It’s a fact that many of today’s new firearms owners and outdoors enthusiasts — the millennials who reside in the 22 to 37 age group — tend to be avid renters. They rent bicycles, tents, canoes and plenty of other gear for weekend adventures. So why not guns?
It should be no surprise that gun and related equipment rentals can add to your business’ bottom line.
Many ranges and sporting clays facilities already rent various firearms, including shotguns, rifles and pistols. In popular vacation destinations, such as Las Vegas and even in West Yellowstone near the entrance to the famous national park, along with other places where crowds frequent, there are businesses already open that rent full-auto machine guns and other firearms. Participants pay a fee to shoot X number of rounds or use a lane for a set amount of time. Rentals can — and do — ring the cash register.
What to Rent
Before you make the leap into renting firearms or add more items to your store or range’s rental options, it pays to listen to customers. Keep notes and track the number of requests for specific firearms.
When it comes to renting, the big and bold rent best. Making revolvers like the powerful .500 Smith & Wesson available can entice customers to fork over the funds so they can shoot it — and then report to friends and family that they shot one. Those shooters can rent and shoot the pistol for about $50 an hour in some shops compared to having to purchase it for $1,200. Other peculiar firearms and those that are difficult to own, such as full-auto rifles and pistols, can also bring eager renters to your range or shop. Many places charge $15 an hour for handguns and $20 an hour to rent rifles and long guns.
Numerous ranges across America also rent popular concealed carry firearms. This gives customers, or potential customers, a chance to experience the feel in hand, and test functions before dropping the cash to make a purchase.
Other shops pad their cash registers by renting firearms with laser sights and noise suppressors, or radically different firearms like the Mossberg Shockwave shotgun. If it’s beyond the norm, it will rent.
There are also special occasions when rentals ring the cash register. Threat Dynamics in Sherwood, Oregon, reports that special events such as Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day bring customers into their store and sprawling range complex. Those customers want to rent — and shoot. Many of these people rent firearms for the experience. These renting occasions are sometimes first shooting experiences for customers, so range safety officers should help with the introduction when needed.
Before you hang the “Rentals Happen Here” sign in your storefront, do some market research and be prepared. First, find out whether your facility or store’s insurance policy covers renting. Also, in some locations or states, such as restrictive Oregon, you will need to check local and state laws regarding firearm transfers. Yes, handing a firearm to a renting customer could be considered a transfer.
Even brief periods are subject to broad legal interpretations and those could differ from your viewpoints. Renting often requires more than taking money and handing over a firearm and the necessary ammunition.
Other questions to consider regarding legally renting are terms of the loan, the period of the rental, any security deposits, refunds or ammunition charges that go with the rental, and other safety requirements, such as only loading and discharging ammunition purchased from your store in the rented firearm. This requirement is becoming more common because of safety concerns and wear-and-tear on bullet stops.
Next, in any rental agreement, consider spelling out that the rent period is by the hour, or other time period. Some other common restrictions are making the rental agreement for use in the renting location and facility only. Consider collateral, such as a credit card or driver’s license held until the rental firearm is returned.
Your insurance or legal counsel could also help with wording regarding the firearm renter assumes all liability for damages to firearm, facility, others, etc. Be specific. Anyone considering renting firearms should also have measures in place to prevent the renter from simply walking out with that firearm. There are several examples of firearm rental contracts online so you can see how other ranges tackle these projects.
Most facilities that rent firearms place them in highly visible cases up front, hanging on the wall in plain view or in special sections with signs calling attention to the fact that firearms are available for rent. Some ranges create packages that permit renting with ear and eye protection included, plus the ammunition and targets. These are popular on special occasions such as Valentine’s Day or special advertised date nights. Some ranges have special events scheduled and promote renting as a “try before you buy” event, then deduct the rental fees from the purchase price if the customer decides to purchase the firearm rented. This is a great opportunity to make a firearm sale while the customer is still experiencing the thrill. Paths to renting can take several twists and turns.
At Threat Dynamics, the state-of-the-art full-service facility requires that renters bring a firearm to prove current firearm ownership, bring a second person along and pay for an instructor to be with the renter while on the range using the firearm. The facility rents firearms ranging from .22 pistols to 9mm concealed carry handguns and pocket pistols, to popular .223 modern sporting rifles. This shop also rents several models of shotguns and firearms with suppressors.
Several other gun ranges/stores that rent firearms require the customer to complete a brief 15- to 30-minute course before a firearm can be rented. Most of these courses are available on a computer in a kiosk or require sitting and watching a video. One place where I rented firearms gave a written test with multiple answers for each question.
Threat Dynamics offers about 30 handguns, nearly a dozen rifles and several firearms with suppressors for renters. Among the odd ones customers would shoot for thrills are an IWI Tavor, FN Scar, Magnum Research 50AE, a Taurus Judge and an S&W pistol with a Crimson Trace laser sight installed. I also spotted a large group of standard pistols and revolvers that fall in the concealed category since current firearm owners may want to trade and upgrade, or someone considering a purchase can experience the firearm before opening their wallet. All of these rental options are listed on the company’s website along with other details.
It’s important to also offer the right mix in rentals. Many shops offer a pocket pistol, such as a .380, then mid-sized firearms like the Smith & Wesson Shield, then bigger handguns like the standard 1911. Of course, revolvers ranging from the S&W J-Frames up to the Ruger Redhawk in popular .44 Magnum will also rent regularly if your range permits the larger calibers to be fired there. Don’t forget the growing interest in suppressors when renting because some customers consider this a test before they begin the paperwork-to-purchase process.
Successful rental ranges don’t overlook the plinkers when it comes to renting. Making a .22 caliber semi-auto rifle, pistol and revolver available could result in more dollars in the register drawer. Folks love to plink, recoil is nonexistent and the ammo is generally affordable.
Carolina Sporting Arms, in Charlotte, North Carolina, lists nearly 150 firearms on the company website that can be rented and shot at its facility. Most are handguns focused on the concealed carry market, but I did note the S&W 15-22 AR rifle and the recently released Victory semi-auto pistol in .22 caliber with plinkers in mind. And to serve the current customer or membership base, some shops rent firearms to those groups at a discount or for half the price a regular person coming in off the street would pay. Membership again has privileges.
Rentals for Sale
While some ranges and shooting facilities simply slide rental firearms over to the Used Guns counter and offer them for sale after a period of use, other innovative shops have special sells where they offer their select customers, those who hold plan cards or range memberships, a special discounted price on discontinued rental firearms. Those rental firearms are normally fully inspected and serviced before being sold — or sometimes sold as-is since they are used.
Some enterprising stores have also turned the rental experience into sales. For example, the money paid for renting a pistol for an hour could be deducted from the purchase price if the customer buys the same — or a more expensive — firearm while in the store. The thrill from shooting a certain firearm is best capitalized on before that customer leaves the store and the thrill “cools.”
Spread the Word
It’s also important to let customers and their friends and family know that you rent firearms. Threat Dynamics has a huge selection of firearms inside glass cases that are very visible when you enter the store lobby, plus those firearms are marked with prominent red RENTAL wording on the firearm.
Prominently displayed signs about firearms rentals in the store entrance or a front window, plus an up-to-date brochure and website page listing firearms available for rent, can encourage new customers to visit your business. Add marketing efforts to the firearm rental experience and pitch the try-before-you-buy options in store advertising and other promotions.
Again, remember the special occasion days such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, July Fourth and the week between Christmas and New Years are big rental opportunities.