- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 6, 2014

A shooting range consultant is opening a 65,000-square-foot indoor facility in October — the latest in a number of shooting clubs that have been popping up in places from gun-friendly Colorado and Texas to Miami’s Wynwood Arts District.

Greg Wodack, the owner and operator of Elite Shooting Sports LLC, and his team broke ground on the location just off of Interstate 66 in Gainesville, Virginia, in April and have been working at a breakneck pace to open on schedule in October.

The facility will house two 25-yard ranges, a 50-yard range and a 100-yard range, a 1,600-square-foot, two-story live-fire shoot house for law enforcement training, a cafe, a lounge and a 5,000-square-foot retail area — a contrast to the image of musty rifle or hunting clubs.

“[We] kind of look at it as the new golf clubs,” Mr. Wodack said. “It’s a destination range. It’s for everybody.”

Elite Shooting Sports also will have its own gunsmith and a dojo for law enforcement training. It also will feature Ti training — an experience like a video game that adjusts its scenarios based on real-time outcomes.

“Elite Shooting Sports is going to be another one of these ‘guntry clubs,’” said Zach Snow, manager of shooting promotions at the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade group for the guns and ammunition industry. “I wouldn’t say these kinds of facilities are trying to compete [with country clubs], but in many cases there’s a lot of overlap with a golfer who is also an avid shooter and vice versa.”

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Indeed, the Frisco Gun Club in Texas sold more than 2,400 founding memberships even before it opened in December. The 43,000-square-foot complex includes an indoor gun range with 40 shooting lanes, a 7,000-square-foot retail shop and a members-only VIP club featuring private lanes and lounge areas complete with a fireplace.

In Florida, Lock & Load Miami, a short drive from South Beach, boasts 24 air-conditioned lanes and offers a VIP room for parties of up to two dozen that includes six lanes, two flat-screen TVs and private instruction.

“The monster facilities — 40,000 to 60,000 square feet — is a new trend,” Mr. Snow said. “Will it continue? I think only time will tell. In most cases, they’re put in markets that are fairly affluent, as well as places with significant populations.”

Mr. Wodack said his range will be different. It will not cater to special or VIP memberships, he said, but will focus instead on recreational shooting.

“There are shooters in Northern Virginia that don’t have a place to go, and they’re not going to go wait in line for two hours to shoot,” he said. “The range is a high-quality facility, but we’re going to try to make it affordable for everyone.”

It also will cater to the teeming sprawl of federal government.

“We’re in a different demographic,” he said, referring to the significant number of law enforcement agencies in the area.

Six federal agencies already have indicated their interest in training at Elite Shooting Sports, though Mr. Wodack said with a grin that he is not at liberty to disclose which ones.

Such crossover services often amount to “more of a community-relations builder than a profit center,” Mr. Snow said.

After a slight downtick in the latter half of 2013, year-over-year federal gun purchase background checks increased in March, April and May, and four of the top 10 single-highest days were in February and March.

Although the correlation of gun sales and purchases is not direct, National Instant Criminal Background Check System records are used as an imperfect proxy for gun sales.

Each of the top 10 highest weeks for background checks were in the wake of the December 2012 shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Conn. The tragedy gave way to a national debate over firearms, the Second Amendment and tightening the background check system.

Federal legislation has since stalled, and the industry is reporting solid sales.

Home simulators often attract purchasers, who might want guns for self-protection, Mr. Snow said.

“The individuals who were going and buying these were also wanting to get properly trained,” he said. “You see a lot of individuals using these to better prepare themselves for a home invasion.”

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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