This week I visited two ranges which I thought were exemplary only to find out both had major kinks in their armor.  It seems almost every range looses sight of the fact the faster I can get people off the range the faster I can then put someone else on the range. The number one priority after safety should be to empty the lane as often as possible. Now they shouldn’t make it uncomfortable, and none did, but when I leave my local range and when I left the two large ones I shot at this week, the wait to depart was far too long. At one the employees were having a pow wow in the back and left only one person watching the counter. There were two groups with three lanes waiting to grab our ID’s, range cards, and leave. It took about 10 minutes of standing there for someone to finally check us out. Last night the guy was oblivious we were even there and again it was two groups and at least three lanes. He was more interested in placing people on a waiting list than getting three lanes cleared. It took between five and ten minutes to depart and he was told three times we were off those lanes.

At one range I thought the fresh air system was top-notch. Boy was I wrong, and how! The air intake off the range was located behind the lane and with every shot we got a face-full of gunsmoke. That night after leaving the range I blew my nose and I’ll save you the details except to say there have been coal miners leaving the mine after a shift who had less color in their nasal discharge!

The target systems at both ranges were state of the art. I did notice both had lanes down. That says to me state of the art doesn’t quite stand the test of time. However both utilized some pretty rudimentary target securing technology. One had the good old staple gun to a piece of cardboard on which a line had been drawn telling the shooter not to put the target higher than the line. The other had a strip of cardboard about six inches in width and some handy-dandy clothespins for holding the target. Flimsy targets floated in the breeze due to no side support. I wonder if clothespins are cheaper than binder clips?

One range, the newest. Had the most asinine rule I have ever seen. They did not allow any equipment outside of your lane. Nothing at the back wall. Someone said the NSSF had suggested this chance so no one is “swept” with the firearm. You mean the same NSSF which created the range video in which several things are wrong? I actually show that video in class and avoid describing the issues since they are small, but they do nag at me every time I see the video. It’s a bad idea to have all your crap in the lane if you have more than one person shooting. We had three people the other night and had a basket with a rental gun and stapler, also in the lane was two guns one in a case and one in a rug, a backpack, and then another shooing bag. It was crowded before we even got into the lane. My belief is the back wall should be for your bag and you can load magazines back there. The firearm never leaves the lane, bring the bag to the firearm. If switching out, do it in the lane. I still like being able to put bags and other things at the back wall or on a table.

One range, a particularly expensive one, used glass doors for the airlock and they are so close together it is nearly impossible to not open both at the same time. It just wasn’t well thought out in design. The doors should have 10′ or more between them IMO to serve as a noise barrier and should be made solid, perhaps with a small window, but not entirely of glass since that does little to abate noise.

The range I was at last night had not really thought about their traffic flow. They required you to check in at the main counter, then watch the safety video and the clerk left the counter unattended to go into the classroom to start the video. Then you returned and filled out the paperwork, they took your license and gave you a sheet of paper for the range. If you needed a rental gun you went to a different part of the store and obtained the firearm. Then you go to the Range Officer (not much safety here) and got a lane. This person has a view of the two ranges, but would have to move up and down to see in each lane from their vantage point. Based upon my observations this person did nothing but administrative duties and never had time to look at the range. It’s a poorly thought out procedure and something I would expect a range in operation for over a year to have figured out by now.

Anyway, I’m a bit disillusioned by these two facilities. It seems even those who spend quite a bit of money do not really think things through fully and end up cutting corners somewhere. I’ve learned one other lesson, before you think a range is all that and a bag of chips be sure to shoot as a patron in the facility. It doesn’t take long to see what’s real and imagined.

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