Swedish gun club sees surge in client numbers
Published: 25 Apr 2014 13:41 GMT+02:00
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In a Stockholm suburb, The Target lays claim to a dark basement, the gloom broken only by door stoppers in the shape of giant rats with glowing red eyes. Gun shots and the stand-clear beep sound every 30 seconds.
"People often ask whether the guns are real? Are these airguns or BB guns?" says Thomas Amnebring, manager of The Target, of the 44 Magnums, SIG Sauers, and Glocks that are on offer alongside Walther PPKs and Colt M1911s.
The answer is yes, this is all for real, claims Amnebring. Police and military officers work as The Target's instructors, ensuring the safety of an ever-increasing number of clients here at Stockholm's only commercial and indoor shooting range.
"Ninety-five percent of the people who visit Target have never fired or held a gun before," says Amnebring.
"I didn't even know that they had pistol ranges in Sweden," says Oscar, a recent customer who like many other finds it hard to connect the image of Sweden with shooting ranges.
"The place resembled how I would imagine a Deep South US gun club to look like," he adds. "Tacky furniture, plenty of taxidermy and old rifles hanging on all the walls."
Oscar at the shooting range. Photo: Private
Since The Target was set up in 2007, it has seen an almost four-fold increase in customers. They welcomed 3,000 visitors in their first year of business, a number that reached 15,000 in 2013.
Amnebring says part of the increase is due to security companies signing their staff up for training, but the consumer base is quite diverse. More and more tourists, for example, visit The Target, and Swedish companies bring their clients. There are also employers who offer their staff a trip to The Target as part of team-building exercises.
And there are bachelor parties, also known as stag nights, or svensexa in Swedish.
Some people, however, show up to stress bust.
"Many members have stressful jobs like that of CEOs. They come here to relax, focus on their aim, and clear their head," explains Amnebring.
The number of women who come by to empty a clip has also increased. Last year, 45 percent of the customers were women, up ten percentage points in four years from 35 percent in 2009.
And age appears not to be a barrier. The oldest club member is an 81-year-old man.
Joining a shooting club is a prerequisite to owning a gun in Sweden. Before a person can file a gun ownership licence application with the police, he or she needs to have been a member for at least six months. In Stockholm County alone, the number of applications climbed from 12,051 to 15,974 in just three years.
"It is very strict and hard to get a weapon license in Sweden," points out Amnebring, who says the club has so far helped 90 members get a licence.
For clients like Oscar, however, the shooting range is just about fun.
"There is definitely a bit of an adrenaline rush," he says. "And I dare say many of the people there feel like James Bond when pulling the trigger."