|Business profile: Sure Shot gun range, keeping a revolving interest in community|
|June 24, 2016 Frank Marquez|
Rich Schank and his son Kristian Schank stand in one of the stalls of their gun range, Sure Shot. The target is one they use for a Halloween shooting event. Frank Marquez/Gering Citizen
After the few months’ process of working with the Gering City Council on rezoning, owner Rich Schank opened the doors to Sure Shot gun range three years ago this August. At a prominent location in Gering, it stands on 10th Street across from the Gering Civic Center, and about a block from Monument Inn and Suites, where a lot of his walk-in customers stay.
“People staying at the hotel wander over. We had a guy from Denmark, who rented one of our guns, shot, and went home wearing one of our T-shirts.” Schank said, many of them don’t have access to arms in their home country, adding the range has had visitors from South Africa, Australia, Israel and Germany, to name a few. “There was a small language barrier,” but staff was able to work past that and assisted him with a video recording of his shooting experience, which he sent back to his friends in Denmark. “We don’t realize how lucky we are with our freedoms,” said Schank, referring to the Second Amendment, which grants private citizens the right to bear arms. “We don’t know how much of an impression we really make, but they leave here smiling.”
Walking into the Sure Shot gun range is a little bit like walking into a museum. The shop is decorated with numerous wood sculptures donated by State Patrol dispatcher John McClellan Sr. A stuffed goose hangs in the window. Neatly folded T-shirts and paraphernalia line the counter behind the register. Hanging in the back of the shop is a Horseshoe Bend Rifle/Pistol Club jacket, once owned by a gentleman from Douglas, Wyoming, who by happenstance, stopped by the shop and recognized it. Two mannequin dolls dressed in western garb sit in barber chairs brought over from the adjoining pawn shop, which is now closed. “Somebody decided the dolls just needed to be there,” Schank said. “We wanted the shop to look as rustic we could.”
During open shooting, “anyone can come. You don’t have to be a member as long as you’re willing to fill out a form to answer some basic questions about your background, and you have a valid I.D.,” Schank said. Since owning the shop, Schank said there have been about to 1,600 people who have registered. That means they have shot at least one time at the range. The shop has weapons for rent, ammo for purchase, and 30 different targets to choose from, but patrons are welcome to bring their own guns and bullets, which they often do. The shop also recycles paper targets, brass, and lead.
Using guns wasn’t always an accepted practice in his family; his wife never liked for him to take their kids hunting, and wanted to keep all their guns locked up. She turned away from using them, until the day she told him she needed to learn how to shoot for her own protection. Now with a carry and conceal permit, tucked away in her holster, she carries a purple-pink tinted handgun, one of four she now owns. Schank said while they were growing up, taking his kids out hunting was a good bonding experience, but most importantly he said was teaching them about gun safety. “If you own a gun and if you carry concealed, know how to use it properly,” Schank said. “It’s the hands that make the difference.” In several courses at Sure Shot, instructors teach how to correctly holster a gun or piece. “It still comes down to the person holding it, and teaching gun owners to be good gun owners.”
Schank said, “We’re not a gun store.” That would have required more time and staff. Schank also runs a roofing company and has precious little time to manage sensitive merchandise. Previously, Sure Shot was a gun store, connected to a pawn shop to its south. Both businesses were run by the same owner, the late John Hughes. Aside from serving as a gun range, there is a lot more than gun safety and carry and conceal classes. Basic pistol courses are offered several times a year with class sizes limited to eight students, the number of stalls on the range.
On the second Thursday of every month, the shop also hosts Christian Men’s fellowship gatherings, about 25 people from eight to nine different churches meeting every time.
The Sidney and Scottsbluff chapters of the Well-Armed Women club, an organization sponsored by the National Rifle Association, also meet at Sure Shot. A range of activities include open houses, and birthday parties at which kids learn to shoot. Sure Shot also makes the most of holidays, with a Zombie Shoot on Halloween. And what else but a Turkey Shoot for Thanksgiving. For Christmas, the staff strings green and red light bulbs, making challenging targets out of the lights.
Aside from some local business running their own employee leagues as a bonding experience, there are competitions in the winter, with three leagues running concurrently on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday starting in August. Leagues named Revolver, the 50-Foot Bullseye, and Couples, cater to varying degrees of interest in firearms. “The revolver league is laidback,” Schank said. “For the bullseye, record keeping is very important. And in the couples’ league, a lot of them will buy new weapons and bring them out.”
On the last weekend in April, the gun range hosted a two-day tournament called a Showdown Throw Down, a friendly competition between police officers and civilian gun aficionados.
The contest helps law enforcement organizations to raise money for Shop with a Cop, a program started in 2015. Last December, local police took about 30 underprivileged kids shopping for toys.
At another big event, from March 1 to May 30 this past year, 10 west Nebraska shooters qualified at Sure Shot (on one of four ranges in Nebraska) for American Marksman, a reality TV show which airs on the Outdoor Channel based in Denver, Colorado. “There were several competitors who shot more than once at our range to qualify,” Schank said.
Local qualifiers from Sure Shot will move on to the regional competition to be held at the Heartland Public Shooting Park in Grand Island on August 27. The competition, which includes about 130 shooters from North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, and Kansas, is divided up into men, women, law enforcement or military, and juniors (ages 12 to 16).
For more information about Sure Shot, visit www.sureshotgunrangegering.com or call 308-633-2723.
Frank Marquez/Gering Citizen Two mannequin dolls sit in barber chairs as part of the decor at Sure Shot gun range in Gering.