

Make sure that you plan well, network before you open, follow all necessary laws, gun safety measures, and market the heck out of your business. We wish you the best of luck on building your shooting range!

Do you want to read more articles like this about starting a new business? Check out the retail and startups section of our blog right now!

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