Bryan Stear, '03, shows off his first shot in his recreational shooting range, Shoot Indoors. Stear and his business partner Michael Bergen, '03, arecurrently working to set up a second location. (Courtesy of Bryan Stear)

Alumnus designs and opens shooting range


Bryan Stear, ’03, who completed Lehigh’s five-year joint Arts and Engineering program, used his dual degrees in mechanical engineering and astrophysics to follow his dream of opening his own recreational shooting range in Denver.

Stear attributes much of his success to the Integrated Product Development program directed by professor John B. Ochs.

“The IPD program attracts a diversity of many people’s backgrounds and interests,” Stear said. “It’s their different practices, strengths and expertise that makes an idea fuse together.”

Before his fifth year at Lehigh, Stear had a summer internship with Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. After the internship, he was hired for a full-time position, where he said he explored the design aspect of the engineering workplace.

After three years with Ball Aerospace, Stear was hired by the Buckley Air Force Base, where he practiced program management and data analytics.

“Any science curriculum is data analysis, it’s all part of engineering,” Stear said, “Instead of building bridges, I built spread sheets.”

Stear, however, has also always had a love for shooting.

“Growing up, I always had fun going out with my grandfather and just shooting into the woods or in an open field,” he said.

About a year and a half ago, Stear left the engineering world and devoted all of his energy to his business, Shoot Indoors, which provides a place for the public to enjoy shooting in a controlled environment.

“The client base is extremely local,” Stear said. “It’s similar to a Starbucks, you’re going to go to whatever Starbucks is closest to you.”

After he originally realized the need for a shooting range in his area, Stear said it took about eight years to get a business plan together.

Stear turned to his longtime friend, Lehigh alumnus Michael Bergen, ’03, for help. They had been first-year hall mates in Richards and fraternity brothers. Now, they are Shoot Indoors business partners.

“It was difficult for him to ask his best friend for money, but he believed in (the business) and I believed in him,” Bergen said. “It was his dream. He quit his job to do this, and he made it happen.”

Stear combined his background in mechanical engineering and astrophysics to design a shooting range that would cut about 50 percent of the building costs.

The typical shooting range is set up like a bowling alley, staying parallel throughout, Stear said. However, he created a design in which the walls tapered in and came to a single focal point, similar to a trapezoid.

“I didn’t realize it at the time, but the design was actually what got us our first loan,” Stear said.

This unique design element cut their equipment costs down, and served as a whole new model for shooting ranges.

“Why didn’t we think of that before?” Bergen said. “It’s so simple, just a slight design change.”

Bergen graduated from Lehigh as a business major, and was able to provide input and assistance in the investment and management aspects of Shoot Indoors. Bergen said he stood as the “sounding board for the business side.”

“(Stear) always wanted to have close people that believed in him as his business partners,” Bergen said, “and I can say that I’ve never invested in anything else.”

After he graduated from Lehigh, Bergen spent five years in the Marines, so shooting has always been an aspect of his life. He said, however, that Stear was always more of a firearms enthusiast.

Bergen said Stear had come up with the concept and design of the shooting range, and he simply pushed Stear to get a patent.

Stear is currently working on opening up a second location, to “prove the concept again.” They have plans to use their cutting-edge design to grow and franchise their shooting ranges.

In the future, he wishes to help other people open their own ranges using his patent-pending design and model.

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