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Posted: 6/10/2021 1:05:53 PM EDT
I'm currently working as an analyst for a large corporation based in FL, and while it's a fairly good job, I don't want to work in a corporate environment forever.  Shooting is way cooler than playing the corporate hurry up and wait game.

In the next 5-10 years I want to purchase a large chunk of land and open a high-end rifle/pistol training facility.  I envision a range facility that everyone here dreams about having access to- no fudds, poors, or micromanaging RSO's.  Long range, short range, no rapid fire restrictions, and even night time shooting for those with NODs and cans.  I'd even buy steel targets that will survive 20mm because I've always wanted a 20mm cannon, and I think you should own a 20mm cannon too!  It will be a private range for paying members who can demonstrate safety/proficiency and it will only open to the public for matches.  Also, I'd probably have a gun store with a small amount of inventory on site and maybe become an NFA dealer too.

I've got a fairly good idea as to what the land/facilities/maintenance/staffing would cost, how many people I could draw into being members, and how much they'd be willing to pay- and I think it will be profitable enough.  Financing is a bit of an obstacle but not insurmountable.

That said, the big unknown to me are questions related to zoning, liability, local/state level laws, etc.

Specifically, what kind of zoning would I need to open an outdoor shooting range + gun store?  

Most of the blocks of land I see are zoned agriculture/forestry- how difficult would re-zoning be?  

How easily can noise complaints shut down a range?  

How easily can "public safety concerns" shut down an otherwise lawfully operating range?  

While I'm not sure which county I'm looking at specifically (this is 5-10yrs out), generally how friendly are rural north-central FL counties towards recreational shooting?

Are there state laws protecting the right to shoot on private property?  

How much does a hold harmless agreement actually protect a range from lawsuits if someone on/off the range is hurt due to shooter negligence/criminal activity?

Does liability insurance actually work when a range is sued, how much would it cost (guesstimate??), and would it come with strings attached?

I'd offer heavily discounted rates for local law enforcement to train in order to (hopefully) get in good graces with local government- would this be seen as bribery?
Link Posted: 6/10/2021 3:47:02 PM EDT
some counties won't even let you open a range and the liability insurance and also the workmens comp insurance for employees is huge.
Link Posted: 6/10/2021 3:52:56 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 6/10/2021 6:14:41 PM EDT by Bowhntr6pt]
LOTS of things will change in 5-10 years here in Florida and it won't be for the better.

I know a guy who recently opened his own facility... from hearing him discuss the slow progress and business process, it was a pain in the ass and not everything he wanted was completed. He's up and running now and I assume doing ok. Of course current affairs didn't help I'm sure.

I suppose it's all going to boil down to where you plan on doing it and navigating the legal processes and dealing with the local government.

ETA- here is my opinion on your questions... a lawyer would be a better source when the time comes.

Specifically, what kind of zoning would I need to open an outdoor shooting range + gun store?  


There are "zoning variances" that allow activity not compatible with established zoning. Getting the approval is the problem.

Most of the blocks of land I see are zoned agriculture/forestry- how difficult would re-zoning be?

These would perhaps be the easiest to get a variance approved.

How easily can noise complaints shut down a range?  

Depends on local ordinances, ours excluded shooting activities. State law provides noise protections to ranges subject to local laws. See FSS 823.16(2).

How easily can "public safety concerns" shut down an otherwise lawfully operating range?  

Easy... a stray bullet will do it... I've seen a range shut down for that.

While I'm not sure which county I'm looking at specifically (this is 5-10yrs out), generally how friendly are rural north-central FL counties towards recreational shooting?


By then... who knows.

Are there state laws protecting the right to shoot on private property?  

None directly per se that I'm aware of... just has to be done in a manner that does not pose a danger to life or property (culpable negligence).

How much does a hold harmless agreement actually protect a range from lawsuits if someone on/off the range is hurt due to shooter negligence/criminal activity?

General liability waivers are enforceable in Florida but need to be drafted properly which includes an "In consideration" clause and not written in a complex manner.

Does liability insurance actually work when a range is sued, how much would it cost (guesstimate??), and would it come with strings attached?

Too many variables to answer. Policies have limits.

I'd offer heavily discounted rates for local law enforcement to train in order to (hopefully) get in good graces with local government- would this be seen as bribery?

LOL... no.
Link Posted: 6/10/2021 4:22:41 PM EDT
Ask JTAC how painful the process is.  Then ask Manatee how to attract customers.    Then ask ATTAC how to stay in business.


Link Posted: 6/10/2021 4:47:33 PM EDT
Link Posted: 6/10/2021 5:52:52 PM EDT
You've already got some good/great answers, but here's a few more things to keep in mind

1 - address some/all of the concerns re: safety into the design and operating policy of the range.  IE, excessive buffer land around it especially down range direction, design of shooting stations to provide controlled impact area should muzzles rise too high, excessively high and over built berms, real range officers on duty during operating hours, etc.

2 - lead issues will be a big challenge, and may effect where you could effectively have a range of any type (ie the "springs protection zones" - which I agree with in name but am not familiar with how exactly they protect - ie limiting fertilizer use etc and we really don't want lead in the aquifer....).  Do that research before you buy.  You'll have federal, state, and county EPA to deal with, possibly water management, etc.

3 - you'll still need to be convenient to a city of size so that you have a customer base.  I pay 360/yr for my GTR membership, if it weren't for my minor kids coming with me for free I'd save money by doing a $20/day pass and it is only 20 minutes from me.  End up NW of Live Oak or North of Lake City, etc and you'll be an hour and a half from anywhere, and not a lot of folks will be willing to pay a yearly membership and need to drive that far to actually use it.  You'll also need facilities for folks who come for matches - this may mean hotel nearby-ish or camping/rv, etc. on-site. As well as food.

I'd figure out #2 and #3 and see what land is available, then worry about zoning, permits needed, etc. and re-evaluate.  If it still looks like a go, buy land as soon as you can and either plant it in pines or lease to a farmer for the ag discount on taxes while you keep on waiting.

Maybe even buy the land now anyway, lease it back out to a hunt club or get the ag discount by leasing to a farmer or planting pines etc.  If the range idea falls through you can always use existing ponds etc and add a few more ponds, feed plots, wood plots, etc and turn it into a premier hunting/fishing place that also happens to have your personal 1000 yard range on it.... heck depending on how much land you get (see the "excessive buffer land" statement) you could do that anyway, just limit open range time during hunting season, or use mounted shooting toobs as suppressors for everyone :).   After all, big holes will be dug somewhere to get dirt for your berms... may as well get some fishing done in the pond/lake you could be creating....



Link Posted: 6/10/2021 6:49:34 PM EDT
I was a member of Southwest Florida Sportsman's Association, in Charlotte County for 10 years.
They wanted to do an expansion on land they owned.  They even bought surrounding properties, for a buffer zone.
More than 6 years they fought with Charlotte County, SW Florida Water Mgt., Army Corp, and other state b/s.
Plans had to be changed at least 4 times.  Wet land inspections, invasive tree removal, "possible" nests for bonneted  bats, planting of native trees, ALLIGATOR CROSSINGS !

I think finding a constitutional conservative  Democrat would be less painful.
My buddy, that was club president, resigned over it.

Nice idea though !
Link Posted: 6/10/2021 9:32:36 PM EDT
Question 1 would be do have have the millions of dollars it will take?
Link Posted: 6/10/2021 9:51:53 PM EDT
Link Posted: 6/10/2021 11:04:38 PM EDT
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By Colddeadhands61:
I was a member of Southwest Florida Sportsman's Association, in Charlotte County for 10 years.
They wanted to do an expansion on land they owned.  They even bought surrounding properties, for a buffer zone.
More than 6 years they fought with Charlotte County, SW Florida Water Mgt., Army Corp, and other state b/s.
Plans had to be changed at least 4 times.  Wet land inspections, invasive tree removal, "possible" nests for bonneted  bats, planting of native trees, ALLIGATOR CROSSINGS !

I think finding a constitutional conservative  Democrat would be less painful.
My buddy, that was club president, resigned over it.

Nice idea though !
View Quote


And yet, you could easily get all the needed permits to bulldoze and pave over every tree, shrub, and blade of grass on that property, as long as it was a housing development, which everyone loves.

If you can live on it, drive on it, shop on it, or park on it, the public and by extension the government have absolutely no problem with you completely destroying any natural aspect of the land.

Anything else - as above.
Link Posted: 6/10/2021 11:24:15 PM EDT
Thanks for the responses everyone.

I am familiar with environmental mitigation because I was a forester before going into analytical work.  Mitigating lead contamination seems to be much simpler than fuel spills or logging operations...  I am also familiar with federal, state, local government magically re-interpreting rules because they don't like you.  You can't win unless you are a big enough corporation to spend the government into the ground in litigation.

Reading responses here, it might make more sense to go ahead and build it for myself and worry about making it a business later- my original plan was to just get land and build a range on it for myself and close friends/family to use, and then utilize all the other acres as agriculture, forestry, or a homesite, while keeping my day job.

Perhaps if the range is already built and in use by me it will be easier to re-zone?  

If it can't be re-zoned as a commercial range, the "hunting club" idea is a good one because it is an agricultural/forestry use.  The idea of using borrow pits from berm construction as fishing ponds isn't one I would have thought of, although I did have the idea of using a flooded borrow pit as a heat sink for geothermal cooling.  I have shot extensively on a range that takes "cash donations" because the owner could not get it zoned as a for profit range, so I could maybe go that route, but there could be risks.

I can fit what I'd want for myself on as little as 50ac, but if I were building with the general public in mind I'd like 300ac or more as a noise/bullet buffer.  Huge berms are a given, along with mature forest in impact zones and around the firing line as a noise buffer.
Link Posted: 6/11/2021 12:05:22 AM EDT
Link Posted: 6/11/2021 8:16:22 AM EDT
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By Twitchy:
Ask JTAC how painful the process is.  Then ask Manatee how to attract customers.    Then ask ATTAC how to stay in business.


View Quote




or Hollywood tactical that tried to do the same thing
Link Posted: 6/11/2021 8:32:03 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 6/11/2021 8:35:54 AM EDT by mark5pt56]
As stated, it needs to be reasonably accessible but yet plan for future development. Impact area's-if you can afford it-own that land, even then sound carries and even owning 7000+ acres doesn't solve that problem.

Mitigating some of that is baffles, berm height and vegetation/trees

Steel, keep handgun and rifle separate.

You may want to consider having a small "public" range area for those only interested in a day trip here and there and only having interest in static pistol or rifle.

As much as you would like your members to be responsible adults, you still need to have baby sitters. As sad as it is, most gun owners are prone to do some dumb things if left to their own devices. Some act and feel their admission allows blatant destruction of property.

If allowing draws, moving, etc. you need to have a serious vetting process and monitor that activity.

Competitions-if it involves the above, those folks need to be vetted. Maybe a primer competition to where they can be observed doing simple positional but static courses. We could go on and on about this topic, but I think you get the point.
Link Posted: 6/11/2021 9:02:37 AM EDT
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By biometrician:
Thanks for the responses everyone.

Reading responses here, it might make more sense to go ahead and build it for myself and worry about making it a business later- my original plan was to just get land and build a range on it for myself and close friends/family to use, and then utilize all the other acres as agriculture, forestry, or a homesite, while keeping my day job.

Perhaps if the range is already built and in use by me it will be easier to re-zone?  

View Quote


I have a range set up on my property where I conduct my classes as well as bringing in some of the top names in the training industry.

When I got my county business license, they said I needed nothing extra as the range activities were in connection with classes and instruction. However, if I wanted to have an open range where the public could come shoot, I'd need to go before the Board of County Commissioners and show I had an adequate plan including a traffic impact estimate on the local area.

In essence, due to the small county I'm in, the red tape and hoops to jump through were basically nothing. Bigger counties are not that way. So once again, your location and the surrounding area(s) are the key.
Link Posted: 6/11/2021 6:14:45 PM EDT
Stay private/personal. Once you deal with the public...not everyone is a shooter.  You will get those who shoot over the berm, destroy everything they try to shoot at, be a complete PITA to deal with.  My gun club has these dumb rules for the rifle ranges now because of this. Can't shoot unless a RSO is there. And you can't expect the RSO volunteers to want to police a firing line till 8pm, or in the hot FL afternoons, so they are always closed it seems.
Link Posted: 6/12/2021 11:22:37 AM EDT
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By fuzzy03cls:
Stay private/personal. Once you deal with the public...not everyone is a shooter.  You will get those who shoot over the berm, destroy everything they try to shoot at, be a complete PITA to deal with.  My gun club has these dumb rules for the rifle ranges now because of this. Can't shoot unless a RSO is there. And you can't expect the RSO volunteers to want to police a firing line till 8pm, or in the hot FL afternoons, so they are always closed it seems.
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Sounds like you and I  belong the same entity!

It takes but ONE fuckup to screw it up!
Link Posted: 6/13/2021 7:26:02 AM EDT
If you are actually serious about this, I'd recommend contacting NSSF. That's their job. If it's a pipe dream, then I wouldn't waste their time.

As posters above have said, the best way to become a millionaire as a result of owning a gun range is to start out as a multi-millionaire. lol.

Last thought- and NSSF might be able to help with this, one of the more cost effective ways is to find an abandoned range and reopen it. It's usually the THIRD owner that has a shot at making money. However, think of how many restaurants you see that change hands and seem to be in a good location, serve good food etc., just no one can make it work more than two years. Multiply that by all the unique issues with gun ranges.
Link Posted: 6/13/2021 10:25:20 PM EDT
Well, after reading what locals have to say, it looks like I'll just build a range for myself on whatever land I can afford and just let people I personally know shoot on it...

On paper it looks like it would make money, but too many regulatory hurdles.
Link Posted: 6/14/2021 6:58:22 AM EDT
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By biometrician:
Well, after reading what locals have to say, it looks like I'll just build a range for myself on whatever land I can afford and just let people I personally know shoot on it...

On paper it looks like it would make money, but too many regulatory hurdles.
View Quote






bingo


correct answer
Link Posted: 6/14/2021 8:15:44 AM EDT
Your thought and intent is most appreciated, OP, but likely an exercise in futility.

I miss shooting outdoors. We used to have epic group shoots at Manatee.

...used to...
Link Posted: 6/14/2021 11:26:08 AM EDT
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By biometrician:
Well, after reading what locals have to say, it looks like I'll just build a range for myself on whatever land I can afford and just let people I personally know shoot on it...

On paper it looks like it would make money, but too many regulatory hurdles.
View Quote




also do yourself a favor and try to have all shooting be suppressed.
Link Posted: 6/14/2021 10:18:16 PM EDT
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By reelserious:




also do yourself a favor and try to have all shooting be suppressed.
View Quote


I prefer shooting suppressed, particularly at night.  I love shooting with NODs, but it's hard to find places to do it.
Link Posted: 6/15/2021 8:25:55 AM EDT
In the next 5 10 years I want to purchase a large chunk of land and open a high end rifle/pistol training facility.  I envision a range facility that everyone here dreams about having access to no fudds, poors, or micromanaging RSO's.  Long range, short range, no rapid fire restrictions, and even night time shooting for those with NODs and cans.  I'd even buy steel targets that will survive 20mm because I've always wanted a 20mm cannon, and I think you should own a 20mm cannon too!  It will be a private range for paying members who can demonstrate safety/proficiency and it will only open to the public for matches.  Also, I'd probably have a gun store with a small amount of inventory on site and maybe become an NFA dealer too.
View Quote

I think you are creating some problems for yourself.

"high-end rifle/pistol training facility".  Right here is millions.  Concrete pads, overhead cover for sun/rain, fans, air conditioned buildings for classes, etc.  Think a golf course and clubhouse for shooting.

"no...poors".  So only the rich should join?  Then central/northern FL is the wrong spot.  You need to go to Miami or Naples.  And you'll need better contacts to your target demographic than ARFCOM millionaires.

"micromanaging RSOs".  What is your definition of this?  No RSOs at all?  (Good luck with insurance in that case.)  Otherwise, what is your line on "micromanaging"?  As a RSO at a large range in FL, I see a lot of people who "can demonstrate safety/proficiency" that don't always practice it.
Link Posted: 6/15/2021 8:29:47 AM EDT
One of the biggest problems with land you'll need for this is that it will probably be a swampy part of Florida (unless you've got really big money to drop on 300+ acres near a real city).  Which means you have to deal with Florida Dept of Wildlife and follow wetlands conservation.
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