February 7, 2019
Behind the Firing Line: RTSP Randolph
|Welcome to NSSF’s column for firearms range owners, managers and staff. “Behind the Firing Line” works to recognize ranges that have met the stringent requirements necessary to achieve NSSF’s Five-Star rating for excellence and explain how they met specific criteria within the Star-Rating Range Program so that other ranges working to make the grade can discover ideas and guidance for their improvement. For more information on NSSF’s Star-Rating Range Program, visit www.nssf.org.|
|—Zach Snow, NSSF Director, Range Services|
RTSP, Randolph, New Jersey
This northern New Jersey facility opened in 2011. As the state’s first NSSF Five-Star Range, it tripled in size to 35,000 square feet in 2013. The retail store carries a wholesale inventory of nearly a million dollars, with an additional stock of 125 rentals.
The facility has 21, 15- and 25-yard ports. All use electronic retrieval system targets. Calibers are limited to .308 and smaller. The square footage breaks down into a digital simulator room, a large customer waiting area, office spaces, a conference room, classrooms, a shoot house, VIP lounge and a dojo.
Annual memberships start at $400 for handgun only. Handgun and rifle combo memberships begin at $475. Monthly memberships are $40. First responders and military receive special discounts. VIP members have a $2,000 initiation fee, with a $1,500 annual renewal. All memberships receive discounts on rentals and training classes, as well as free lane reservations. Additional benefits are available based on specific membership levels.
Lane rentals walk-in pricing starts are $20 per hour for handguns and $25 per hour for rifles. For an additional $10, a second shooter in the same lane can be added. Handgun rental prices start at $10 per gun per hour. Rifles range from $20 to $35 per hourly session. Guests are required to purchase ammo at RTSP.
The facility employs a staff of 60 full- and part-time employees. RTSP operates seven days a week.
As a Five-Star NSSF range, the facility meets best practices standards for its state-of-the-art design. This ensures a high level of safety and comfort for workers and customers.
I interviewed Fred “Rick” Freidman, CEO and co-owner for this column, examining how this range has become a fixture of the local community in one of the more gun-restrictive states in the country.
Satisfying a Personal Shooting Habit
During 2009, Freidman attended Front Site in Las Vegas, and was hooked. He returned to his home state of New Jersey and started shooting at the only range he had access to, one 70 miles away. His serious shooting habit was impaired by the 140-mile round-trip drive that was often made more than once a week.
“It didn’t take long before I realized that this just wasn’t going to work. I started to talk to the range owner and asked if he wanted to expand to north Jersey. Although the gentleman thought it was a good idea, it was beyond his scope,” said Freidman.
Dispelling Negative Rhetoric
This sent him on a pilgrimage to create a facility near his home. He found a partner with a background in law enforcement in Morris County. The newly formed company negotiated quickly with Randolph Township to open a shooting range. To dispel any negative rhetoric, Freidman promoted safety. He demonstrated how the guns would be stored and safely discharged.
“It proved to me that so many people who don’t like guns have no real idea of the process or the commitment our industry has made to responsible firearm safety and ownership,” he said. “We were fortunate to have the support of local law enforcement and a supportive mayor. Much to my surprise, we obtained our permits with little problem,” he said.
When the range opened, there was a line to get in.
Creating a Community of Shooters
Freidman acknowledged the range has a country club feel. It fits the local demographic comprised of upper-middle-class working and retired professionals.
“Since day one, we have had groups that have a morning shoot on set days of the week. They compete against each other and enjoy the group’s company. It’s amazing how social it can become,” he said.
Over time, the range has also attracted a significant number of police officers and departments that use the facility daily, but one of the surprises Freidman found early on was the significant number of women that filtered into the range.
“Today, we understand how critically our industry’s future rests with women, but in 2013, it was a little bit of a surprise. We quickly adapted our training and events to keep their interest,” he said.
The staff has observed that the women who use the range are dedicated to learning self-defense. Meanwhile, more mature and experienced shooters use the facility for recreation and self-defense.
Training RSOs in Customer Service
Many of the range’s RSOs are retired military or law enforcement. Training the trainers was critical to creating a supportive shooting environment that embraced questions from inexperienced new shooters.
“It’s so easy for experienced shooters to forget how intimidating a range can be. But think of how capable a range officer is to direct the situation. It’s a very different mindset than ‘the customer is always right.’ We have learned to make sure our RSOs are capable of excellent customer service along with safe range control. But, it takes training,” he said.
Making Major Retail Turns
Freidman would be the first to tell you that he never expected his range business to become a retail and employment giant. The retail store has a history of clients who spend over six figures a year.
“You could have knocked me over when we first sold a Cabot 1911 Damascus for $50,000. It now happens more often than you might imagine,” he said.
While the high-end traffic is significant, the working-class plumber and electrician contribute their fair shares as well. Members who work in the trades are also a mainstay of its monthly sales totals.
Instilling Pride in the Shooting Sports
At first, RTSP was founded to fill a personal need. The goal was to provide a safe, fun place to shoot. Over time, the company has created substantial employment, while supporting the long-term growth of the shooting sports — and it did it in a part of the country where changing minds makes a difference.
At the start of 2019, RTSP has opened a similar-sized facility just six miles from the entrance of Manhattan’s Lincoln Tunnel on New Jersey Route 22. The first day was met with excitement and heavy use. Check back in a few months to hear the story of how this exceptional facility opened in the shadow of New York City.