Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012 | 2 a.m.
With a glacier-white smile and rapid-fire laugh, Mark Cole greets visitors to his Guns and Ammo Garage, a shooting range where they can travel back to a world of Prohibition-era weapons by firing classic models like the murderous Tommy gun, known, too, as the "Chicago Typewriter."
Guns and Ammo Garage, 5155 S. Dean Martin Drive, has partnered with the Mob Museum in downtown Las Vegas to provide a full mob-related experience. From gunshot to mugshot, the partnership pulls from decades of mob history in Las Vegas and beyond.
“The Vegas Mob Tour,” Guns and Ammo's package with the museum, is the latest in a series of unlikely collaborations for Cole. The garage began as a muffler shop, added ATV accessories and then opened a gun store. Now, after 10 months of building and installing bulletproof glass, the garage has re-emerged as something else.
“Gun store and muffler shop. You don’t see that all the time,” said Cole.
The promotion with the Mob Museum began in October. For $139.95, a customer gets to shoot 16 rounds from a 1911 pistol, 10 rounds from a snub-nose revolver and 50 rounds from a Tommy gun at Guns and Ammo. The deal comes with a T-shirt, hotel pickup and drop off, plus admission to the Mob Museum.
Jonathan Ullman, executive director of the Mob Museum, said consumers are looking for options that provide a broad experience. The Mob Museum's partnership with Guns and Ammo, Ullman said, is a way for the museum to offer something unique.
“You have to have that broad reach in a very noisy entertainment market,” he said. “Increasingly, you’re seeing the public look for that fuller, more robust experience.”
Cole said he and his partner, Darby Neagle, always are looking for different angles to reach new people. Neagle takes care of the legal and financial side of the business while Cole manages the gun store and firing range.
Guns and Ammo Garage has become an attraction, luring several hundred visitors each day, Cole said. Among the guests have been actor Nicolas Cage and singer Rihanna.
It’s all about giving the customer a lot of attention and a positive experience, Cole and Neagle agree.
“What it all boils down to in the town is your reviews,” said Neagle. “In this day and age, it takes a customer 30 seconds to get on Yelp and write a bad review. You really have to focus on customer service.”
In Guns and Ammo's case, that means strict safety rules, too. Each customer has an employee with them while they fire the weapons and is required to wear ear and eye protection through the duration of the session.
First, the customers are nervous, then excited. Then, once the adrenaline bubbles up within them as they fire a variety of weapons, they’re happy and smile.
Guns and Ammo Garage is one of more than half a dozen new gun ranges to open in 2012 in Las Vegas, prompting Cole to dub the town “Machine Gun City.”
The appeal of Las Vegas for many is to experience activities they can’t — or don’t dare to — back home.
“If you live in London, you’ve never touched a gun of any sort because of the gun-control laws,” Neagle said.
The gun range caters mainly to out-of-town, first-time shooters, Cole said — people who are funneled in by a variety of print, billboard and Internet advertising.
Others are pulled in by different means. Rachelle Loader, 56, said she was brought to Guns and Ammo Garage by her husband, an avid shooter.
As much as her husband might have liked her to, Rachelle Loader probably didn't warm to the weaponry. She was tentative and flinched each time she fired.
“It was loud,” she said.
She said she was glad she fired a handgun, but she didn’t want to continue on with her package.
“I can’t say I would do it again,” she said.
But many others who pile their way into the range enjoy the experience, something Cole, Neagle and the Mob Museum will bank on.