Bert and Kristina Brown hope to have their $3.5 million gun range at the corner of Sterlingbrooke Drive and Highway 278 in Powder Springs complete by June.
“This isn’t a typical hole-in-the-wall firing range,” Bert Brown told the City Council at Wednesday’s work session. “Basically the total price tag on the project is about $3.5 million. It’s basically kind of like a country club of a firing range.”
Before construction can proceed, the council must approve a special use permit and a few other pieces of legislation at Monday’s 7 p.m. meeting in the building.
Bert Brown, a graduate, is the business development manager for Acworth-based EGAD Architectural and Engineering, which specializes in gun ranges. Kristina, his wife, is his client in the project. She runs Lakeside Guns in Acworth, but the location doesn't have a range.
“It’s frustrating for us because we have to send them to a competitor, and probably the closest place we send them is to Holly Springs,” Bert Brown said.
The Browns haven’t decided on a name for their Powder Springs location, which will be an estimated 18,400 to 19,100 square feet, depending on the final layout. They brought in business partners to help get the project off the ground.
The couple originally looked to build this specific range on Barrett Parkway but decided that Highway 278 near Hiram would bring in a “broader range” of people—perhaps from as far as Rockmart.
“It’s just an underserviced market,” Bert Brown said, “and there’s a lot of support in this (area) for it.”
He said further ranges are under consideration, including along Barrett Parkway and even out of state.
The construction won’t “cut any corners,” he said, noting $400,000 in ventilation alone.
“There are a lot of ranges that you may go in, and it’s smelly. It’s stinky and dangerous because you get debris powder buildup and lead buildup—there’s all kinds of things that you can be exposed to,” Brown said.
To prevent noise, the solid-concrete walls will be more than 7 inches thick and will contain other materials to prevent sound, Brown said. They will also have ballistic steel to catch projectiles.
With “perfect weather,” he said, construction will take about 24 weeks.
Brown said the theory behind a country club firing range stems from similar interests among golfers and shooters. Different levels of membership will be offered and will include access to a lounge area, lockers and priority on any waiting list to shoot.
Those with lockers may not legally store guns in them, he said. Owners will check in guns to be placed in an area “like a bank vault," he added.
“It’s much like valet service for the shooter, and when they walk through the door, they’re treated much like they would be at a country club.”
Brown said the range already has people signed up for memberships. He said a range completed in February in Roswell had more than 400 members before it opened.
He emphasized that membership won’t be required to use the Powder Springs range.
Brown said the busiest times will likely be in the evenings and weekends.
He said the range will be one of only four in the area. He expects to host regional shooting tournaments that could attract thousands of people.
The crowds won’t be coming in all at once, he added, noting that the setup will be like a softball tournament in that people rotate in and out at specific times.
He said 55 spots have been estimated for parking so far, but he’ll work with the city to determine a final amount.
Brown said the “educational side of this project is very important.”
The facility will have a classroom that seats about 20 where people will learn about family firearm safety, basic gun principles, women’s self-defense and more.
“The female market is actually the fastest-growing segment of the industry right now,” he said, adding that 25 percent of U.S. women have concealed-carry permits.
The range will offer fully automatic weapons that will be “very expensive” to use because a range master will oversee their operation.
Customers will have to watch an instructional video before using the range and fill out a short questionnaire afterward, Brown said.
A gunsmith will be available to do basic work like mount scopes and maintenance, he said.
“But anything that gets too technical will go out to a different gunsmith,” Brown added.
Law enforcement will be able to rent the facility during off hours, Brown said, and one of the building’s 16 ranges will be designed specifically for police.
It will allow officers to go down range and will be designed to contain projectiles from that distance.
Brown said former police officers and veterans are usually hired, but no “gun fanatics.”
“We’ve walked into a lot of gun stores that all the person behind the counter wanted us to do is know how much they knew about firearms,” he said.
“Most of the personnel is not your typical Joe Blow off the street; it’s usually someone that has a good background. Basically, what we decided was we wanted salespeople first and gun enthusiasts second.”
There will be a counter specifically for women, he added.
Alcohol on Tap?
Councilman Al Thurman asked whether alcohol will be served.
Brown said the range will be modeled after one in Scottsdale, AZ, that serves alcohol in a lounge area. He said a decision hasn’t been made about alcohol at the Powder Springs range; that it will depend on demand from members.
If it is allowed, he added, it will be only for those with a “full metal jacket” membership, which costs about $1,000 a year.
He also said that drinking and shooting is illegal.
“So if they want to buy a drink, it better be after they’ve shot,” Brown said.
Thurman asked about the biggest probability for trouble. Brown said suicide, though he said he has been involved with “dozens of ranges” and none has had a suicide.
Employees will be trained in suicide screening, he said, and showing the video will help “because we want to be able to delay them from being able to walk in, grab a gun and go shoot.”
Also at Wednesday's work session, the council discussed for city vehicles and went into an executive session for land acquisition. Though it was on the agenda, members did not discuss .
Correction: An earlier version of this article identified Sterlingbrooke Drive as Sterling Drive.