This upscale range in a high end Waikiki Mall is part of a new type of tourism, a place to allow people from around the world to enjoy the freedoms that we have as Americans to keep and bear arms.
My first intro to the Royal Hawaiian Shooting Club was this poster. Imagine finding something like this in your local mall.
Plaques signed by numerous celebrities demonstrate the high end popularity of rental places like the Royal Hawaiian Shooters Club.
A professional teaching center is part of the atmosphere. Included are several “inert” versions of popular guns to use as teaching aids.
Dean Probyn, shows off his target at the Royal Hawaiian. This boat racer gets to enjoy shooting here in the US in a way he never could in New Zealand.
On a New Kind of Tourism…and Have Shared the Love of Shooting along the Way
By Brian Jensen
I recently visited the Islands of Hawaii, putting some of my hard earned vacation dollars to work. While there, I noticed something unusual in the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center in downtown Waikiki. It was a billboard ad for a shooting range, of all things, where tourists could rent guns and shoot!
Now I’m from California, and a shooting range is the next thing to an adult book store there, so I was pretty surprised to see the ad, much less in an urban shopping center. Since my interest was piqued, I had to wander up to the top floor to see what’s what.
The Setting: Hawaii’s Not-so-gun-friendly atmosphere.
Hawaii is a beautiful paradise and gun crime there is quite low. ( It actually came in dead last, pardon the pun, at 2.8 deaths per 100,000.) Many will argue that this is due to the Island’s isolation from a land border which prevents smuggling, and very strict gun laws. Residents must take a state mandated class, get a clearance / permit from police, and then present this to the gun store just to buy a gun; a process that can take some time. Transporting guns is strictly regulated, and you need to go directly from home to the range and back to home. Getting caught to grab a burger or a snack on the way can land you in trouble with the law.
There is only one public range on Oahu, and with only limited availability. All the other ranges are privately owned, indoor ranges.
But in the midst of all this, remember, this is Hawaii; a playground for millions of tourists from all over the world, many of whom have never even handled a gun, much less fired one. When they come here, they come to a land blessed with the Second Amendment where guns, while somewhat restricted, are still accessible.
The local entrepreneurs recognized the opportunity this presented and ran with it. Why not let people have a taste of the freedom to bear arms and see what it’s like to actually fire a pistol rather than only see it in a movie?
Hawaii in general, and Honolulu in particular, are uniquely positioned to attract those who come to enjoy its vacation industry. I asked Nicholas Haigler, one of the Assistant Managers of the Royal Hawaiian Shooting Club as the range is called, what kinds of customers come into his establishment. He said around 80% are first time shooters. Many are from Japan where the ownership of firearms is banned for almost everyone, and have never even touched a gun. Likewise, people from Australia, New Zealand, or Canada, where gun laws are very restrictive, can shoot something they would have otherwise never gotten a chance to handle. While I was there, I bumped into two women from Germany who were shooting .22’s and having a ball.
Training for All
Someone can’t just come in, check out a gun and start blazing. Nicholas told me everyone gets a safety class and briefing on how to handle the pistols. In addition, they have numerous dummy guns to demonstrate with and use to teach these new shooters. On top of it all, the staff at the Royal Hawaiian Shooting Club are all NRA certified instructors with anywhere from 15-19 years of instructor / shooting experience.
Not only do they put on classes at the club in compliance with their local and state laws for the certification of Hawaiian shooters, but they also host shooting classes and experiences for the interested novice. They even participate in the shooting classes for high school teams in the area. (You heard that right. High schools are still doing marksmanship classes in Hawaii.)
Going from shooting .22’s to big caliber .44’s and others is a favorite choice for visitors. For them, this is a treasure trove of new experiences. Imagine a person from overseas who’s not even allowed to possess anything resembling a gun, getting to see and shoot the gun from “Dirty Harry” – now that’s a story to write home about.
While the Royal Hawaiian Shooting Club facilities are restricted to the guns supplied by the club, they soon hope to open their facility for guns supplied by the shooter. They plan to kick this off with an upcoming shooting tournament that will bring shooters from all over the country. However, being located in the middle of an upscale shopping mall in the center of Waikiki has made this somewhat of a challenge. Nicholas says they’re working through this by educating the surrounding tenants and customers about what they do and the safety precautions they take.
Seeing it for Myself,
So, Mr. Haigler showed me into the range and the first thing I saw was one of the only Handicapped accessible shooting stalls in the state. Inside was Dean Probyn, a race boat driver from New Zealand who’s confined to a wheelchair. Dean was smiling ear to ear after doing some shooting with a Glock 9mm and a CAR-9. He proudly showed off the target he shot using the 9mm AR Carbine. Probyn said he enjoyed the club in Waikiki simply because there really aren’t any ranges of this type in New Zealand, and here he gets a chance to enjoy guns like the Glock and Colt.
In the next section, I saw a 17-lane shooting range that was clean, professionally set up, and that would likely make any range aficionado drool. This is the largest indoor range of its type in Hawaii. Shooters can shoot out to what appeared to be 15 yards, and have choices of pistols and rifles of various calibers.
There are some idiosyncrasies that may seem a little odd to you. Because the range is a rental setup, and because some of their customers have never shot before and may have only a rudimentary understanding of range safety, the guns are all tethered in their booth with the barrels secured so that they point in only one direction, downrange. This prevents the shooter from having too much freedom with the gun and unintentionally “lasering” someone with the muzzle. It also keeps the guns secure right where they are.
Not the Only One:
While the Royal Hawaiian Shooting Club is regarded by many as the nicest rental setup of its kind in the islands, it is by no means the only one. Walking along Kalakaua Avenue in the heart of tourist saturated Waikiki, amongst the street performers and vendors selling their touristy trinkets, were several men with shirts and sandwich boards advertising other ranges. Like any other street advertiser, they were passing out flyers and drumming up business for this new “tourism.”
Royal Hawaiian doesn’t like to advertise in that way because of the professional image they want to project, but they aren’t worried about the competition as their customers keep coming. Even celebrities come to their range to shoot. On a wall by the entrance are many plaques from visiting shooters, including such big names as Shaquille O’Neal.
The trip into this little bit of tourism made me appreciate even the limited amount of second amendment freedoms I enjoy here in CA. As we continue to struggle against infringements of our right to keep and bear arms, we sometimes forget how unique we are as a nation to have the Second Amendment at all.
What I found even more encouraging is that what has also made us great as a nation, our entrepreneurial spirit, is alive and well and plugged into shooting. Gun enthusiasts have found a way to make our firearms freedom a business, and a way to spread a little of the Second Amendment around the world.