A high-end 'guntry club' has Owings Mills in its sights

Standing amid a sea of office cubicles in an Owings Mills office park, Rick Landsman imagines something else: a 25-yard tactical shooting range where police officers chase moving targets to hone their skills.

Down a corridor, conference rooms could become a 360-degree video simulator for firearms training, classrooms and a lecture hall. Still other areas could house a VIP shooting range with a private lounge and personal gun vaults, a cafe, a retail gun shop and workout rooms.

Landsman, a retired Baltimore County police officer, and business partner Brian Wolf, a current officer, recently filed a proposal for The Guntry Club of Maryland, which they describe as a high-end shooting and firearms training facility.

“It’s not just all about guns,” said Landsman, who retired as a lieutenant after 36 years on the county force. “I want to make shooting and training enjoyable.”

The partners expect to spend about $8 million in renovations to turn the 84,000-square-foot, one-story office building on Red Run Boulevard — which used to house a credit card processing firm — into a facility with five shooting ranges and posh amenities.

The proposal requires an adjustment in Baltimore County zoning — last week, County Councilman Julian Jones introduced a bill for the Guntry Club that would add an indoor shooting range as an allowable use in an area with a light manufacturing zoning designation. The bill is specific to the Red Run Employment Corridor, where the Guntry Club project is proposed, as long as it is at least 500 feet from homes “other than a multifamily structure.”

Landsman and Wolf also are partners in Wolf Professional Security, a company that provides security guards and gun training in the Baltimore region. They found that it was difficult and expensive to find facilities to conduct their classes, so about two years ago, they began investigating whether it would be feasible to open their own facility.

Mike Bazinet, spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Federation, said the Guntry Club concept capitalizes on a trend toward higher-end gun ranges and training centers. More people, especially new gun owners, are interested in a classier shooting experience than a utilitarian range with no amenities, he said.

“The smart entrepreneurs realize they are in competition for people’s time and recreational dollars,” Bazinet said.

So shooting ranges are upping their game with facilities that appeal not only to the stereotypical man who enjoys guns, but also to women, families and those with no prior experience with guns, he said.

Almost all new shooting ranges that open have amenities such as comfortable places to sit, training rooms, lunch bars and on-site gunsmiths, Bazinet said. They’re well lit and tastefully decorated, making shooters feel comfortable walking in the door and inspiring them to stay.

Some facilities eschew the guntry club label that Landsman and Wolf are embracing, Bazinet said, fearing that it implies a level of exclusivity or snobbery.

But others like the label, saying the moniker separates the concept from basic shooting ranges.

The Guntry Club will feature a state-of-the-art ventilation system designed to clear firearms smoke and residue.

The idea is similar to one entrepreneurs Michael DeMos and David Ridgway chose for the Maryland Firearms Training Facility, a guntry club that they had hoped to open in Beltsville a couple of years ago. The pair wasn’t able to raise the $8 million to $10 million they needed, so the project failed.

But DeMos, who owns Victory 360 marketing company in Arbutus, still thinks the idea is a sound one. He said he hopes the Guntry Club of Maryland is successful — because he would go there.

“It’s a huge industry,” he said. “It’s amazing how big some of these places are. They are very profitable if they are built in the right place.”

The Guntry Club’s owners think Owings Mills will be a good location, with easy highway access and several hotels nearby. Landsman said his research suggests clients will drive up to 40 minutes to reach a high-quality shooting range and training center.

There are other ranges in the region, including Continental Arms in Lutherville-Timonium, the Carroll County-owned Hap Baker Firearms Facility in Westminster, the Free State Gun Range in Middle River and the outdoor ranges operated by the Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore in Marriottsville.

Landsman and Wolf think their club’s amenities will help it stand out.

The club would be open to members and walk-in customers. Landsman said entry-level membership would start at $100 plus a $40 monthly fee. Memberships for families, businesses and VIPs would be more.

“Right now, we can put our hands on 1,000 people who want to be members,” he said.

The club also would market itself to police departments and security firms that need a place to train and practice.

Landsman and Wolf say they are lining up investors, and they need the County Council to pass the zoning bill.

In Baltimore County, shooting ranges are allowed in various residential, rural, business and manufacturing zones — but normally must be granted a special exception by an administrative judge following a public hearing. Jones’ legislation would allow the Guntry Club to open without needing the special exception.

Jones said he supports the business and crafted the bill so that it only applies to the Guntry Club, and does not open the door to more shooting ranges in other areas.

“The bill is tailored to make sure they could do it there,” said Jones, a Woodstock Democrat. “I got it pinned down as tight as I can, where it will change [only] this location. If someone wanted the same zoning for White Marsh or Towson, they would have to go through a similar process” of requesting legislation.

A public hearing and work session on Jones’ bill is scheduled for Nov. 28, with a council vote tentatively scheduled for Dec. 4.

Most of the Guntry Club building’s neighbors are other office buildings. The nearest homes are townhouses more than 500 feet away, through a wooded area and across the Red Run stream.

Landsman said he hopes that if the legislation is approved and financing is finalized, the Guntry Club can begin renovations on its space shortly after the first of the year.

pwood@baltsun.com

twitter.com/pwoodreporter

Copyright © 2017, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
46°