Carrie Rengers

Businessman compares Rainier Arms Firearms Academy to ‘an exotic super car store’

The new Rainier Arms Firearms Academy has opened in the former Thunderbird Firearms Academy at 2831 N. Greenwich, but it won’t be until this spring that the business is fully operational.

Owner John Hwang says it’s about 60% there.

“It was definitely a bigger project that took more than what we expected,” he says.

Also last year, Hwang, of Auburn, Wash., opened a Wichita warehouse for his Rainier Arms gun distributorship.

So far, Hwang says he’s invested about a quarter million in his firearms academy, much of which was updating the HVAC system.

“We didn’t anticipate that much,” he says. “We just have less money for getting all the inventory and shelving and other things.”

As a result, Hwang says, he had to get the store open “a little bit fast” and capitalize on the holiday shopping season.

“I would have liked to have more time to get everything set up and then open the store.”

However, Hwang says “it was a blessing in disguise” to be able to train workers and get established while having a slower, softer opening.

“We’re still working out all the bugs.”

The store sells firearms in what Hwang calls the tactical realm, such as AR-15 rifles and Glocks.

“People who like really high-end, customized firearms, you can find a lot of those things in our shop,” Hwang says.

“I like to compare it to maybe an exotic super car store.”

That store might sell a Honda Accord along with top-of-the-line cars, but it won’t sell budget vehicles, he says.

“We’re geared toward the enthusiasts.”

Hwang says because his primary business is Rainier Arms, the gun distributorship, he doesn’t need to depend on his new range to make money.

“We wanted to make it affordable.”

Hwang says he studied ranges across the country, which he says vary in price from about $15 to $30 for a one-time visit. He says he wanted to go lower.

A one-time visit is $15, but Hwang says a Liberty membership starts at $17.76.

“You can shoot as much as you want and as often as you want,” he says. “I believe that’s one of the best prices in the country.”

Hwang says he’s also bringing back training to the business so “it’s not just about having a cool gun” but that people can shoot proficiently and be able to defend themselves.

He says it’s all high quality with low prices.

“We feel like that’s a winning combination.”

Carrie Rengers has been a reporter for almost three decades, including 16 years at The Wichita Eagle. Her Have You Heard? column of business scoops runs five days a week in The Eagle. If you have a tip, please e-mail or tweet her or call 316-268-6340.