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Reno shooting range owner: ‘Go at your own pace’

Sean M. Grady
info@nnbw.biz
As employee Drew Deamicis assists new customers Shima Atabaki and Francesco Pietroforte at the Reno Guns & Range rental counter, company President Debbie Block relaxes with some of her other staff -- (left to right) Don Latham, Steve Flores and Kyle Roberts.
Sean M. Grady/NNBW |

When Debbie Block, president and founder of Reno Guns & Range, went into firearms sales and training in 2008, she had never shot a gun in her life.

Her partners in what then was called U.S. Firearms Academy signed her up for a concealed firearm, or concealed carrying weapon, permit.

For her first handgun, her trainer gave her a .38-caliber revolver.

“I shot one shot out of the revolver, and it scared me to death,” Block recalled. “Never shooting and having that power all of a sudden, it was overwhelming.

“So fast forward five years: I had to go back and do the requalification for my CCW, and I hadn’t really shot that revolver. But I thought I might as well take it out and shoot it.”

The result was much different this time.

“I shot it, and I asked myself, Where did the kick go?’ It was, like, gone,” she said. “You get used to it. After you train, it’s a totally different experience.”

Those two shooting sessions more or less bracketed Block’s introductory years in the shooting world and formed her philosophy on how to interact with her customers.

“Being a new shooter myself, I understand that it’s not always easy, and you just have to go at your own pace,” said Block, who still considers herself a beginner. “You go slow and use the resources that are available, and that’s what we’re here for.”

In 2008, Block took over as sole owner and started plans to expand under its current name. Block runs the facility with the help of her son and general manager — Jordan Slotnick, himself a business owner who has worked with her on a few joint ventures — and a staff of salespeople and training specialists, including a female instructor, who work with all ages and skill levels.

“We are very supportive of women, especially new shooters,” Block said. “We love taking them wherever they want to go.”

Block’s goal: an all-encompassing firearms facility with gun sales and rentals, novice-to-advanced (including women-only) training, shooting supplies and gunsmithing services under a single, albeit very large roof.

The new facility also would house a digital shooting simulator that she had operated under the name MiScenarios.

It was a big task, but one Block had the experience to handle. As the daughter of, in her own words, “a serial entrepreneur,” she had both the family background and her own business knowledge from running a travel agency to draw upon.

Finding RGR’s new home, a 24,226-square-foot building at 2325 Market St. adjacent to Chester’s Reno Harley-Davidson, was the easy part.

Getting the money to create the top-of-the-line shooting facility she envisioned — roughly $6.5 million — took a bit more effort.

Block gives credit to the Greater Nevada Credit Union and the Nevada Small Business Development Center with getting her a Small Business Administration loan.

“Greater Nevada Credit Union and the Small Business Development Center people both took a personal interest in it,” she said. “They could see what we were doing: they could see the quality of work that we put out.”

Nearly two years later, in 2015, RGR moved into its new home, with features including:

Three connected shooting bays — one for the general public and two available for rent — with a total of 20 lanes for handguns, shotguns and rifles (up to .308 caliber) that end at walls of treated rubber. The ventilation systems draws gun smoke away from the shooters.

A bright and spacious retail and rental space, with more than 150 handguns and long guns that shooters can rent for use in the ranges.

A lounge-style special events room with a kitchenette and a direct connection to one of the smaller shooting bays.

Two classrooms with desks and chairs for 25 people each, though they can combine to seat up to 100.

A room for both the digital simulator and non-firearms self-defense training.

And a warehouse-sized space that is used for live-fire training scenarios, in which trainees wear protective gear and use specially modified guns that fire markers instead of bullets.

While the business is open to the public, it also has a three-tiered membership program that provides free range time, store discounts and various services.

The work Block put into setting up and running her business seems to have succeeded.

“Debbie’s got a top-notch setup,” said Doug Nesbit, a road crew supervisor with the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest who has been a customer since before the move.

“I know that for a woman-owned business, things can be difficult, especially with a gun store, but I think she’s doing a remarkable job,” he said.

Having visited shooting ranges across the West, Nesbit said he is impressed with the levels of safety, professionalism and cleanliness that Block has established.