The First-Ever, Full-Service Retail Shooting Range Focuses on Firearms Safety and Education
Midwest Shooting Center is on a mission to change how people think about firearms and shooting ranges. The center is everything a stereotypical firearms shop is not. “It’s welcoming, inviting, and focused on education. We want to remove the stigma associated with firearms dealers,” says Zac Briley, franchise director. “This is a community-driven business that’s customer-focused. We are redefining firearms culture.”
The first Midwest Shooting Center was founded in 2016 in Lima, Ohio. Friends and former Marine Corps officers Jeff Swinford and David Sabo started the business as an e-commerce retailer and eventually grew it into a large-scale, brick-and-mortar shop with a state-of-the-art shooting range. As former Anytime Fitness gym franchisees, they understood the value of recurring revenue and created a membership-based business model. “The first location was a massive success with more than 1,000 members right from the start,” Briley says.
Their approach is completely different than anything else out there. Rather than selling from behind a counter, friendly associates are out on the floor actively engaging and educating customers. “We cater to the person who never owned firearms. We eliminate the intimidation factor. We want customers to feel welcome when they come in,” Briley says.
Firearms Culture in the United States
According to a 2017 survey by Pew Research Center, three in 10 adults say they own firearms, and four in 10 say they live in a household where someone owns firearms. In contrast to the stereotypical firearms owner, Midwest Shooting Center attracts people from all walks of life, spanning various ages, ethnicities, income levels, and genders. In fact, 40% of Midwest’s training customers are women. The center even serves a 90-year-old nun who is a valued customer. Midwest’s mission is to empower customers with knowledge and skills. “Everybody is buying firearms these days, and our goal is to teach them how to handle them safely.”
Midwest Shooting Center Franchise Opportunity
By 2021, Sabo and Swinford added three more corporate locations in Fort Wayne, Ind., North Pittsburgh, Pa., and Toledo, Ohio. They realized they were on to something and decided franchising was the best way to scale the business. They started offering franchise opportunities in January 2023 and now have five corporate locations with two franchises open, with more in development.
Since firearms retail has narrow margins, they streamlined the model to include multiple revenue streams. In addition to retail sales and training services, they offer weekly leagues and events such as birthday parties, corporate team building, competitive shooting, and even date nights. There are also gunsmithing services, including cleaning, repair and engraving. “The membership model accounts for a good portion of the business. The average member visits about twice a month,” he says. “Not only does that bring great recurring revenue, but it creates a sense of community. We’re on a first-name basis with our members.” Membership costs approximately $30 monthly and includes discounts, guest passes, and other benefits.
Locations are big (from 10,000 to 32,000 square feet) and work best in highly-visible retail areas. “Think big-box real estate such as a former Babies R Us or Bed, Bath & Beyond,” Briley says. Many buildings like those are left sitting for months or even years when they go out of business.”
A New Approach to Firearms Ownership
Midwest Shooting Center is off to a great start with a leadership team that feels bullish about the opportunity. “We have ironed out a lot of obstacles. The barriers can be daunting for someone trying to enter this type of business from scratch. We have done the work to understand the compliance issues, partnered with vendors, and streamlined processes,” he says. “With our proprietary curriculum, we can take someone with no knowledge of firearms and have them handling weapons at an expert level within six months,” he says.
Now registered in 41 states, Briley says Midwest Shooting Center is poised to disrupt an industry with a fresh new concept. “The best part is putting a positive spin on firearms culture and bringing an amazing growth opportunity to the franchise space.”
For more information about Midwest Shooting Center Franchises, visit https://midwestshootingcenter.com/