"We have a game that's kind of like bowling, only the ball doesn't come back," says Dan Kananen, the GA Firing Line co-owner and CEO.
Recreational shooting leagues use the 11-lane indoor handgun range inside GA Firing Line, located at the Piedmont Walk Plaza on Canton Road, for competitions and practice. The International Defensive Pistol Association also uses the facility.
The enclosed range is behind two sets of doors and is climate controlled with a system that pulls air from the firing line, drawing gun smoke away from shooters into a filter. It is advised to wash your hands after firing a gun because of possible gunshot residues containing lead.
Customers first enter a large, open retail space when visiting the business.
"We're one of few stores in the area that will work with everybody who walks in the door, whether they know anything about guns or not. We talk with customers and assess their needs," Kananen said.
Glass-faced counters, displaying guns and accessories, line three sides of the room. More handguns and long guns, all semi-automatics except the revolvers, are displayed on walls behind the counters. Semi-automatic means that one pull of the trigger shoots one round. Some magazines hold up to 30 rounds.
Kananen said that buyers fall into three broad categories; defensive guns, collectors, and the largest group, recreational gun owners. He said the biggest growth area is in customizable guns.
Introductory gun safety and use classes are offered at the business; instructors are also store sales persons.
Gedde Wilson, a 22-year-old Pope High School alumnus, provided a briefing on handguns, and in the name of research, a Ruger .22 pistol with a suppressor attached and Wilson's personal Glock pistol were shot in the range.
The .22 is easy to hold and fire, the suppressor works to "silence" the shot and reduce the force of recoil. Kananen said suppressors are sold with additional $200 ATF tax and five- to nine-month wait for required federal background check.
Wilson's Glock has a powerful recoil. For a first-time shooter, the pistol is easy to aim and shoot, but requires a concerted effort to hold the gun when it fires.
The business employs nine full-time and 10 part-time workers covering seven days a week. Kananen, 33, is a retired U.S. Air Force Electronic Warfare Officer who flew missions overseas on C-130 airships. He owns the shop Federal Firearms License, manages employees, does marketing, strategic growth planning and shares facility upkeep with a partner. His plans are to expand services.
Q. What's the best thing about your job?
A. Working with people. We have an awesome group of customers who come in here.
Q. What is the best thing about Northeast Cobb?
A. I live in the area. Northeast Cobb has a lot of people who were born and raised here; it's a tight-knit community.
It just happened that the business my partner and I chose to buy is in Cobb, but, now that I've been doing business in Cobb I know that we have low taxes, good business laws, the traffic is fairly easy, and, we have great support from Cobb police and fire departments.
Having low taxes helps us. We have customers who drive from Fulton where the sales tax is 7 percent to buy a $1,000 gun here because our sales tax is 6 percent.
Q. Why did you choose to open your business in Northeast Cobb?
A. My wife wanted me to quit the Air Force and we decided to live near Atlanta because she is from here.
Q. Why did you pick this kind of business?
A. My partner and I visited three businesses that were for sale, a tire store, a concrete supplier and this place. I always liked working with people and this retail was more attractive to me than the tire shop.
Q. What are some of the services you offer that people may not know about?
A. We offer handgun classes. Full service gunsmithing, we're one out of about five smiths in the metro area. We have an indoor state-of-the-art firing range that is environmentally compliant.
Q. When did you start your business?
A. In October 2010 we bought the existing inventory and rights to the existing customer base and changed the name of the business. It was Ed's Gun and Tackle. Ed Mertimer's son, Ted, still works here as one of two gunsmiths. Ted's been in the trade since his dad opened in 1974.
Q. How did your business get started?
A. I was being recruited as a junior officer by a headhunter and went on an interview at General Electric. I earned an MBA with the Air Force, and my partner and I thought that maybe we can build our own big company.
Q. Do you have advice for anyone who'd like to start a small business in this area?
A. Save cash. It's the absolute number one thing. A small business entrepreneur can never have enough cash on hand. And, select persons of high quality character to work for you because your employees are ultimately your business.
Q. Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know?
A. Tuesday is ladies' day. Range time is free for ladies and additional shooters on the lane are $4 per half-hour; which is half price. The ladies; day has been going on for about five years, Salon Centric beauty supply ladies next door came up with the idea and started it with the previous owner.
We give a $25 range credit with each gun purchased here.
Dan Kananen, co-owner
GA Firing Line
2727 Canton Road, Suite 410