A quiet beginning to 2020 for guns and ammunition sales at Sound of Freedom LLC has gotten a lot louder, its owners say.
The indoor gun range and retail store in Ozark is experiencing year-over-year sales up nearly 50%, says Jane Paul, who co-owns the Ozark-based business with husband, A.G., and their son, Brad.
“We had a normal year starting off,” Jane says. “Once March 15 hit, it was just nuts with people desperate to find a firearm. We had young families coming in that have never even owned a gun, looking for something for protection.
“This time of year is usually a slow time for us. It has not let up at all.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic spread nationally in March, so too did firearms sales, with more than 2.5 million sold that month – over 85% more than March 2019, according to data from research firm Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting. Another 1.8 million guns were sold in April, followed by 1.7 million in May. Both months are more than 70% year-over-year increases.
At Sound of Freedom, A.G. says there was a 10-day period in March where the store sold around 80 guns, which temporarily cleared most of its shelves. Wholesalers have struggled to keep up with firearms and ammunition demands as manufacturing slowed amid COVID-19-related shutdowns, he says.
As a result, Sound of Freedom is currently rationing ammunition.
“It’s just been a struggle to find ammo, to keep the gun rental going and to have ammo for people to shoot when they come in and rent lanes,” he says.
Jane says Sound of Freedom’s growth this year is in all areas of the company, but most notable is gun sales, up 150% from last year. Its three-pronged business plan comprises the 16-lane gun range, retail store and on-site safety classes. This year’s revenue split has been over 75% for the retail store – including guns and ammo sales – around 20% for gun range rentals and 5% for classes, she says, declining to disclose revenue.
Gun demand has extended beyond sales, as firearm rentals are up 30% from 2019, Jane says. The range had a total of 96 lane reservations on a recent Saturday in June.
“It was unheard of that we would have that many people come in and shoot that one day,” she says. “There is an extremely increased demand right now for guns and ammo.”
The growth is part of a national surge during the pandemic. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a firearms trade group, over 2 million Americans became first-time gun owners in the first half of 2020. A record-breaking 80% increase in sales was reported in May compared to 2019, according to the foundation.
The NSSF points to the pandemic and recent protests across the country increasing people’s anxiety, which is fueling gun purchases for protection.
The Second Amendment, which protects the individual’s right to keep and bear arms, served as inspiration for Sound of Freedom’s name. The business has offered annual memberships since opening. The memberships include unlimited shooting and discounts on ammo, targets, gun rentals and classes. Prices are $150 for law enforcement, $250 for individuals, $375 for couples and $425 for families. Members must be at least 18 years old. Nonmembers are charged $15 per hour, per lane.
Membership sits just over 200, Jane says, a number that has remained stable in recent years as President Donald Trump has been in office. That’s down from a peak of 600 members when Barack Obama was president.
A.G. says Trump lessened fear that the government was going to take away people’s guns, which the couple believe contributed to the membership drop.
“When people are afraid that people are going to take away their guns and gun rights, they’re more motivated to come in and buy guns and ammo and practice,” he says.
A new beginning
The Pauls started Sound of Freedom as a career pivot during the Great Recession. A.G. was in the construction industry for around 40 years, while Jane previously owned Interior Fashions LLC, an interior design business.
“We were too young to retire. That was one of the reasons we came up with a different type of business to get into,” she says.
In 2008, A.G. saw a need for an indoor gun range in the Springfield area, beyond a five-lane option that existed in Bass Pro Shops’ lower level. As an avid shooter, he became frustrated by lanes frequently being full, which led him to visit around 40 gun ranges nationally for research to build his own.
By December 2009, the couple purchased land southwest of highways 65 and CC and A.G. began construction on a $1.5 million, 13,000-square-foot facility that Jane designed.
“We worked really hard to be able to have our grand opening on July 4,” A.G. says of the venture’s Independence Day 2010 start. “It just seemed symbolic to be able to do that."
Another reason the Pauls started the business was to have a facility where a customer could take a concealed carry class, walk out to a gun range and qualify – all under one roof. Beginner pistol clinics also are offered on-site.
Don Motley has taught concealed carry classes at Sound of Freedom for around five years. He’s offered private lessons for 20 years though Don Motley Gun Instruction.
“When I was just teaching privately, I used their range for my qualifications,” he says of connecting with the Pauls.
The monthly, eight-hour concealed carry class, which typically draws 25-30 students, is regularly $99. However, Motley says the Pauls frequently offer a deal through Groupon for the class, which lowers the price to around $70.
“They provide the firearm, ammunition and the range, the whole enchilada,” he says.
With a decade under their belts, the Pauls are looking toward the next chapter, but are in no rush to move on or expand operations.
“Our goal is to retire within the next 10 years,” Jane says. “We’re hoping we can find someone to take over the business. At this point, the building has served 100% of our needs. We kind of lucked out.”
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