Slow gun range activity despite record number of gun permits in Minnesota

"You would think because you have an increase of sales, you’d have an increase of range use, but we're not seeing that," the owner of one local gun store told Alpha News.

Photo courtesy of Bill’s Gun Shop and Range

Minnesota sheriffs issued a record number of gun-carry permits last year, yet few are heading to the range.

Earlier this month, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension released data showing that sheriffs issued a total of 106,488 firearm permits in 2021. That’s up 10% compared to 2020, when 96,554 permits were issued.

Bill’s Gun Shop and Range

The owner of Bill’s Gun Shop and Range, John Monson, told Alpha News the retail side is booming but gun lanes have been slow. During the beginning of the pandemic and last year, the business saw a 40% boost of people buying and training. This year, foot traffic has only gone up 25%. Monson said it’s not proportional to the number of people buying firearms.

“You would think because you have an increase of sales, you’d have an increase of range use, but we’re not seeing that. The reason we’re not seeing that is because the cost of ammo and cost of shooting in general is up,” Monson explained.

The influx of millions of new gun owners in the country has spiked the cost of ammunition, according to Monson. He added that gun shops are also struggling to keep up with the high shipping costs.

Due to the slow increase of range usage, Bill’s Gun Shop plans on adding free training seminars this summer to help new gun owners. The business plans to announce more details in April.

“Unfortunately, we’ve seen too many of these first-time buyers go home with their gun in a box and put it in the closet or safe or wherever it may be and not touch it since,” Monson told Alpha News. “Those are the people we want to educate because until you’re confident and comfortable with your firearm it does you no good.”

Monson said during the beginning of COVID-19 there was an influx of new gun buyers in the Asian community. He said after George Floyd’s death, they saw a large number of the black community buying firearms with many of them being women.

“We have a pretty diverse crowd in our area. We see all walks of life. You definitely notice trends. The groups of people that don’t typically come to the shops to buy guns have been coming to the shops to buy guns,” Monson explained.

Stock & Barrel Gun Club

Stock & Barrel Gun Club, located in Chanhassen and Eagan, is also forecasting a slower increase of range activity this year. They expect to see an increase of 5% from last year.  Last year, the business saw a 20% jump and in 2020, the business had a record-breaking year.

Photo courtesy of Stock and Barrel Gun Club

“We’ve seen that a lot of people who are maybe on the fence about firearms, that crowd has tipped over to the pro-gun side of things,” said Kevin Vick, president of Stock & Barrel. “They realize that they’re ultimately responsible for their own safety and we want to make sure that they’re taking the appropriate measures to get the right training, the right guidance on how best to do that.”

Vick added they’re seeing an explosion in female participation in shooting sports. Stock & Barrel offers female-only permit to carry courses and ladies night.

“Our stance is ‘civil liberties are for everyone’ and so we are absolutely thrilled to welcome a lot of new women shooters in the sport. It’s the fastest growing part of business. We’re working really hard to make sure we’re filling that need,” said Vick.