Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Choosing a range . . .

How does a new shooter go about finding a place to shoot? In my younger days, I could simply go into my back yard or a near-by wood lot and blast away. Those days are long since gone. So how do you do it?

Well, there is undoubtedly a local shooting community – it might just take a little digging to find it. One great resource are your local police officers. Many shoot competitively to sharpen their work-day shooting skills and they do this at a local range. Gun stores, local clubs like the Izaac Walton League or other conservation groups can point you in the right direction as well. Your shooting instructor (assuming you have taken class recently) will certainly have a location set aside for their class that many times will offer memberships as well.

One resource I am typically leery of is un-managed public shooting ranges. We have a couple of these in my area and they can be a disquieting experience. Not everyone obeys the 4 rules of gun safety. Not everyone goes to the range sober. Not everyone is trustworthy. While I have made very limited use of a range near one of my course locations, I don’t make a habit of it.

What can you expect from a local shooting club? My experience has been that there are lots of friendly people there, all interested in the same sport you are. They folks are a great resource. Most will be willing to lend a hand if you need it, answer questions if you have them and – in many cases – give you the opportunity to try their weapons if you have a mind to.

Managed ranges will typically have a clear set of Range Rules that you will be expected to know. Many times these will be gone over with you either individually or as a group at the beginning of the shooting season by the range’s RSO (Range Safety Officer). Many of these types of ranges are secured requiring either a pin number, lock combination or swipe card to gain entry. These are all good things. It clearly shows the club takes its responsibilities seriously and it provides you a level of comfort that shooters are all starting out with the came clear view the range’s rules and expectations.

Prices will very and dues are usually a two-tiered structure, first for club membership with an additional fee being required as a “range fee”. Shooting ranges require constant attention, supervision and observation. Not to mention additional costs for target stands, steel targets, berm maintenance – all of which make the shooting sports a bit more expensive. I would expect most club fees would be from $50 to $100 per year with and additional $20+ for a range fee. It is also not unusual for additional fees to be required if you decide to enter different shooting competitions (on a per competition basis) at the range as well.

The biggest plus for you joining a recognized shooting club in your area is simply your access to other shooters. I learn each and every time I shoot with a new partner. And they learn from me as well. Clubs bring us all together. Find a club, join and enjoy, a new competitive season is just around the corner!!


  1. Good post!! One of my many stresses when I first starting shooting was trying to find a place to shoot. It is scary to walk into a place with mostly guys(that is changing) and guns and be like, "hi, I want to shoot". I can't speak for all ranges, but my experience has been that the people who work there are very friendly. They generally want to help. Also, safety...if you don't feel safe leave! I went to one indoor range that was breaking every safety rule there is, so we left!

  2. In Missouri our conservation department maintains some public ranges, some if them are free if unsupervised.

    So it might also be worth checking with your state's hunting authority to see if they have anything similar.

  3. Hey There,

    Yep, the DNR supports a number of unsupervised ranges in our area as well. Some of these places get a little iffy, but the available of private, supervised ranges are very hard to come by.

    Thanks for the comment, I appreciate you stopping.