“I’m a capitalist marksman,” said Anthony Colandro, the 58-year-old owner of Gun For Hire at the Woodland Park Gun Range in Passaic County, New Jersey.
But according to Mr. Colandro, his upbringing wasn’t exactly the traditional one that folks think of when they imagine the early years of a “gun nut.”
Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1961, Colandro came from humble beginnings; his father a truck driver and his mother a seamstress. He grew up without any hunters or “traditional” shooting sports enthusiasts in the family. He described his early thoughts on gun ownership as thinking “only bad guys, cops and the military had guns.”
“Then around 1984 one of my friends became a Belleville cop and took me to the range,” Colandro recounted. “I caught the bug.”
From there, a budding enthusiast in his 20’s began fastidious research into the shooting sports.
“Actually, I was pretty good, and being sort of ‘OCD,’ I had to subscribe to gun magazines, you name it. I was reading everything I could find,” Colandro said. “I was influenced heavily by guys like Neal Knox, Colonel Cooper, Elmer Keith Books and Bill Jordan Books.”
From there, he took his passion to the next level, researching first how to become a certified NRA instructor and then eventually getting onto the competition circuit.
Starting a Business
Colandro is nothing if not proud of his work. Describing it as a “six start” destination gun range, a “Disneyland” of sorts for shooting sports enthusiasts. He is not exaggerating. Along with having a 13 port 25-yard and New Jersey’s only public 6-port indoor, 50-yard shooting range, the facility is immaculate. I have visited it personally over the years. Complete with the “largest selection of handguns, rifles and shotguns in various calibers for rent in the Tri-State Area,” a visit here does not disappoint. Currently advertised on the website is a rental of the Barrett .50 Caliber Semi-Automatic – the only place it is available for rent in New Jersey.
Colandro’s favorite gun (we knew you’d ask) effuses his simple, direct personality. When asked, he explains, “I’m a handgun guy. My favorite product is my J-Frame Smith and Wesson with a Tyler T-Grip on it. I own 86 guns and that is my go to. I don’t care about anything else. It is lean and mean – it’s not overcomplicated and I just wanna get the job done.”
Becoming a Gun Rights Personality
As far as the NRA goes, Colandro says, “I am new to the game as a Board Member. But previously I have been to a slew of committee meetings. Gun For Hire is the second largest purchaser of gun training materials from the NRA behind Boy Scouts in America. So, I am glad of all I got to contribute, which included many years on the Education And Training Committee.”
“My guys [at Gun For Hire] do panels – we do test studies and test cases before launching modules. I am extremely honored to be so respected in this regard because I built my business on education and training,” Colandro added.
Colandro also hosts a popular Second Amendment podcast aptly named “Gun for Hire Radio” – the studio of which is actually in his range.
Now, what particular fight is he most proud of? His work with the Association of NJ Rifle And Pistol Clubs (ANJRPC, the state affiliate of the NRA) – which is all-volunteer.
“I am very OCD,” he mentioned again. “When I took over as ANJRPC Treasurer, we had volunteers handling finances, and while we are proud of their dedication and service, we are also very proud we had that reorganized and now our finances are crystal clear and up to date.”
“Our range trustees – led by Kathy Chatterman – they have done so much to improve range facilities up in Highland Lakes,” Colandro added proudly. “A lot of our legislative work when [Chris] Christie was Governor was important. We’re one of the most efficient state-run NRA-affiliate organizations in the Country, we give out scholarships, we are cutting-edge.”
The Path Forward
Colandro sees his business as a model for how Second Amendment enthusiasts can fight back against the mainstream media’s portrayal of our lifestyle. Fourteen miles from Manhattan and 20 miles from woods, Anthony sees his range as a nexus where all types of gun rights enthusiasts can come together to share the sport.
“Forty percent of range clientele is typical gun guy – between 30 and 60. They shoot every Tuesday, NRA members, you know the guy,” he said. “The other 60 percent of the business? Hipsters, millennial, lesbians, gays, from Orthodox and Hassidic Jews to Sikhs to everywhere in between – we don’t discriminate here.”
“If you were to come to my range on a typical Saturday, it would look like a cross between the UN and Noah’s Ark. I have had women say about my employees, ‘Man, I thought they would be fatter with camo,’ and that comes from a 40-year indoctrination by a media narrative openly hostile to our lifestyle. And it is my job to break that narrative,” Colandro said. “I know many of these people coming to try it, they’re not all gonna run and join NRA. But if they leave with a positive view of gun owners, even if they leave and are neutral, that is a win, because I have broken that negative media and anti-gun narrative and shown them we aren’t racist or sexist or misogynist.”