It’s pushing 100 degrees outside when I pull into the parking lot of the Frisco Gun Club in far North Texas. The $9 million, stucco-and-stone shrine to weaponry only opened 10 months earlier, but like bees to honey, it seems like the self-selecting demographic of wealthy, gun-toting Texans, has already found its new hang-out spot. For some in Texas—one of 26 states with a stand-your-ground law, and a growing push to adopt open carry laws—the gun range has replaced the golf course for a mid-afternoon escape from the office. And the Frisco Gun Club, which bills itself as the nation’s largest luxury gun range, is there for them.
Getting out of my car, I spot a purple-shirted 30-something sporting designer wrap-around sunglasses, an expensive haircut, and the corporate tags of upper middle-management walking toward his Land Rover. He clutches his rifle case close to his chest. Judging by the self-satisfied smile across this guy’s face, he looks like another happy customer.
No community really needs 43,000 square-feet of shooting range, retail, and luxury-club amenities. But, damn it: if you can imagine it, we’ll build it in Texas. So a group of investors staked out a spot 11 miles outside of Dallas in the booming exurb of Frisco and got to building. The club features 36 25-yard-long pistol lanes, four 100-yard-long rifle lanes, an upscale café, and a 7,000-square foot retail space. On sale is everything from guns and basic accessories to concealed-carry purses, children’s clothes, and lingerie with built in holsters.
In short, Texas has turned the gun range into not just a country club, but an upscale mall. And at a moment when political commentators are obsessing about Texas’s changing demographics that could eventually turn the state purple, the opening of a gun club is a reminder of another Texas demographic—white, rich, gun-loving—that’s not going anywhere. Instead, they’re working on their aim.
The club’s event coordinator was more than happy to give me a tour of the facility when I first arrived, charmingly pointing out the amenities and championing the club’s weekly Ladies Night (half-off range fees and specialty-cocktails). The club features a VIP membership (a $7,500 initiation fee, plus $200 in monthly dues) that includes access to a cigar lounge, a private bar, and a restaurant headed by Scott Romano, an ex-protégé of Wolfgang Puck. Oh, and don’t forget about the free machine-gun rental on the member’s birthday or the after-hours access to gun lanes via biometric scanner.
You can even host your bachelor party there. For groups of 12 that spend at least $2,500, the club offers a cocktails and competition package. Participants are separated into teams, handed a Glock and a Colt 1911, or the military looking semi-automatic Scar 16s, and set loose to discover who is the better shot, by firing at a target that is rather uncomfortably shaped like a person. Afterward the party is taken to the VIP bar where they throw back lobster corn-dogs, citrus crab cakes, and duck pot stickers.
We visit the on-site gunsmith’s office, peek into the rifle lanes where multiple AR-15s are being used for target shooting, and learn about the classes on offer, including basic safety courses, Concealed Handgun License (CHL) classes, and “tactical” training: Nighttime Engagement and Multiple Target Engagement.
In a place like Frisco, it’s not surprising that there’s enough demand for military-style-tactics-training as a business casual pastime. This is an area that has grown from just 30,000 residents to 140,000 in 14 years, making it one of the country’s fastest-growing cities. Population statistics show that the town is 65 percent white, and that the median family income hovers around $120,000, more than double the national figure. Like a shining example of white flight, the Dallas Cowboys recently broke ground inside the city limits on their new practice facility and headquarters.
The Texas of Frisco, a white exurb community, feels further apart than ever from the new Texas we hear rising up—the more diverse inner cities that supposedly are reaching a demographic tipping point for political power. At a moment when citizens of places like Frisco have reached an almost Pleasantville-ian lifestyle—riding Texas’s recent economic boom—they’re terrified of losing that lifestyle. Illegal immigrants threaten the border, there’s Ebola in Dallas, and Obamacare might come for you. Not to mention the ever-present concern that government is trying to take your guns away (despite NRA ads showing outgoing Governor Rick Perry gunning down targets with ease). Investing in marksmanship is a symbolically potent way to protect that liberty. And Frisco Gun Club makes this chic and fun.
At the end of the tour, I’m asked if it would be possible for the club to see my story before I turn it in, so they can approve what’s published. I politely smile and explain that that’s not how journalism works, but I’m not surprised they asked the question.
Second amendment activists in Texas are clearly winning the messaging war in Texas, but gun-based institutions have good reasons to worry about their images. The press mocked gun advocates who supported a plan by the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commissions to allow alcohol sales at gun shows. Demonstrations by Open Carry activists have freaked people out to the point where even the National Rifle Association called their demonstrations “downright scary.” (A stance the NRA shied away from shortly after.) And the leader of Open Carry Texas recently filmed a segment with the Daily Show that has proponents of stricter gun laws chomping at the bit.
That doesn’t even include the Frisco Gun Club’s own embarrassing safety incident. When the club opened during the holiday season last year, it managed to kick things off with a literal bang. A 20- year-old range worker shot himself while working on a customer’s jammed firearm.
Back at Frisco Gun Club, the interview turns chilly after I refuse the club’s request to pre-approve my piece. I’m bid farewell after I thank them for their time. On my way out I take time to marvel at an all-pink AR-15 dubbed the “Femme Fatale” and a vintage shotgun priced at $38,000.