Taking aim at new market

Alex Perkins, manager of the Quickshot Shooting Range, shoots an HK UMP40, a popular machine gun.

Renting machine guns to strangers was not part of Alex Perkins’ original career plan, but now that he’s running the new Quickshot shooting range in West Ashley, it’s a regular part of his day.

Perkins, a 30-year-old Charleston entrepreneur, manages Quickshot and helped construct the shooting range, which is located along the busy commercial strip of Sam Rittenberg Boulevard in a former retail mattress store.

It’s the second location for Quickshot, which was established in Atlanta two years ago by Perkins’ younger brother, Tyler. Some ads for the business show the pair hamming it up while holding assault weapons.

“We always shot guns recreationally, growing up,” said Perkins. “We grew up in the South.”

Quickshot lets customers bring their own guns or rent from a selection of pistols, rifles, shotguns and semi-automatic or fully automatic weapons.

“You can’t go just anywhere and shoot a machine gun,” Perkins said. “We saw the need, and we like to shoot.”

Perkins’ brother holds the federal licenses needed to own and rent the automatic weapons. With range time, rental, targets, and eye and ear protection, it costs just under $50 to rent a machine gun for use on the range, but ammunition is extra, and an automatic weapon can go through lots of ammo quickly.

Perkins said the biggest challenge in getting the business up and running was finding a good location and then doing the extensive work needed to soundproof and essentially bulletproof the shooting range.

“It’s soundproofed pretty well,” he said.

See a video demonstration here.

Work started in June and involved poured-concrete walls with a special sound-dampening wrap. The eight-lane range also has an air-changing and filtering system.

“We took a lot of what we learned (at the Atlanta location) and applied it here.”

Perkins has a background in construction, and was hands-on involved n the building retrofitting. He has a background in a number of things, having worked after college in real estate sales and development, construction, biofuel production and the grocery business.

A native of Atlanta, Perkins came to Charleston in 2000 to attend College of Charleston, where he earned an English degree in 2004. Then he returned to Atlanta and worked in real estate, getting into that business during the boom times and getting out just before the crash.

Perkins returned to Charleston in 2007 to work with some friends at Southeast Biodiesel, making bio-fuel from chicken fat for domestic and overseas use. Next, he worked for Whole Foods in the wine and cheese department, where he was a purchaser for the charcuterie.

“Working for them, I got a really good sense of customer service and dealing with people,” Perkins said.

Meanwhile, Perkins’ brother, Tyler, had been running an interior demolition business in Atlanta, and in the fall of 2010 opened the first Quickshot. Perkins helped open the business, then returned to Whole Foods and started looking for a business location in the Charleston area.

He also spent a few months doing house-painting work.

“I just can’t sit around,” Perkins said.

The West Ashley Quickshot opened Sept. 1, and Perkins said the first several days went well. The business plans to offer training and classes and also handles transfers of guns purchased online, which cannot be shipped to buyers’ homes.

“Hopefully, within the next week we’ll be doing concealed carry classes,” Perkins said.

With an abundance of guns available to customers as young as 12 (with a guardian), Perkins said the business always has a range master in the shooting area, which is the only area where guns can be loaded. The staffers carry sidearms, and they can view the area from the front of the store through bulletproof glass.

“Safety is clearly the number one thing,” said Perkins, but he doesn’t expect problems.

“Law-abiding people come here,” he said. “People don’t come here to cause trouble.”

Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.