FISH in a Barrel

Shooting galleries are a staple for many FECs worldwide, renowned for their longevity and relatively quick return on investment. Is it time you looked at a shooting gallery for your customers?


The shooting gallery is one of the simplest, most

universal concepts you will find in any funfair or

FEC – there is a set of targets, and the customer

has some kind of ‘gun’ to shoot them with. Their simplicity

is certainly part of the appeal; no language or explanation

is generally required, and people of all ages enjoy the


Has recent history worked against their long-time

appeal though? A series of mass shootings in the US in

recent years has indeed had an impact, says Amusement

Electronics owner Zachary Coxe. He told Global

Amusements & Play that it depends on what region of the

country you are selling to, though. “It has certainly

impacted our industry. I’ve had many negative comments

from people about it; it depends geographically where you

are, to how well it’s accepted. In the western states,

people are fine with it, but places like California are more

stringent and the traditional gun set-up is less appealing

to them.”

Historically, shooting galleries used live ammunition; it’s

only since the late 1950s that the now-familiar beam of

light system has been in use. Zachary’s Amusement

Electronics actually purchased the company that

introduced this system, Taylor Engineering, in the early

1990s. Zachary explained to us that the technology is still

basically the same now: “The mechanism still uses a beam

of light, it’s a little more sophisticated now but the concept

is still the same.

“The only thing you can’t have is direct sunlight on the

gallery, as that means you won’t be able to hit the target.”



The march of technology catches up to all things, however,

and shooting galleries are no exception. But what can you

add to this simplest of game experiences? Zachary’s

company has dabbled in ‘dark rides’ for customers that

have requested it, for example, and that this is an area of

growth for the company: “It certainly is an avenue for

growth; we’ve done some dark rides for customers, and

walkthroughs where people shoot as they go through a

dark house, for example. That kind of product is usually

when a customer has asked us to do it because we

custom-design a lot of product.”

One avenue for adding technology to the gallery would

be to combine the traditional angle with, say, another ride

– which brings us to Universal Space’s innovative Bandit

Express. Kirill Murawski explains: “What we have done is

combined two old concepts to create a new concept –

we have combined a train ride with a shooting gallery. The

players enjoy not only the mechanical aspect of the

shooting gallery, they also get to enjoy the video aspect of

the experience; while the players are moving around the

track they also get to enjoy the train ride. It’s a three-fold

game, with a train, video shooting gallery with mounted

guns, and a mechanical shooting gallery which is on the


The company has borne in mind one of the dilemmas

for4 any FEC contemplating new product – yield, or the

amount of revenue one attraction can generate compared

to the amount of space it occupies. Kirill explains: “New

technology absolutely has to be applied to shooting

galleries mainly because space and its relation to revenue

has become one of the most important parts of creating

an FEC; shooting galleries tend to be quite large. The

relation between what they make and the space they

occupy can work against a shooting gallery. You could have

two or three games in that space instead and they might

each make reasonable money, whereas one attraction in

the area might not make more than the two or three that

could have occupied the space.” Bandit Express can accept

up to eight players at a time, which makes it quite efficient

in this respect – the interest in the product has been

sufficient that the company is exploring this new avenue as

they breathe new life into the shooting gallery. Kirill added:

“This year we will have some other products related to

this category though, which I can’t reveal yet. They are

types of shooting gallery, not necessarily the traditional

kind though; we are exploring that category. It’s the 21st

century, you have to add something to that category to

make it exciting.”



Oldham’s Pan Amusements specialise in shooting galleries

 but most of their business is in export, as General

Manager Paul Adams told Global Amusements & Play.

“Our bread and butter is electronic shooting galleries. The

bulk of our business is export; the English seaside has been

in recession for a long time and the investment just is not

there. Our pieces are not mega-expensive and our

products can last 20, 30 years – there is a shooting gallery

in Cornwall that is 30 years old. They last so long, they

make good money and people stick with them. We have

sold a few more in England this year and we would like to

do more, but we just do not seem to be finding the right

places. Whether the seaside towns don’t want to spend

the money, I do not know – we have been to a few and

you just see cranes and pushers and not much else.”

So what could be holding the UK FEC or attraction back

from the charm, longevity and ROI that a shooting gallery

offers? Zachary Coxe says that his products are paid for in

under two years, with a very long lifespan afterward. He

said: “they do well year after year. It’s a long-term

investment, we have many original Bonanza galleries that

have been in their locations for 30, 40 years.

“Most locations it takes 1-2 years to see a return on

their investment, but they will see a long lifespan for that


Paul Adams concurs, saying: “If you have a fairly busy site,

you’ll get your money back within 12 months. If you then

have that on site for 20 years, that’s 19 years of potential

profit. It’s plug and play, and we are the only shooting

gallery manufacturer to give a two-year guarantee on all

parts. The most difficult thing our customers have to do is

empty the cash box.”


Is it some perceived inflexibility in the product? It shouldn’t

be – they can sit in a skill wall concept comfortably, or as

an FEC centrepiece, and fit in with a redemption setup as

Paul told us: “The products are very flexible, they can work

with coins, tokens, swipe cards, ticket machines… I’m not

sure why shooting galleries have not been pulled along

with the success of redemption.”

Pan’s major success currently is Professor Coggins, a

much more light-hearted-looking gallery that promises fun,

fun and more fun – and its success underlines some of the

changes in the landscape for suppliers like Pan

Amusements. Paul said: “The change from traditional

arcade to the FEC is significant; that’s where the success of

Professor Coggins and the single-player galleries are finding

space, it’s different to everything else they have in the

arcade. It fits in with the skill wall concept as well, we are

developing something for Sega at the moment and it’s all

skill; we feel the way to go is to reinvent older games and

themes. Things go in cycles, people want to do more

hands-on things now.”

For Pan Amusements, the company’s main success in

recent years has been export, though it has not been

entirely plain sailing – Pan certainly felt the effects of the

2008 global downturn as their reach into America

suffered. Paul elaborated: “The US pre-2008 was superb

for us, but after the worldwide economic crisis hit, the

doors just closed; last year we started making inroads back

into that market. In 2002 we turned over $2million in one

year of shooting galleries, and it was rolling along nicely

then in 2007-08, it was as though someone had pulled up

the drawbridge. We still did business, but it slowed down a


Now the big growth area for the company is China, a

collaboration with a major mall developer bearing fruit,

though the US is coming back on track; it seems shooting

galleries and their manufacturers and suppliers have not

gone away, they have just adapted and survived.


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