By: Paige Yowell, Omaha World-Herald
About once a week, groups of about 10 women meet in a southwest Omaha strip mall to beat on off-duty police officers and Bob the dummy for a women’s self-defense class.
But if all goes as planned for Shea Degan and the business that hosts the class, 88 Tactical, such classes by this time next year will be held in a new facility in Sarpy County at the southeast corner of the Interstate 80 and Nebraska Highway 370 interchange that’s expected to cost more than $5 million.
Degan aims to make the location in Sarpy County, along with his five-year-old 88 Tactical curriculum, the model for a franchising operation. “That is what we will be stamping out throughout the United States,” he said.
The company already has interest from potential buyers in Florida, Dallas and Phoenix, he said.
Degan is no stranger to franchising: He is also the founder of Omaha-based security company Signal 88, which he still owns a share in but no longer has a role in operating, and it has about 100 franchises throughout the country.
The new 88 Tactical facility — a 20,000- to 30,000-square-foot facility on a three-acre site — would feature classrooms for its 90 course offerings, a 25-meter indoor shooting range with 20 lanes, cocktail and cigar lounges, and offices.
Five lanes would be dedicated to 270-degree shooting, allowing users to shoot in other directions. “You can have a little more dynamic training in the indoor setting,” said Degan, owner of 88 Tactical.
The facility also would include a retail store selling firearms, tactical and 88 Tactical-branded gear, firearms and ammunition and a gunsmith.
Degan said he hopes to close on the land, which is vacant aside from a model home, next month. He said he expects construction to begin within the next 60 to 90 days, after applying for special use and building permits with the county. He expects to open in eight to 10 months.
Fred Uhe, Sarpy County’s director of community and government relations, said nothing has been submitted to the county and he couldn’t say what approvals would be required. Neighbors of the property include an Omaha Steaks warehouse and a Volvo car dealership.
If approved, the 88 Tactical facility would be one of two new indoor ranges scheduled to open to the public in the Omaha area. Another indoor range, 10 Weapons and Training, plans to open by the end of the year at 8910 Military Road.
Other indoor shooting ranges in the area include the Bullet Hole in La Vista and Take Aim, which opened in 2013 at 3403 Samson Way in Bellevue.
Degan said he’s not fazed by the competition because other businesses do not have the same number of course offerings and 88 Tactical already has established customers in the Omaha area. Degan also owns and operates a 100-yard outdoor shooting range by the same name on 160 acres in Tekamah, Neb., that opened in 2009.
“We’ve got 20 plus individuals with elite law enforcement and military backgrounds who are our instructors … so there’s a huge advantage there,” Degan said. “Plus we’ve been in business for the past five years. We’ve got 3,000 registered students. There’s a lot to having name recognition.”
Degan said he sees growing demand for indoor shooting ranges.
“People are security minded, they’re concerned, they want to be able to protect themselves,” Degan said. The demand for concealed-carry classes is also driven by the state law requiring people to take them, and the business is certified by the state to teach the courses.
He picked the property at Highway 370 and Interstate 80 because of its high visibility and the rapid growth southwest of Omaha. “Our intention is to basically become the Cabela’s of the tactical realm,” he said.
The Tekamah facility hosts the business’ full range of courses plus survival, SWAT team and tactical training for those in the military and in law enforcement, a lodge, a precision rifle range, cabins and underground bunking.
But Degan said the Omaha area needs an indoor shooting range, especially for the winter months, as well as a space to host four- to five-hour classes, such as the women’s primal defense classes.
“This is probably the busiest winter we’ve ever had, so we need to have something where we can control the weather with an indoor shooting range,” Degan said. “There are a lot of differences between an indoor shooting range and outdoor. It’s good to have both.”
The business offers two levels of survival courses at the Tekamah facility, each about 48 hours, where participants learn how to forage for food and build fires, principles of evasion, camouflage techniques and other survival skills. The second level of the course also teaches evasive driving, route planning and land navigation. Those survival courses will remain in Tekamah because of the space needed to conduct the classes, Degan said.
Other classes include a home defense course, where instructors come to a customer’s home and test the security as well as teach techniques to stay safe in a break-in, and anti-bullying and anti-abduction classes for kids.
Prices range from $695 for the second-level survival course to $65 per student for the anti-bullying and anti-abduction courses. The business also teaches a free introduction to handguns course.
For the shooting range, the business would operate with a tiered membership model, but nonmembers would be free to pay per lane.
The 88 Tactical curriculum would be a major part of the franchising effort. The curriculum focuses on a type of defense training trademarked as Reality Behavior-Based Training. It involves role playing to train participants under high duress. In the home defense course, for example, instructors play someone trying to break into the home and participants are trained throughout the experience.
At the women’s primal defense class, an eight-hour class taught in four-hour segments, the curriculum involves watching videos of women being attacked and dissecting what not to do, then practicing moves to harm or evade an attacker on the instructors wearing pads and on a dummy.
Most moves involved hitting or kicking an attacker in the face, eyes, throat or groin.
Elaine Urban and her daughter, Amanda, have taken four classes from 88 Tactical, including an edged weapons class, a concealed-carry class and the women’s primal defense class.
“Some of the things they teach you, you can’t hear enough,” Amanda Urban said. Both said they were excited to use the planned shooting range as well as have a new space for classes.
“What impresses me is the extent of experience these guys have,” Elaine Urban said. “It’s quite a privilege to be taught by this caliber.”
Tricia Watkins purchased the women’s primal defense class for her sister, Lauren Anderson, for Christmas after taking the concealed-carry class from 88 Tactical. Watkins said she no longer has to shop for gifts for her husband, Jeff. She just buys him a class.