Business-at-Hand: A look at Pickens County entrepreneurs
“We knew if we made it comfortable and enjoyable for ladies, we’d be on target,” said Carlton Wilson, one of the owners of Appalachian Gun Range, on Highway 515 in south Pickens County.
Opening earlier this year, the range, located in the same building at Appalachian Gun and Pawn, is a combination of classic bare wood with the latest technology for shooters, including advanced video targets projected down the range, in addition to standard paper targets.
Wilson, who owns the business along with wife Cindy, and partners George Weaver, Jr. and his sister Jenni Weaver, said their goal is be sure new shooters and gun owners develop the foundation they need to be safe, confident and comfortable and this will produce better shooters. For more experienced gun owners they offer a number of advanced classes as well as private lessons that will make anyone a better marksman.
In a recent interview/tour, George Weaver, Jr. said the most exciting part of the business as an owner is to see a new gun owner who is literally shaking they are so afraid to shoot and then “it is awesome to see them get comfortable and progress.”
Weaver said this exact scenario happened with his sister, who under Wilson’s instruction moved up quickly from someone who had never shot a handgun to being a very good shot.
Weaver said for all shooters, regular practice is the key. "If you only practice twice a year, you will never be any good," he said.
Cindy Wilson, who runs the store on a daily basis, is the go-to for everything, according to the partners. She is usually the first person customers meet. The owners believe that her presence makes many of the novice women comfortable there.
Ms. Wilson also emphasizes the range as a place to improve your skills.
In the past, most people in Pickens and surrounding counties could "shoot off their back porch,” she said in a follow-up e-mail. “Population growth has stopped much of that. Also, many people who can still shoot on their land see the value of our temperature controlled range as well as the convenience and time saving feature of being able to choose the distance of their target with a tap on the touch screen pad.”
Much of the emphasis at the range is on instruction with their basic pistol classes being the recommended first step. Mr. Wilson said everyone benefits from this and can learn something in the class divided into classroom time and range time.
The class offers shooters the chance to choose from a wide variety of pistols which the range rents. Wilson, who is certified to teach everything from basic classes to special classes on managing active shooter situations, tries to bring a safe, engaging and fun tone to the classes. Wilson, who is also the superintendent of Pickens County schools, obviously comes with a passion for education in general.
He said many people, particularly women, get off to a bad start with shooting sports. Two of the problems he cited are classes taught by former-military or law enforcement officers with a drill sergeant approach. Second, he said the vast majority of women are sold the wrong gun to start with. They are too often given light-weight, small guns which have a horrible recoil and trigger pulls.
He starts students with basic .22 pistols and lets them work up through a variety of calibers as they feel comfortable.
A lot of guys are reluctant to take a class, so they also offer private lessons for someone who feels they know their guns but still wants to be a better marksman.
Aside from introductory classes, the range offers classes relating to carrying a concealed weapon, as well as refresher classes. Lawyer/owner Weaver will add a class on the legal side of self-defense shooting.
The owners are hoping to attract people who may have bought a gun for home defense, shot it a few times and then let it sit for years. These are ideal students for the basic courses to get comfortable handling the weapon or if they were once a good marksman, but just need to practice more often.
Weaver gave the example of someone he knows who had a handgun under his car-seat for years and when he went to shoot it (fortunately in a non-emergency situation) the pistol wouldn’t fire.
Ms. Wilson said the opportunity for their members to drop in makes it very convenient to practice with your firearm. “We have people who stop by on their lunch hour and on their way to and from work just to practice,” she wrote in a follow up e-mail. “These people realize the importance of muscle memory when it comes to handling their firearm.”
Most of the people who come into the range are interested in some aspect of self-defense, though the range features the only 50-yard ranges anywhere in this area, which are popular with hunters and competitive rifle shooters. The tables for these ranges were especially designed to eliminate any vibration for extreme accuracy.
Appalachian Gun Range is seeing a growing number of people every week now, according to Ms. Wilson. They see about half the people on weekends and about half spread out during the week. Oddly, they have found Tuesdays are noticeably the busiest weekday.
Sundays are growing busier as more people learn they are open for afternoon shooting.
And any rainy weekend will see the range packed, Ms. Wilson said.
The owners believe that about 80 percent of their business are people who drive by at some point and see a range, as well as many from out of the area who are here for weddings or work as well as people who were travelling elsewhere and stop for the range, using the rental guns, which includes an AR-15, AK-47, AR-1 and a large array of handguns.
Among their customers have been quite a few people from other countries where guns are illegal who want to shoot for the first time while on vacation. They say people coming to America seek out ranges online ahead-of-time to plan their visit to include shooting and, of course social media photos of them with guns.
The range plans a wide series of theme nights and competitions, like bowling pin night, where shooters have to shoot certain pins and different ladies leagues. They will launch a year-long “top shot” competition in 2019.
The range offers memberships and welcomes the occasional guest passing through who will stop and shoot using their wide selection of rental firearms for the session.
For more information, class schedules see
[See previous Business at Hand stories on the Fainting Goat Vineyard and Kaluna Farm Retreat at the pickensprogress.com e-edition archive.]