4 Hidden Benefits of Target Cameras


About 10 years ago, there was a very large lawsuit between Apple and Samsung over the patent rights to use “finger gestures” to control the pinch-to-zoom feature of a smartphone screen. Since pretty much everyone in the world knew how to use the same finger gestures to control their phones, whoever owned the rights to them stood to make a lot of money on licensing deals.

Apple filed a case in the U.S. and won a $1 billion settlement, then Samsung filed cases in Asia and Europe and won the money back in settlements of their own. This went on for years with billions of dollars in settlements claimed between them. Customers didn’t care who won the money as long as they could still use the same intuitive finger gestures to control every smart device they owned.

Essentially, the world wanted the gestures democratized and standardized to make using the devices amazingly easy to the point where it becomes intuitive even on unfamiliar models.

Connection To Our Industry

So why does this history matter to the shooting sports industry? Because as a result of the lawsuits, the gestures have become standardized to the point you can now intuitively control a shooting range target camera by using those same finger gestures on a tablet display. 

Can’t see the .22-caliber holes in your target? Zoom in on the bull’s-eye. Want to mark the holes for your first grouping? Zoom in and touch them. Want to indicate your hits so they don’t get confused with your partner’s? Zoom and mark them with a unique color.

The target cameras themselves have been on the market for a few years now and SI covered the technology in the August 2022 issue (“Cool New Range Tech” by Carolee Anita Boyles). What’s interesting now is the early adopters are seeing hidden benefits they did not expect — or at least didn’t realize how beneficial they would prove to be. 

Our Shoot Indoors range franchises started adding these target cameras to every lane about two years ago, and after tens of thousands of shooting sessions, we’ve learned about a few unique hidden benefits worth mentioning.

1. Easy To Install, Easy To Impress

First off, if a $900 camera (or any device actually) can help generate multiple 5-star google reviews, buy it. Here are some actual reviews from one of our franchises:

“I really appreciate the camera and monitor aspect so I can easily see how I’m doing even downrange. This makes it much easier to correct my sighting on my rifles or my technique on my handguns.”

“Awesome experience! The staff was great, the target camera was cool.”

“… the best part was the cameras focused on the targets, no more bringing the targets up close to see where you’re grouping.”

Adding these cameras to shooting lanes is so easy now we’ve been able to fully outfit a 10-lane range in less than five hours with two employees and a drill. Some of the newer models are even powered over the ethernet cable so you’re only running one line to each lane (no extra power cord). If you have an older facility, upgrading your lanes to these cameras will immediately make your range feel high-tech. If you’re building a new facility, I would even prioritize these cameras above any advanced retriever systems.

For the same costs, an economy-level target retriever plus these cameras will make you stand out more than just a touchscreen retriever with no lane cameras. Spend the money where it will make you money.

2. Less Time On Lanes

Secondly, shooters using these cameras don’t spend as much time on the lanes themselves. At first glance this might seem like a negative outcome, but in actuality, it’s quite the opposite. 

If I told you a shooter would spend 20% less time on the lane while shooting the same amount of ammo and had the same great time, it would mean you can either sell more ammo in that “bonus time” or send more people through the range on a busy Saturday. What’s actually happening is the customers are busy shooting, not busy retrieving targets.

Remember the cameras can zoom, so the retriever isn’t moving anymore. If you can magically increase your range throughput by 20%, you may have just run an additional 40 customers through the range that day. They enjoyed the reduced wait time and you enjoyed the extra profit. By the way, one day of success like this probably paid for one camera system. A one-day return on investment is pretty good any day.

3. 10 Lanes Match 12

The third benefit worth mentioning is related to the second, but is a bit more nuanced. If a 10-lane range can now match the throughput of a 12-lane range (just by leveraging some simple target cameras), you don’t need to build out those extra two lanes. 

For the real estate buffs out there, a two-lane reduction probably shaved 700 sq. ft. off your building footprint. At today’s inflated construction costs, 700 sq. ft. is equivalent to $200,000 in most markets.

So what was the third benefit again? A $10,000 investment in target cameras could save you $200,000 in buildout. If you already have a facility and are thinking of expanding, try these cameras before you knock down a wall.

4. Advertising Potential

The last benefit I want to mention is actually a future benefit. Since these cameras have been installed, multiple people and businesses have asked me about advertising. When the camera’s tablet display is in sleep or screensaver mode, this is a perfect opportunity to display some weekly specials or advertise an upcoming range event.

Most of the tablets are Android-based, so loading marketing images and videos to display (or third-party apps) is extremely easy. If you can deliver thousands of captivated eyeballs to your screen, partner businesses are willing to pay for those spots. Why not have a partner business sponsor the content and cost share?

Bottom Line

We’ve really enjoyed the benefits of these cameras. They’re very easy to install, extremely intuitive to operate (across all age groups), increase range efficiency and garner great customer reviews. I fully expect these cameras to become the standard for modern shooting ranges, and for the naysayers out there, it’s not an invasive or pushy technology. 

If you don’t want to use it, simply push the tablet flat against the lane divider and it stays asleep. Bottom line: You can’t afford not to try these new target cameras.

Click To Read More Shooting Industry April 2023 Issue Now!