The Top 3 Things to Consider When Building a Shooting Range

Building a shooting range is a huge endeavor that should be approached cautiously and systematically. There are many things to consider and potential issues you may have to deal with; however, don’t let that deter you. Building a shooting range is a perfectly attainable goal if you start things right. Even if you already own a shooting range, or if it’s just a future dream, the three steps in this week’s newsletter can help you smooth out the process and keep you on the road to success.

1) Know Your Purpose

Figure out exactly what you want to do with your shooting range and then design it. Don’t get caught up in the excitement of building a range and then try to figure out how to use it afterward. Paying for and maintaining a bunch of functions that you don’t need or want is almost as bad as not meeting your needs in the first place. We offer custom and turn-key designs for ranges of all shapes and sizes, so instead of just picking the flashiest range in the catalog, decide independently what you need to get the job done. If we don’t offer a range that matches your unique requirements, we’ll design one that does.

Make sure you know who you’ll be serving. Your customers should be the deciding factor in many of the considerations you’ll come across in the planning stage. If you don’t offer what they want, they’ll go elsewhere to find it. Do some research on your potential customers and ask yourself some of these important questions.

For commercial ranges, ask yourself:

  • Will my patrons be more comfortable at an outdoor or an indoor range?
  • How many shooters need to be accommodated at the same time?
  • Will there be unsupervised shooting on the range?
  • Are my customers more concerned with hunting or self-defense?
  • What types of guns and ammo am I going to allow?
  • Will my range be appropriate for family use?

For law enforcement ranges, ask yourself:

  • Will my emphasis be on training, qualification, or both?
  • Will my range consist of a single firing line only, or does it need to allow close-range tactical training?
  • Does my range need to accommodate the use of vehicles in tactical situations?
  • Will the SWAT team use the range?
  • What weapons and ammo will be used and at what distances?
  • Will citizens be allowed to use the range on designated days?

2) Involve the Right People

Action Target may be able to provide you with the best shooting range technology in the world, but it’s going to be the people you know that will make your range a success. The key to a smooth process is communication. As they say in the field of public relations, “Don’t bulldoze the neighborhood without talking to the tenants first.” The point is, there are people you need to communicate with before you ever start building your range.

If you plan on having resident firearms trainers, make sure they are involved from the beginning. Your trainers will be using the range the most and should have a say in the way it’s designed. Often, they are going to have the best ideas when it comes to the practical uses of shooting range technology and functions.

Local government officials play a crucial role in the future of your range. In the end, they are going to have the final say in whether you can build it or not, so establish rapport as early as possible. Talk to the county commissioner and the city council to figure out exactly what you need to do to get your shooting range approved. This may include figuring out zoning issues, environmental regulations, and local statutes involving noise and firearms. Your local officials will have the most accurate information on regulations affecting you and will appreciate being informed of your intentions early and often.

Unfortunately, not everyone is going to like the idea of a shooting range moving into the neighborhood. Their main concerns will probably be noise, lead contamination, and gun safety. This is where your public relations comes in. Talk to your neighbors and find out what their specific concerns are, if any. Then create a message to let people know exactly what you’re doing, what safety precautions you’re taking, and how the range is going to benefit the community. This can be done through public service announcements, town hall meetings, fliers, press releases, or even going door to door. No matter how you do it, make sure the people around you are adequately informed because problems will inevitably arise if you keep them in the dark.

3) Plan for Success

Obviously, no one builds a shooting range anticipating to fail, but too often people build ranges without planning to be successful either. When designing your range, leave room for future growth. You don’t want to find yourself limited when things go better than expected. You can prepare for this with careful planning and a little foresight.

Shooting ranges can get crowded when demand exceeds supply. Make sure you have enough lanes so people don’t have to wait for hours to shoot. Consider your customers when deciding how many and what kind of lanes to install. Go back to the question of whether your customers are more concerned with hunting or self defense. Perhaps a hunter shooting a rifle will occupy a lane longer than someone practicing self-defense with a handgun. If you expect or even allow rifle shooters on your range, consider building a separate area designed specifically for rifles. By separating shooters based on firearm type or purpose, you may be able to alleviate some congestion. Other suggestions for keeping the flow of customers unimpeded are to allow online scheduling of lanes, to install a webcam that allows customers to go to your website and see in real time how busy the shooting range is, and to limit how long shooters can occupy a lane.

Angel View of the Total Containment TrapThe equipment you install in your shooting range can also have a significant effect on your future success. If you anticipate a large number of shooters on your range every day, you may want to reconsider the bullet containment system you use. Rubber berms work great on ranges that don’t see excessive everyday use, but if you start having more customers than you originally planned for, it quickly becomes a less ideal solution. Rubber berms have to be cleaned and the bullets lodged in them mined after so many shots fired. Not only does it cost money to clean the rubber berm, but the more days you have to close your range for maintenance, the more money you lose.

The Action Target Total Containment Trap (TCT) can be a great solution if you are going to run a lot of people through the range. With three different types of hands-free lead removal systems, the TCT allows for varying levels of use and greatly diminishes the time you have to spend maintaining your shooting range. If your range’s anticipated level of use is on the border of being too much for a rubber berm, plan on being successful and install a TCT. Don’t limit your long-term success based on short-term finances.

No matter where you are in the process of building your dream shooting range, we are here to support you. We are only successful when you’re successful; so let us know what we can do to help. For more information on what systems will work best for you and your customers, contact one of Action Target’s shooting range consultants by calling our office at (801) 377-8033.

6 thoughts on “The Top 3 Things to Consider When Building a Shooting Range

  1. Aaron Ludwig;

    If you are ever in this area of Texas, you had better stop by to visit.
    I began talking with you about 3 years ago when we began developing this indoor range. Let me say that you are one of the most positively knowledgble and professional individuals that I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with. Cherry on sundae meeting you @ SHOT in Orlando. (Like visiting Santa @ N Pole!!)
    We’ve 6 lanes in operation using vertical steel (Shooting Ranges Int’l) and working getting next 6 in as opportunities present. Probably going with rubber (Lord, everyone that’s got at least 2 AR s needs the facility).
    Been open 1 year now & loving it!! Hardly deal with anyone that is not the best of mankind!!!
    Thank you for sharing time, expertise, & knowledge with us. We’ve been visited by others wanting to build ranges & I steer them in your direction. I’m proud of your facilities that you’ve put in for law agencies (FM 1960 in Humble & Oates
    Rd off I-10 in Houston).
    Sincerely and with appreciation, I want to thank you for your considerations in the past & hope to do business with you in the future.
    Brenda Shimek
    5911 FM 2100
    Crosby, TX 77532
    281 328-2800

  2. This is more of a question than a comment.

    I have what I think is an excellent market and location for a full service, upscale shooting range.

    Obviously a very target market study would need to be conducted to confirm my gut feeling regarding the market.

    However the significant investment required (estimated a $3 to $4 M) is beyond my financial capabilites.

    Are there investors in the market that are looking to develop these type of facilities if the market can be proven?

    If so how do I go about identifying and approaching them?

    Tom Boland

    1. Tom,

      Thank you for your question. Investing and financing often depend on local conditions. If you would like, I can put you in touch with the shooting range consultant in your area. He’ll probably be able to answer your questions more adequately.

  3. You guys are great. I read your articles all the time. You always have beneficial stuff to say. I live in Houston, TX. We have a lot of different ranges, both indoor and outdoor. Unfortunately, few offer a reactive target experience. Only one that I know of allows for shooting from the draw. I would like to offer a reactive steel and mover range based on IDPA scenarios that incorporate shooting on the move and from cover. Gun Site Academy in Arizona is a good example of the type of range I would like to offer, though on a much smaller scale.

  4. Well first of i’ve been intrested in an outdoor shooting range for some time,and i want to build one that accommodates both law enforcement and locals,so your insight would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance.

  5. First, I would like to thank you for this very helpful informations. As an owner of a sport shooting complex, I saw many important things to know before starting a business with firing ranges. Thank you very much. Greetings from Bucharest – Romania.

Leave a Reply