Bill's Gun Shop and Range opens in Hudson
John Munson reached all the goals he set for himself: A corner office in the corporate world, manager of over 30 employees but it did not ring true for him.
"First of all, I worked in the corporate world," said Munson, owner of Bill's Gun Shop and Range which opened its third location in Hudson on Saturday. "I thought that was what I wanted to be all my life. Then I realized I wanted to get back to working for myself." After exploring an assortment of avenues, Munson took vacation in October 2002 to attend a Range Development Class.
"Five days into the class, I said 'I can do this,'" said Munson, who started to look for a suitable place. "I made a specific New Year's resolution to find a place on my own."
In June of 2003 he purchased an existing business, Bill's Gun Shop in Robbinsdale, Minn. Munson, a Minnesota native, kept the name of the business which was founded in 1988.
"I went to 33 different banks for financing," said Munson. "It was a challenge. So with the business plan written, I started knocking on doors myself and made it happen."
In May of 2005, Munson purchased a gun shop that in Blaine (Circle Pines), renaming it Bill's Gun Shop and Range North.
"The next two years were extremely difficult," said Munson, who opened Bill's Gun Shop and Range in Hudson, nine and one-half years after he left the corporate world. "I could never go back to that world. My management style is to lead by example. Last week I worked 104 hours getting ready for our opening."
"In 60 days we went from theater to gun range," said Munson, who designed the range. "The city was great to work with as well as the contractors."
"We do so much recreation shooting," said Munson. "Shooting sports are actually a lot of fun. It is relaxing and entertaining. It is no different than golf." For people already active in shooting sports the Hudson location's range offers 24 lanes in two different bays both 25 yards long. The retail store and ranges are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. Security groups, may reserve the lanes, however there is always one bay open to the public.
"We have three private lanes in the back which can be used for small groups, private lessons or law enforcement," said Munson. "They are never open to the public. We also have two, 500-square-foot classrooms."
Everything is state of the art at Bill's Gun Shop and range including the air handling systems. The ranges are negative pressure air systems, powered by two 60-ton units on the roof. Shooters are bathed in air which is pushed into the range behind the shooter and sucked out at the end of the range taking with it all of the residue and odor from shooting.
The back stop in each bay is made of 125,000 pounds of granulated rubber material. It is four to six feet deep. Customers may use a variety of guns on the ranges as long as the bullets do not travel more than 3,500 feet per second.
"The bullet only goes in to the back stop a few inches," said Munson. "Once a year we recycle the backstop." That involves a specialized "vacuum" which removes all of the lead down to micro-lead fibers (basically dust). The casings are also recycled.
Munson's enthusiasm for his business stems from his youth.
"I just love to shoot and hunt," said Munson. "I was always a shotgun kid. My father was very strict about safety."
"It is more about education," said Munson regarding the retail store and extensive classes offered. The 3,800 square feet of retail space is filled, the walls lined with "long guns," locked glass cases holding hundreds of handguns. "We are not a big box store. We offer a consultive style of sales, helping the customer. No one is on commission."
"We sell every type or have access to it," said Munson. There are two exceptions. They sell no black powder or reloading supplies.
Basically, firearms are identified by manufacturer, then make and model, then caliber. According the Munson there are hundreds and hundreds of combinations of these three basic elements available.
Some enthusiasts like to create their own, starting with a basic type of gun and adding the "furniture (accessories)" they want. Others prefer to buy a package with many features are already included.
They also offer 75 different guns for rental, so customers can try before they buy.
Along with firearms, they sell accessories including optics, cases, holsters, safes, lights and targets to name a few.
Classes are limited to ten people and are taught by trained professionals. They range from Ladies Familiarization Courses to AR15 Rifle Basic Care and Maintenance. They also offer gunsmith services and memberships.
Bill's Gun Shop and Range is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, go to www.billsgs.com or call the Hudson location at (715) 690-1198. The address is 1920 Crestview Drive. However the entrance is off of O'Keefe Road.