When you feel the need, take a shot at roadside gun rental

Out of the Woods

Posted: Sunday, July 29, 2001

Just when I thought I had heard all the great business ideas, the obvious one, the one I should have thought of, came my way. Imagine you are a retired farmer or car salesman from the Midwest on your vacation trip to Alaska. You are planning to drive through Canada. You already know you can't carry a handgun through Canada, but now you need a permit to carry a rifle. What is it with those guys? You feel the need of a firearm while vacationing in Alaska. What can you do?

An enterprising vacationer from Indiana named Father Allway (I'm pretty sure he made that up) shared with me that although he doesn't personally feel the need, he sympathizes with those who do and has an idea for relief. He suggests roadside gun rentals in Alaska. I'm always on the alert for a good business idea, so I took the time to hack out some basics with him. Then I called a couple of people with knowledge of firearms to see just how possible the business is. They humored me and answered my questions, but before I go on, I should tell you that both my consultants thought it was a stupid idea.

A lot of people in Alaska feel the need of a firearm for work and play in the great outdoors. Why should our visitors be any different? I am sure some of our independent travelers would sleep much better in cabin, camp or camper with a high caliber something near at hand. (I asked Father Allway, what about a baseball bat? No, no, he said, they want a gun.)

My vision is the first available turnout on the highway after entering Alaska from Canada being the home of Alaska Gun-O-Rama, or perhaps, Take a Shot, I haven't decided on the name yet. As soon as you clear customs, you follow Burma Shave style signs that alert you to the turnoff with "Ready, Aim and Fire!" There is a very sensible seven-day waiting period before renters can hit the road with their firearms of choice and I intend to make the most of it. Gun safety courses will run continuously along with wildlife education workshops at the campground, cinema, miniature golf and pizza garden. Of course, the Midnight Twilight shooting range will be open 24 hours for practice.

You will love what I want to use for targets at the practice range road signs! Customers can pick a sign they like (Alaska Street, Moose Crossing, Hospital, Mile 247, etc.) then blast it full of holes and take it with them as a souvenir of their trip to Alaska. This will speed things up for them later in their vacation; they won't have to take time finding, shooting up and taking down dusty old real road signs along the way. Heck, I'll even pack and mail their signs home for them.

How much should I charge for all these services? The camping, films, personal trainers, gun rental, ammo, souvenir targets and tee shirts will be easy to figure out, but what is the peace of mind worth? A lot, I bet, so I'll play on that in the marketing. It will take a lot of money to get the business going, so I'm asking Canada for start-up capital. I figure I'll be saving them a ton (a metric ton) of money in not having to run as many searches and seize as many guns from naughty vacationers passing through from the U.S. who feel the need and get busted. I am also applying for a grant from DOT, sort of an advance on all the money they will save on replacing shot up road signs. Hey, I can even use all their "seconds," the signs they spell wrong and can't use. Our visitors would have more fun and pay more for shooting up and taking home Alaska road sign bloopers!

Nita Nettleton can be reached at nitan@alaska.com.

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