On a recent weekday afternoon, as rush hour traffic was heating up outside on U.S. 19, four customers were firing at targets on the shooting range inside Shoot Straight Clearwater. Six more were perusing the store.
"I'm looking for a new toy,'' said customer Michael Sturm, 26, of St. Petersburg. "Today it's just window shopping, but I have come in and used the range. It's a great stress reliever.''
It has been nearly six months since Scott and Laura Patrick opened the business on the former site of Knight Shooting Sports.
They're also partners in a Hillsborough County location. They had been wanting to open a store in Pinellas County. Last year, when they heard Knight's had closed, they bought the building and renovated the interior.
Although the Patricks didn't want to disclose financial figures, they confirmed that they have found success at the Pinellas location.
"On a Saturday, for example, we see hundreds of customers come through,'' said Laura Patrick, 48.
In the shop, one of the top-selling guns is a .380 semiautomatic handgun. At the moment, it seems the hottest gun is the Smith & Wesson Shield, a tiny gun that retails for about $500, according to Scott Patrick.
Along with Bill Jackson's Sporting Goods, Shoot Straight Clearwater is one of the only places in mid-Pinellas County where gun enthusiasts can hone their skills at an indoor range.
Customers include hunting enthusiasts, law enforcement employees using the range for target practice, gun collectors, and adults wanting to purchase a gun for safety.
Customers buying their first gun seem to have common traits, said Scott, 50.
"We get a lot of new customers who come in and say, 'I feel like I need a gun in the house now and I need to learn about them,' " he said.
"We've learned we need to spend time with these types of customers. You need to educate them and expect they'll come in four to six times before a purchase.''
Although both Scott and Laura have gained expertise since becoming involved in the industry several years ago, when they first began their relationship, Laura had a few things to learn, recalled Scott.
"I remember she asked me, is there a reason why you have three guns in the house?'' Scott said.
Laura says she's much more knowledgeable now. "It's like shoes in your wardrobe. You wear different shoes for different things. It's the same with guns,'' she said.
Scott credits his firearms knowledge to his 10 years in the military.
When asked what he considers the toughest challenge in owning the business, he answered quickly.
"We are always working hard to make sure that we keep guns out of the hands of bad people,'' he said. "Obviously that is something that we must deal with, and if we get wind that someone is trying to get around any of the gun rules, we will shut the sale down right away.''