Arkansas is among 25 states without a National Shooting Sports Foundation five-star-rated range. A $10 million development in west Little Rock championed by Brian Martin and Jonathan Lowman would change that.
The friends and ex-military duo hope to take their Rock City Recoil project from drawing board to dirt-turning reality in 2023.
Martin, a former Army sniper, and Lowman, a former Marine rifleman, are making the rounds to raise $1.5 million in private equity to trigger the start of construction of the 14,742-SF indoor facility.
“One of our big focuses is keeping it local,” Lowman said of building the investor group.
“We raised more than $250,000 so far and still have a little ways to go but should be able to close that pretty quickly,” Martin said. “We have meetings all the time, so we’re steadily raising money. We’ve got everything else ready to go.”
The 1.9-acre site is shovel ready after the partners obtained rezoning approval from the city last year. Robert and Ruth Alexander acquired the former residential property at 19909 Cantrell Road for $415,000 in October 2021. With design plans in hand, Martin and Lowman have optioned the land to purchase it from the Alexanders.
The location near the southwest corner of Cantrell Road and Chenal Parkway adjoins the north side of the Bronte Court neighborhood in Chenal Valley. Martin and Lowman went door-to-door to visit with residents about Rock City Recoil.
“We didn’t have any opposition,” Martin said. “One of the neighbors whose house backs up to our property was so pumped he said, ‘I want to build a gate through my back fence to your all’s place.’ It was good to get positive feedback.”
The layout of the gun range will encompass 15 shooting lanes divided between 10 15-yard lanes and five 25-yard lanes.
The soundproofed facility will accommodate firing rounds up to .308 caliber.
The project will house about 3,300 SF of retail space for clothing, firearm accessories, firearms, ammunition, firearm safes, optics, holsters, eye/ear protection and more.
Remaining space will be devoted to a 1,400-SF storage area, an 850-SF members-only lounge/events space, an 800-SF training room, 600-SF office and a 500-SF break room.
The planned hours of operation will be 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on Sunday, supported by a staff of 10-15. The current siteplan reflects 55 paved parking spaces.
Martin traces the start of the project to a Saturday two years ago when he was bouncing around Little Rock-area ranges trying to book some shooting time.
The wheels started turning about a potential business venture as he observed less than stellar customer service and busy activity.
“I started researching the possibilities,” Martin said. “I dug a little further and just saw the market opportunity. This is something you can’t ignore.”
According to statistics compiled by the Rand Corp. in 2020, Arkansas is home to the sixth-highest gun-owning population in the nation: 57.2%.
The pairing of the two Little Rock Christian High School grads and their backgrounds made for a natural team to pursue a top-grade shooting range.
“I love to shoot and have a background in retail, management and the military,” Martin said. “A perfect storm came together with my best buddy since high school and his experience in the Marines and starting a business.”
Martin and Lowman aspire to achieve a five-star rating for Rock City Recoil from the National Shooting Sports Foundation in Newtown, Connecticut. According to the NSSF, that gold standard rating is based on the group’s vision “of a safe, well-managed, customer-oriented facility that is a strong promoter in the recreational shooting sports market” and a focus on “advancing best business practices.”
“Training is essentially the crux of our business,” Lowman said. “We want to cater to everyone and make them feel comfortable and have a good experience. That’s the goal.”