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Lynchburg laser tag company heads to San Diego Comic-Con
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Lynchburg laser tag company heads to San Diego Comic-Con

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A local arms dealer is providing 50 Tippman Barracudas to a San Diego convention — except the guns don’t require ammo, just double-A batteries.

Employees of Laser Tag Source, a small Lynchburg-based business, are headed to the Golden State this week to provide 50 laser tag guns and onsite repair at the San Diego Comic-Con.

The convention is 44 years old and has more than 130,000 attend for all things science fiction, fantasy and comic books.

Now, two teams of 25 will face off daily in hour-long firefights at the top floor of the Padres’ baseball stadium, Petco Park.

“Comic-Con actually came to us,” said Kristina Smith, director of marketing and events at Laser Tag Source. “Nerdist Industries contacted us several months ago because we had the equipment they wanted.”

The high-accuracy Tippman will help buttress the sci-fi experience of arenas designed to look like the videogame Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, set to release this fall. But outside of the company’s opportunity to showcase its equipment, Laser Tag Source is a small business tapping into a national market.

With four employees, it boasts an arsenal of about 1,400 guns the company rents out for events and parties. The guns have been used for company team-building events, church and college activities, summer camps and birthday parties. The company’s equipment resides in various corners of the nation, from Carlsbad, California, to Moore, Oklahoma.

“We’ve delivered to all 50 states,” said Tony Smith, vice president of operations and Kristina Smith’s husband.

Located at a small garage connected to a television repair store, a passerby might not notice Laser Tag Source. The company first was launched in 2009 by Mike Kirby, a pastor at Lynchburg Church of God, when he bought 48 laser tag guns for a youth camp.

He decided to rent out the equipment for extra income but only had two or three rentals the first year. The next year, he had one to two per month.

“Now, we ship out 40 to 50 [boxes] a week,” Kirby said.

About a half-dozen boxes arrived at LTS at about 10 a.m. Tuesday, returned from customers per the United Parcel Service. Summer employee Jon Sanders went to work, opening the boxes, unloading equipment and lining the guns adjacently on a table for testing. Then, he packed them in a fresh cardboard box, prepped for shipping for another customer.

“They’re never here all at one time,” Tony Smith said.

Their shelves are lined sparsely with guns — most of the inventory is in the hands of customers across the nation.

“Every month, we order more guns,” Kirby said. “Honestly … my plan is to keep expanding as the market demands it.”

But Kirby said after an appraisal of his competitors, he believes his company is the largest laser tag rental in the nation.

“Our other competitors don’t have near the equipment that we have,” he said.

Their service mostly has sold itself, Kristina Smith said.

“A lot of it was people Googling for laser tag.” Often, equipment will arrive at a city and will stay in that city for six to eight months just through word of mouth.

The Wal-Mart information technology department used the company’s guns for a battle this spring and in previous years.

“Sometimes, people will stand there and say, ‘I’m too good for laser tag,’” Smith said. But when people get a gun in their hands, she added, their competitive spirit comes out.

“I’ve seen moms lose their minds and yell at their kids, ‘You better duck!’”

Contact Jason Ruiter at (434) 385-5524 or jruiter@newsadvance.com.

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