By Collin Kelley and Annie Kinnett Nichols
At first glance, you might mistake the reclaimed plumbing supply warehouse for West Midtown’s latest trendy restaurant. There’s an outdoor lounge area with a fantastic view of the skyline, big screen television and food trucks at lunchtime offering up tasty meals. Inside, there’s an array of sleek, colorful clothing and accessories for sale and a helpful young staff, who also happen to be packing heat. As in guns.
This is Stoddard’s Range and Guns, and it’s unlike any gun store or shooting range you’ve ever seen. The airy, bright space feels like a boutique, except the main product line is an extensive array of handguns and rifles. Famed gunsmith Beretta even has its own branded store – one of only five in the country – with a range of clothing, bags, handguns and custom-made, limited edition rifles that cost $30,000.
One thing’s for sure – this ain’t your granddaddy’s shooting range.
Owners Key Baye and Michael Halbreich – who are both attorneys – said they wanted to open a store and shooting range that was welcoming to novices as well as experts. Halbreich said many ranges are unwelcoming to women and those who are newbies when it comes to gun education.
“When I first went to a shooting range, I was treated like an idiot,” Halbreich recalled. “All the ranges I went to were old and dirty. We wanted Stoddard’s to be welcoming and friendly.”
The duo opened the first Stoddard’s – named after Jimmy Stewart’s character in the classic western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance – in Douglasville in 2009. There was some early resistance from the Home Park neighborhood as well as concerns from the city about the new location in such an urban setting, but Halbreich said they “overcame the challenges and got it done.”
At the back of the shop is a “gun bar,” where disabled pistols are on display and handling them is encouraged. It’s almost like a cellphone shop, where you can play with the gadgets and features before you buy. Baye said customers can pick up the guns, see how much they weigh, if the grip is comfortable and have questions answered by the knowledgeable staff.
If you decide to buy a gun, you can have a seat at the comfortable laptop station and fill out all the necessary paperwork for a background check.
What you don’t really notice is the sound of gunfire – the kind that makes you jump whenever someone pulls a trigger – or the accompanying smell of lead that fills the air at most gun ranges. Air filters constantly circulate taking away that tinny smell and taste, while state-of-the-art sound dampening makes sure shoppers and neighbors aren’t being startled by gunfire.
On the range itself, safety is the first priority. Headphones and protective eyewear are required to use one of the 24 lanes in three indoor range rooms. Bullets are captured in a rubber wall trap to be recycled along with spent casings, while adhesive mats remove the lead from your shoes when you exit.
Each lane has a touchscreen computer to run various simulations with the moving targets. Last month, Stoddard’s installed the Atlanta Police Department’s training program and officers will be coming in regularly to practice and for cadets to get their certification.
An Olympian is also practicing at the range, and Baye said parents are bringing in their children who are interested in competitive shooting as well. Head instructor Jack Clemmons said Stoddard’s offers training classes and private instruction as well as firearm cleaning and service.
In the works is the Titantium Room, a special area for members who get perks like special range times, private lessons, invites to parties and events and much more.
Stoddard’s is located at 485 Bishop St., next door to Atlantic Station in West Midtown. For more information about, visit stoddardsguns.com.