Tag: outdoor range

Bullet Trap Comparisons, Pt. 2

Building a shooting range can be a daunting task. There are so many different things to consider and decisions to make that it can become a little overwhelming. One issue that seems to confuse potential range owners the most is bullet containment. Without a doubt, bullet containment is the most important aspect of every indoor and outdoor range. Proper containment of fired rounds means safety for your employees and customers, but with so many different types of bullet traps available on the market that promise to do this or that, choosing the right system can be hard. The purpose of this article is to provide accurate information and valuable education by examining various bullet trap theories, technologies, and applications in an objective manner.

The following information represents the views and opinions of Action Target based on our experience and observations. You are encouraged to conduct your own research and speak with other users about their experiences with the various bullet trap technologies presented.

Rubber Lamella Trap

Rubber Lamella Trap 1With this trap, tightly grouped rubber curtains or lamellas are hung from a support structure to create a bullet stopping barrier. As bullets pass through the layers of rubber strips, their energy is dissipated until they come to a stop. A steel plate is mounted at the back of the trap to block rounds that make it through the lamellas.

Because rubber is destroyed every time you shoot into it, the rubber strips are quickly shredded under any kind of moderate to heavy use. One of the most quoted features of rubber traps is that bullets don’t fragment on impact like they do on steel. This is true until bullets start impacting other bullets already embedded in the rubber.

Regardless of the application, the use of a rubber bullet trap introduces a very real fire hazard that must be considered and dealt with appropriately

The benefits of a lamella trap include its small floor space requirement, and the ability to capture some bullets whole.

Weaknesses include high maintenance costs, fire hazard, messy appearance, and the restriction of low volume shooting only.

Vertical Rubber Granule Trap

Vertical Rubber Granule Trap 3Another European design uses a large steel chamber filled with chopped rubber and a penetrable rubber sheet across the front the keep the rubber granules in place.

The trap works the same way a sand berm works, except the sand is replaced by granules of chopped rubber and the face of the trap is vertical. Like the rubber lamella trap, the front skin of the rubber granule trap is permanently damaged each time a bullet is fired into it.

As larger and larger holes are created in the front skin, rubber granules can spill out and large bulges can develop as the structural integrity of the trap is compromised. Regular patching and repair is often required to keep the granules in the chamber.

As the granules settle, areas of dangerously low density can form at the top of the trap causing rounds to pass through the rubber and escape out the back. To clean the trap, bullets must be mined and separated from the rubber then disposed of properly.

The benefits of a vertical rubber granule trap include its small floor space requirement, the ability to capture some bullets whole, and reduced lead dust levels.

Weaknesses include massive ongoing maintenance, service costs, fire hazard, and the restriction of low volume shooting only.

Rubber Block Trap

Rubber Block TrapThe rubber block trap is similar in concept to the rubber granule trap, except the rubber granules are molded together to form a solid object. The rubber blocks are stacked on top of each other to create a wall that serves as the bullet trap. When a bullet is fired into the blocks, it is stopped and stored within the block itself. Like all rubber traps, the blocks are damaged with every shot and large holes can quickly develop, severely limiting the trap’s ability to stop bullets. As the holes get larger, the blocks get weaker and the whole wall tends to collapse under its own weight.

The benefits of a rubber block trap include its small floor space requirement and the ability to capture some bullets whole.

Weaknesses include UV breakdown, significant ongoing maintenance, fire hazard, and structural collapse.

Wet Funnel Trap

Wet Funnel Trap 1The wet funnel trap incorporates gently sloping steel plates that reduce bullet fragmentation on impact. As bullets hit the plates, they are directed to the narrow end of the funnel and enter a deceleration chamber where their energy is dissipated.

While the upper impact plates remain dry, the lower plates are constantly flooded with a water and oil mixture that is intended to lubricate the steel. The water is continually recycled as it flows down the plates and into a holding tank where it is electrically pumped out and again sprayed on to the plates.

On indoor ranges, some wet trap owners report that the increased humidity can leave an oily film on the rest of the range and may cause HEPA filters in the ventilation system to clog. They have also discovered that frangible ammunition can cause problems because the powder created by disintegrating bullets mixes with the water and hardens into a cement-like substance that requires an extremely difficult cleaning process.

It has been recommended to treat the water with chlorine to prevent algae in warm climates, and antifreeze to prevent freezing in colder climates. These substances combine with the water, oil, and lead, and can create a significant hazardous waste problem.

The benefits of a wet funnel trap include the durability of steel, reduced bullet fragmentation, reduced lead dust levels, and the ability to handle larger calibers.

Weaknesses include its higher cost, large floor space requirement, water treatment chemicals, increased humidity, problems with frangible ammunition, maintenance of the electric pumps and filters, and its nonmodular construction.

Vertical Funnel Trap

Vertical Funnel Trap 2Instead of a continuous horizontal funnel, this trap uses a series vertically oriented funnel boxes to gather the bullets. As with a horizontal funnel, bullets are deflected by the impact plates into a deceleration chamber at the back of the trap where they are collected and stored.

The angles of the impact plates are not as severe as a venetian blind or escalator type trap, but they are more severe than other modern steel traps so bullet fragmentation on impact can still be an issue.

As individual chambers are mounted next to each other, vertical edges that run from the top to the bottom of the trap are created. These edges can pose a significant ricochet hazard. Additionally, the individual chamber design prohibits any cross-lane shooting and greatly limits the flexibility and functionality of the trap as a whole.

The benefits of a vertical funnel trap include the durability of steel, easier lead collection, and a smaller floor space requirement.

Weaknesses include bullet fragmentation, no close-range shooting, and no cross-lane shooting.

Rely on the Experts for Help

There are hundreds of things to take into consideration when building a shooting range, but your top priority should always be safety. Before anything else, make sure your range is going to be safe for your customers, your employees, and the environment. If you are considering building a range, talk to the Action Target representative in your region and he will be happy to help you find the right equipment to fit your needs and budget.

Bullet Trap Comparisons, Pt. 1

For many years, bullet trap technology has been mired in confusion, misunderstanding, and misinformation. The various approaches to bullet containment and disposal have become as diverse as they are numerous. The purpose of this article is to provide accurate information and valuable education by examining various bullet trap theories, technologies, and applications in an objective manner.

The following information represents the views and opinions of Action Target based on our experience and observations. You are encouraged to conduct your own research and speak with other users about their experiences with the various bullet trap technologies presented.

Sand Berm

Sand Berm 1The sand or dirt berm is the oldest and most basic type of bullet trap. It uses the mass of the berm itself to stop and store bullets, and on outdoor ranges it can literally be the side of a mountain. On indoor ranges however, some type of structure or barricade is used to support the berm and hold back the sand.

On ranges where qualification or other events where tightly grouped shooting patterns are common, concentrations of lead called hot spots can form behind the targets causing subsequent shots to ricochet and bounce back toward the shooter. In order to recover spent bullets, the berm must be mined and the lead separated out. A certain amount of the sand will be contaminated and must be replenished each time the trap is cleaned. Sand and dirt berms are coming under increasingly harsh environmental scrutiny due to high lead levels in the ground around the trap and the tendency of the lead to seep into surrounding ground water.

The benefits of a sand berm include low cost, relatively low maintenance, and the ability to use any kind of ammunition.

Weaknesses include potential environmental hazards, expensive mining, and hot spot ricochet.

Pit and Plate Trap

Pit and Plate Trap

With this application, a steel plate is used to redirect bullets into a bed of sand. The steel is often called a “smash” plate because the acute angle—in this case, anything greater than 25 degrees—causes bullets to smash into small pieces on impact before they are scattered on the sand below.

Because the lead fragments rest mostly on top of the sand, this trap must be cleaned frequently by mining the lead from the sand and disposing of it properly. Under moderate to heavy use, a thick lead build-up can develop in the back corner of the trap causing bullets to be deflected back toward the shooter.

The benefits of a pit and plate trap include lower initial cost and simple installation.

Weaknesses include bullet fragmentation on impact, lead build-up, ricochet, and high maintenance.

Water and Plate Trap

Water and Plate Trap

The water and plate trap is similar to the pit and plate trap, except the sand is replaced by a large trough of water. Bullets still fragment into small pieces after impacting the smash plate, but with this system, they splash into the water and sink to the bottom of the trough. To retrieve the lead, you must shovel or scoop it from the water and dispose of it properly. The water in the trough must be replenished due to evaporation, and the evaporation can cause increased humidity on your range and problems with your ventilation system.

The benefits of a water and plate trap include lower lead dust levels and no ricochet off other bullets.

Weaknesses include bullet fragmentation on impact, maintenance of the water, and the limitation to indoor use only.

Venetian Blind Trap

Venetian Blind Trap 1

This older application uses a series of angled steel smash plates to redirect bullets to the back and bottom of the trap. Some versions of this trap have the smash plates mounted loosely to help absorb some of the bullets’ energy, but the acute angle of the plates can still cause significant fragmentation. To keep bullet splatter from bouncing back at the shooter, rubber curtains are often mounted across the entire face of the trap.

Because rubber is destroyed every time you shoot into it, these curtains must be replaced or patched frequently to maintain their effectiveness.

The benefits of a venetian blind trap include the durability of steel, no sand or granules, and a small floor space requirement.

Weaknesses include bullet fragmentation on impact, splatter and ricochet, no close-range shooting, and maintenance of the rubber curtains.

Escalator Trap

Escalator Trap 2

This is another old-fashioned steel trap that uses steeply angled smash plates to stop bullets and direct the fragments to an open collection area. Some manufacturers recommend that the impact plates be coated with oil to provide lubrication and reduce fragmentation. This oil can be washed away into the surrounding soil if the trap is not protected from the elements in outdoor applications.

The same system of protective rubber curtains may also be necessary with this trap due to the acute angle of its steel smash plates.

The benefits of an escalator trap include the durability of steel and no sand or rubber granules.

Weaknesses include bullet fragmentation on impact, no close-range shooting, maintenance of the rubber curtains, and poor lead storage and collection.

Rely on the Experts for Help

There are hundreds of things to take into consideration when building a shooting range, but your top priority should always be safety. Before anything else, make sure your range is going to be safe for your customers, your employees, and the environment. If you are considering building a range, talk to the Action Target representative in your region and he will be happy to help you find the right equipment to fit your needs and budget.

 

Three Keys to Getting Your Shooting Range Approved

In the process of building a shooting range, perhaps the most intimidating part is getting it approved by your local government. Even after you’ve done all the work, raised all the money, and planned everything out, the final say still comes down to a handful of elected officials. Don’t let that make you feel powerless, though. Even if the ultimate decision is in someone else’s hands, there are still things you can do to increase your chances of success.

1) Talk to the Right People

Your local government officials need to know as soon as possible that you’re planning to build a shooting range. They’ll appreciate it if you inform them early and often of your intentions, and that communication can open doors for you later on. You’ll have a much better chance of getting your range approved if you’ve established a relationship with local leaders from the beginning.

Early communication will also help you figure out zoning issues. In most cases, land has to be zoned as either commercial or industrial for a shooting range to be built on it. Find out first thing if the land you’re looking at is zoned appropriately. Zoning requirements for building a shooting range vary depending on where you live, and some places may not even have specific guidelines for ranges. Your local officials will have the most accurate information and can help you understand the requirements. Should you discover that the land you plan to build on is not zoned appropriately for a shooting range, ask the planning and zoning committee if it can be re-zoned. Often, city governments are willing to work with local businesses on zoning issues to keep potential commerce from going elsewhere.

2) Educate Yourself

AT Builds Indoor Firing Range for OrlandoThe more you know about what’s required to get your range approved, the better. Become familiar with local noise and firearms regulations as well as environmental restrictions that will apply to your shooting range. How will you handle noise abatement? How will you dispose of lead? How will you keep customers and employees safe? All of these issues will come up when presenting to the city council. If you already know what their concerns are by asking questions and doing research, you can adequately prepare to answer them.

Once you know what standards you’re shooting range will be required to meet, talk to an Action Target territory manager to find out what options are available. Action Target specializes in building state-of-the-art shooting ranges and offers several technologies to meet the stringent requirements of government regulations. For example, Action Target’s Total Containment Trap (TCT) is the most environmentally-friendly bullet trap in the industry and makes lead containment safe and easy. With the addition of a Screw Conveyor System (SCS), all bullets and range debris are safely collected and deposited into a sealed barrel for convenient disposal. Action Target also provides sound-abating safety baffles, acoustically-rated wall systems that reduce reverberation by 98%, bullet-proof transparent lane dividers, and ventilation systems that filter air and protect customers from lead exposure. No matter what regulation your shooting range is under, chances are Action Target has a patented technology to meet it.

3) Prepare to Present

Once you’ve talked to your local government officials and learned everything you need to know about regulations and restrictions, all that’s left to do is present your plan to the city council. For those inexperienced in public speaking, this may be the scariest part of the whole process. To make the experience smoother, ask a city council member in advance what information they want from you, write down a list of questions they may ask you, and prepare all of your answers ahead of time so you don’t forget in the heat of the moment.

If you feel like you need additional backup, Action Target representatives are more than willing to attend the city council meeting with you no matter where you live. That way you can have a shooting range expert standing next to you to answer any questions about the technology and safety features of your future range.

The sales team at Action Target is willing to do whatever it can to make the approval process as seamless and successful as possible for you. If you have any questions or concerns about getting your shooting range approved, call Action Target at (801) 377-8033 and ask to speak with your area representative.

And be sure to check out our Build Your Range tool by clicking here.

Please note, the tips included in this message have been found to be helpful for many clients throughout the years, but may not apply in all situations. Please use judgment in determining which tips will be helpful in your particular situation.

This article was originally published in the Action Target Journal on June 14, 2012.

Myths About Rubber Berm Traps: Part II

As we discussed in the first part of this article, rubber berms are a fantastic way to contain rounds on ranges that see limited use, but they aren’t perfect in every circumstance. Rubber berms have their limitations no matter what you may read. If you are considering installing a rubber berm on your indoor or outdoor range, make sure you have a clear understanding of the facts about what rubber berm are realistically capable of handling. Here are three more myths you may encounter in your research of rubber berm technology.

CLAIM #4: Rubber berm traps are easy to clean. You can even do it yourself with a special vacuum or with doors on the back of the trap.

When too many bullets are suspended in the trap for it to function safely, they should be mined from the rubber and disposed of properly. Some early claims stated that a million rounds per lane could be fired before cleaning was required, but our real-world experience and documented accounts reveal that a rubber berm trap should be cleaned after about 80,000 rounds per lane.

The process of separating the lead from the rubber can be a very specialized and time-consuming task. The top 8 to 12 inches of rubber are typically taken off the entire trap and then separated to remove the bullet fragments. The lead fragments can be classified as a recyclable material, but may require complicated permits to transport and dispose of legally. After the lead has been properly dealt with, the remaining rubber is placed back on the trap. Even with the best industrial equipment, it can take an experienced crew nearly seven full days to clean a 20 lane trap. Because of the extensive lead exposure inherent in the process, everyone involved should be outfitted with the proper safety equipment including complete hazardous-material suits and certified respirators.

Another claim states that bullets will travel all the way through the rubber to the rear of the trap where they can easily be removed through doors mounted in the back of the steel support structure. Our experience shows that handgun rounds typically penetrate only 6 to 10 inches into the usual 24 inches of rubber, and most rifle rounds only penetrate 12 to 16 inches. Even as newly fired bullets impact other bullets already in the rubber, we have not seen fragments even come close to the rear of the trap. We have never found these “cleaning” doors to do anything more than add unnecessary expense and difficulty to the trap.

CLAIM #5: Rubber berm traps greatly reduce the noise levels on your range.

Sound problems on shooting ranges are caused by the noise generate when firing a gun and the interaction of that noise with the walls, floors, and other surfaces of your range. When you compare the surface area of a bullet trap with that of the floor, walls, and ceiling of a typical range, the trap typically makes up only about 5% of the total surface area. This small percentage combined with the fact that rubber is only a fair sound absorbing material means a rubber berm trap may have minimal impact on the sound levels on your range. We have found that using proper sound absorbing materials and techniques on your walls and ceiling baffles can give far better results.

CLAIM #6: Adding more technology and additional devices to your trap will improve its performance.

There is only so much you can do to “technologically enhance” chopped rubber. That being said, let’s look at some of the most common add-ons to rubber berm traps.

The first device is a large collection bin or “hopper” that spans the top of the trap. In certain cases, the chopped rubber has been found to migrate and flow toward the bottom of the trap leaving undesirably thin coverage near the top. When this happens, the extra rubber that accumulates at the bottom of the trap should be periodically collected and returned to the hopper. This process can be very labor intensive, and you should employ the same safety equipment and procedures used when cleaning the trap.

Another add-on uses large sheets of rubber that act as a skin over the entire surface of the trap. This cover is designed to help keep the small rubber granules in place and to keep small bullet fragments from escaping back toward the shooter. As shots are fired into concentrated areas, the cover can quickly develop larger and larger holes, requiring time and money to maintain. Another downside to a cover like this can be heat retention. In hot conditions, the membrane may reduce the ability of the granules to “breathe” building up heat and increasing the chance of fire when other ignition events are present.

You have Options

The equipment you install in your shooting range can have a significant effect on your range’s future success. Rubber berms work great on ranges that don’t see excessive everyday use, but if you start having more customers than you originally planned for, it quickly becomes a less than ideal solution. After evaluating the benefits and limitations of a berm trap design, you may conclude that this technology is the best overall choice for your needs. If not, know you have other options.

The Action Target Total Containment Trap (TCT) can be a great solution if you are going to run a lot of people through your range. With three different types of hands-free lead removal systems, the TCT allows for varying levels of use and greatly diminishes the time you have to spend maintaining your shooting range. If your range’s anticipated level of use is on the border of being too much for a rubber berm, plan on being successful and install a TCT. Don’t limit your long-term success based on short-term finances.

Rely on the Experts for Help

There are hundreds of things to take into consideration when building a shooting range, but your top priority should always be safety. Before anything else, make sure your range is going to be safe for your customers, your employees, and the environment. If you are considering building a range, talk to the Action Target representative in your region and he will be happy to help you find the right equipment to fit your needs and budget. You can also use our Request a Quote form to get started on your range upgrades today.

Please note: the information included in this article has come from both documented studies and the personal experience of Action Target shooting range specialists. This information has been found to be helpful for many clients throughout the years but may not apply in all situations. Please use judgment in determining which tips will be helpful in your particular situation.

AT the Official Target of 2012 Steel Challenge World Championship

Steel Challenge Shooting Association begins international shooting championship Nov. 1 with custom targets from Action Target 

PROVO, Utah – The Steel Challenge Shooting Association recently named Action Target the official target of the 2012 Steel Challenge World Speed Shooting Championship. The championship, which is held in Frostproof, Fla., begins Nov. 1 and ends on Nov. 4. This year it will be held at the Universal Shooting Academy for the first time.

“Action Target is one of the premier suppliers of modern steel targets in the world,” said Dave Thomas, Executive Director of SCSA/USPSA. “The Steel Challenge is happy to recognize them as the official target of the World Speed Shooting Championship.”

Championship competitors will face eight shooting stages with five steel targets placed at various distances on each one. Action Target custom designed three targets for the competition featuring spring‐loaded armor steel head plates that provide extra bounce for immediate visual and audio feedback.

“We’re really excited to be a part of this,” said Chad Burdette, portable target specialist of Action Target. “The Steel Challenge World Speed Shooting Championship is a fantastic program and represents the potential this sport has.”

Shooters from all over the world are expected to attend this year’s Steel Challenge world Speed Shooting Championship which is the culmination of the steel shooting season worldwide. The match also features various walk‐up events where competitors and non‐competitors alike have the opportunity to shoot and win a variety of different guns.

The custom targets designed for the competition by Action Target will be available for sale on its online store beginning January 2013.

About Action Target, Inc.

Action Target, Inc. is a privately owned business headquartered in Provo, Utah. As a world leader in shooting range technology with more than 4,000 products and 40 patents for the systems it designs and manufacturers, Action Target has installed thousands of shooting ranges across the United States and in 25 other countries around the world. Action Target also designs systems and conducts firearms training for law enforcement and various military divisions. For more information on Action Target, visit www.ActionTarget.com. To learn more about Action Target products or to purchase items online, visit www.ActionTarget.com/store.

About SCSA

The Steel Challenge Shooting Association is a wholly owned subsidiary of the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA). SCSA expands the shooting opportunities for its affiliated clubs and individual members.

About USPSA

The United States Practical Shooting Association is a non‐profit membership association and the governing body for the sport of Practical Shooting in America. USPSA has over 22,000 members and nearly 400 affiliated clubs which host weekly matches throughout the country providing recreational shooters with the opportunity to test and refine their shooting skills in a safe, competitive environment. USPSA is also the US Region of the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC), which is comprised of approximately 67 nations. For more information, visit www.uspsa.org.

3 Marketing Strategies to Get People in Your Shooting Range

Executive Video SummaryBy Mike Stilwell, Action Target Range Consultant and owner of Range Masters indoor shooting range in Springville, Utah.

Orlando Police shot at indoor RangeWhen I bought my first handgun 20 years ago, there wasn’t a place to shoot it. There were hardly any shooting ranges in the area, and the ones that did exist required expensive long-term memberships. That really bothered me, so when my midlife crisis hit, I decided to build my own shooting range. I wanted to build a place where anyone could feel comfortable and enjoy the fun of target shooting. I wanted to build the kind of range I would have wanted to go to 20 years ago.

In building and managing that range, however, I didn’t always make the best business decisions. I already had a good job, so I wasn’t in it for the money. I was in it for the love of the industry. Owning my own shooting range was a dream come true, but to be successful, I needed to combine my passion with a little business sense. Over the years, I’ve learned a thing or two through trial and error and by watching what successful range managers do. Based on my own experiences, these are three marketing strategies I would recommend to any shooting range trying to pay the bills.

#1: Constantly look for new customers

The truth of the industry is if you don’t market to get new customers, your customer pool will quickly dry up. People lose interest, they move away, they get more demanding jobs, and sometimes they just find a shooting range they like better than yours. No matter the reason, your customers won’t be around forever, and that is why you need to constantly work to get new people in your range every day. Think of it as a funnel. The more people you get to come through your door, the more people are going to come back. The more people you get to come back, the more money they will spend. The more money they spend, the more likely they are to buy a membership and become a long-term customer. Obviously, not everyone that comes in your door is going to buy a membership, but some of them will. The key is to constantly add customers to the funnel so it can siphon down to the few who are going to be loyal for months and years to come.

One of the great ways to get new customers is through free range passes. I know it can be painful to watch someone use your range without paying a dime, but maybe that person didn’t even know your range existed until now, and after a day of shooting, he/she plans to come back again and again. Giving someone a freebie can sometimes mean more money for you down the road. For example, I send free range passes to Sportsman’s Warehouse and Cabela’s. When people walk into one of those stores and buy a Glock 17 or some other gun, they get a free pass to shoot it on my range. All of a sudden, they have a great excuse to visit me, and when they do, they may find a new weekend pastime. Additionally, they may realize that I sell the same gun for a little cheaper which means they’re likely to come to me for their next firearm purchase. So instead of spending a ton of money on mass advertising, I target the customers I really want by handing out a few freebies to new gun owners.

Another good way to get people in your range is to do games and contests. I call this the “bowling league philosophy.” Often, bowling alleys rely on bowling leagues to stay open. Why? Because it’s a lot more fun to go bowling with a group of people that love it as much as you do, and that is what gets people in the bowling alley. Shooting ranges have a lesson or two they can learn from that. Shooting is quickly becoming more and more of a social activity and the industry needs to adjust. I’m not talking about professional target shooting competitions, though. I’m talking about fun contests and games that anyone can participate in. Every other week, I have a “fun shoot” at my range. We shoot bowling pins, we do trick shots, we do playing card targets where whoever shoots the best hand can win a cash prize. The purpose is to be safe and fun while getting new people in my shooting range. It’s not strictly regulated so more people can participate without feeling they have to be professional or even good, for that matter. Every time, I get 40 to 50 shooters who participate and 10 to 12 of those are new shooters. We hold a new shooter orientation with those 10 or 12 so they can be familiar with the rules of safe shooting, and then we have a great time. The people that participate are hooked and come back again and again.

Once you get someone hooked on your range, the next hurdle is to get him/her to buy a membership. For the majority of shooting ranges, memberships are what pay the bills. They provide consistent revenue and are likely to carry over from year to year. But convincing a new customer to drop a wad of money on a long-term commitment can be a little difficult. Sometimes you need to give them a little taste of what having a membership would be like so they can convince themselves it’s something they want to do. I sell 10-time discount punch cards that essentially give customers benefits similar to owning a membership. They get discounts on range use and ammo, and after they use the card up, they can roll it over into a membership. Many customers shy away from buying a membership at the start, but after using up a discount punch card, nearly every one of them end up becoming a member.

#2: Use classes to build a faithful following

Classes and firearms education are a great way to bring new customers into your range and build rapport with the community. For new shooters, walking into a shooting range can be a little intimidating. They’re not familiar with the procedure, and the ex-marine behind the counter with a concealed Uzi isn’t likely to give much encouragement. Instead of making extensive experience a prerequisite to using the range (or at least making newcomers feel that way), take advantage of this teaching opportunity to create loyal customers. Introductory classes and other training courses are a great way to help people gain the confidence they need to become shooting range regulars.

At my shooting range, I personally teach all of the concealed carry classes we hold each week. I have never advertised the class, but I get several people to sign up every time. It’s all word of mouth. If you make it enjoyable for people, make it informative and entertaining, people will share it with who they know, and you’ll never have an empty class. Of the people who attend my classes, many of them have never been to my range before, but after a day of shooting and having fun, you can bet they’re going to come back.

One range that does a wonderful job of utilizing firearms education is the Range at Lake Norman in Cornelius, North Carolina. As one of only 25 ranges in the country to be given a five star rating by the NSSF, this range is a great place to get ideas from. Designed and installed by Action Target, their state-of-the-art facilities allow for 16 different classes including advanced concealed carry, mother/daughter self defense, build your own AR, and a zombie survival class. With four or five different introductory courses, they constantly get new shooters into the range with NRA certified instructors who can help them gain confidence and become more comfortable in that setting. In addition, two of their classes, the mother/daughter self defense class and the parent teen intro class, encourage family shooting which brings more foot traffic and encourages the trend of social shooting.

#3: Make your range as comfortable as possible

You can have the best range in the world, but if you don’t have good customer service and an inviting atmosphere, you don’t have anything. Scowling Scott may be able to build an AR-15 from scratch out of raw jungle materials, but he’s not going to be a benefit to your shooting range if he doesn’t leave people with a positive impression. Unfortunately, the world of shooting seems to be dominated by hyper-masculinity and the notion that you have to know everything before you can set foot in a gun store.

Having been on both sides of the experience barrier, I do my best to consider the people who may not have a clue about what they’re doing. I remember just starting out and how much I would have liked someone to show me the ropes without making me feel like less of a man for not knowing what to do. The reality is, gun ownership is increasing and not everyone belongs to the good ol’ boys club. That’s why your employees not only need to be knowledgeable about guns and shooting, they need to have customer service backgrounds. In the end, it’s not the products you sell, it’s not how many lanes you have, and it’s not even how great your prices are. Your shooting range’s biggest asset is the people behind the counter. Hire the right people and you will get more customers coming back.

Another way to get more customers coming back on a consistent basis is to make your range as comfortable as possible. Again, customer service is probably the biggest aspect of this, but your facilities also play a huge part. Ranges that are comfortable and inviting attract customers. You would be amazed at what a little extra lighting and proper ventilation can do to the atmosphere of a shooting range. Gone are the days of hot, smoky indoor ranges where you can barely even see your target. People want to feel comfortable and safe. That’s where Action Target comes in. We design and install shooting ranges with your customers in mind. Action Target ranges are known for being clean, easy to maintain, and comfortable. Whether you’re considering building a new range or if you would like to upgrade your existing range, we can help. This isn’t an easy industry, but with a little extra help, you can definitely succeed. We’re all in this together.

Rely on the Experts for Help

There are hundreds of things to take into consideration when building a shooting range, but your top priority should always be safety. Before anything else, make sure your range is going to be safe for your customers, your employees, and the environment. If you are considering building a range, talk to the Action Target representative in your region and he will be happy to help you find the right equipment to fit your needs and budget. You can also use our Request a Quote form to get started on your range upgrades today.

Please note, the tips included in this message have been found to be helpful for many clients throughout the years but may not apply in all situations. Please use judgment in determining which tips will be helpful in your particular situation.

The Equipment You Need to Make a Good Shooting Range Great: Pt. 2

By Matt Brinkerhoff, Action Target Range Consultant

When it comes to shooting ranges, bullet containment is the paramount concern. As we discussed in our last article, the appropriate bullet traps and safety baffles need to be in place in order to keep your customers and employees safe. That means bullet traps that reliably collect and store bullets and allow for safe disposal of collected lead. That also means ballistic paneling on the walls and ceilings to ensure any shot that misses the bullet trap has no chance of exiting the building. But once you’ve established a strong foundation with the help of Action Target, you can move on to the more glamorous aspects of building a shooting range, like target retrieval systems and computer controlled reactive targets.

Here at Action Target, we provide a wide array of shooting range equipment from moving targets and shooting stalls to sound abatement and ventilation. With the help of our many corporate partners, we do our best to give you the most complete shooting range package on the market.

Target Systems

With the assistance of our business partner Mancom, Action Target has worked to provide several different target retrieval systems to meet the specific needs of customers. Our Standard Smart Target Retriever eliminated the problem with sag and sway that are inherent in many cable guide designs with the use of a rigid steel track and armored trolley system. Distance control is also made easier with two different operation options. With our toggle option, a simple flip of a switch send the target back to a pre-determined distance, while our Smart Pad gives the shooter complete control over distance and movement. With the addition of our Deluxe Smart Retriever, which allows 180 degree turning action, the shooter or range master also has the ability to program and replay a series of target positions and turning actions.

If your shooting range needs to facilitate tactical training, however, you may want more than just a static position in a stall. Proper tactical training requires realistic scenarios, which means shooter movement and target movement. Training on moving targets hasbecome mandatory for law enforcement agencies across the country. Because running seems to be a part of most gunfights, the ability to fire safely and accurately at moving threats can be one of an officer’s greatest assets. To better facilitate quality tactical training, Action Target provides two types of running man systems: the portable Runner family and the more permanent Track Runner. The portable Runner systems not only simulate horizontal running scenarios, but armed charging scenarios as well. With two AT Builds New Shooting Range and Storedifferent portable systems to meet your budget and needs, running targets can easily be incorporated into your training program. The Track Runner provides the tools for a wide variety of situation with single or double track configurations, cardboard and steel target compatibility, variable speed and electric braking, and remote hand held control of movement.

Action Target also provides turning targets to foster quick and accurate reactions with good guy / bad guy threat identification. Drawing and firing at a target you already know is a threat is fairly easy, but real life scenarios aren’t always so simple. To eliminate the inaccuracy of this scenario, law enforcement demanded targets that turn toward and away from the shooter at specific time intervals. Turning targets allow trainees to practice evaluating the target quickly while performing tactical maneuvers. With six different turning target systems, Action Target can design the perfect system to fit your needs.

Ventilation

Ventilation is extremely important on indoor shooting ranges. Lead and other airborne toxins are introduced to the environment during shooting and can be hazardous to the health or your employees and customers if inhaled. Any enclosed area where shooting is done must be properly ventilated in order to meet NIOSH, EPA, and OSHA standards. Installing a ventilation system for your range may be beyond the abilities of your friend George who does air conditioning. Improperly designed systems may just stir up the air rather than replace it.

Action Target provides you with the best and safest ventilation system. Our ventilation systems are the best-performing and most efficient systems available on the market today and are designed to exceed NIOSH, EPA, and OSHA air quality standards. Through the use of a ceiling-mounted 180 degree air delivery system as well as digital and analog control systems which adapt to changing environmental conditions to maintain the required air velocities and building pressures, Action Target’s ventilation systems push and pull air downrange at a rate fast enough to completely replace the air within a large range in less than two minutes. The air then goes through preliminary filters to remove large impurities before passing through a HEPA filter to eliminate 99.97% of remaining contaminants, making the exhausted air even cleaner than the air outside.

Sound Abatement

Sound abatement is one of those things many shooting range owners ignore initially and then wish they hadn’t when neighbor relations begin to decline. If your shooting range is near residential areas or if housing begins to develop around your range, proper sound abatement is absolutely vital to your future success. If too many people begin to complain about the noise level, you could be shut down permanently.

But sound abatement is not only important for the people outside the range, but for people inside the range as well. Gunshots have an extremely high decibel level which is only compounded on an indoor range when the sound waves bounce off the hard floor, walls, and ceiling. Ear protection is absolutely necessary on any range, but it may not be enough to protect your employees who spend hours and hours in the range every day. The constant reverberation of gunshots within an enclosed area can actually produce negative physical effects on the body other than just hearing loss. Prolonged exposure to high decibel percussive noise such as gunshots can cause nausea or fatigue if the reverberation isn’t properly dissipated.

These problems can be easily avoided by limiting the length of shifts for employees working in the range and by installing proper sound abatement material. All ceiling and wall baffles installed by Action Target are covered with acoustic tiling to help reduce the amount of reverberation within the range. We’ve also teamed up with Troy Sound Wall Systems, the creator of the highest acoustically rated wall systems in the world, to bring you one of the most viable options on the market. By installing the Troy Sound Wall System in ranges, we have managed to reduce reverberation by 98%. That’s 98% percent of reverberation you don’t have to worry about threatening the health of your employees and customers.

Rely on the Experts for Help

Action Target LogoThere are hundreds of things to take into consideration when building a shooting range, but your top priority should always be safety. Before anything else, make sure your range is going to be safe for your customers, your employees, and the environment. If you are considering building a range, talk to the Action Target representative in your region and he will be happy to help you find the right equipment to fit your needs and budget.

Please note, the tips included in this message have been found to be helpful for many clients throughout the years but may not apply in all situations. Please use judgment in determining which tips will be helpful in your particular situation.

Accuracy After Injury: How Will You React in a Firefight When Suffering from the Symptoms of Shock?

By: Brian C. Smith

Editor’s Note: The views in this article are the author’s own and don’t necessarily represent those of Action Target, Inc.

Approximately 16 years ago, I had a conversation with an old “salty” veteran police officer over lunch. He was sent by his police agency to attend a firearms class that I was teaching as a way of punishment for his actions that were defined as unsafe firearms tactics by his police agency’s administration. The class I was teaching was titled “Survival Shooting Tactics for Armed Confrontations,” which was a one-day, eight-hour course at the time. The course has undergone many revisions and updates since then. In our conversation, I soon realized that this officer has probably forgotten more than I will ever know or experience in my police career. I found myself taking mental notes while conversing about details he had mentioned on how he survived in a few of his encounters with close call situations.

The officer then hit me with a question, “How would being injured in a fire fight encounter affect your firearm accuracy?” Being young and cocky, my response was, “That should not matter, sight alignment and sight picture would be the same. I still should be able to hit the threat no matter what.” The old salty police officer looked at me as he leaned back in his chair and just smiled. After a few moments of both of us just staring at each other, the old guy said, “I will give you credit for being a good firearms instructor, but I can see that there are some things you have yet to experience in this life as a police officer.” After that brief lunch, it was as if I had just been educated by one of the three wise men.

I then researched how the human body is affected by blunt trauma and what physical symptoms that person will experience as well as how these symptoms would affect a shooter’s accuracy in a fire fight. In my research, I discovered the medical condition that may apply is referred to as “neurogenic shock.” This is a condition where the human body suffers a minor injury or traumatic experience. In the condition of neurogenic shock, the most common symptoms include:

  • A fast, weak pulse
  • Low blood pressure
  • Feeling faint, weak, or nauseous
  • Dizziness
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Blue lips

The symptoms start developing approximately 90 seconds after the incident occurs. This time span can vary due to age, physical condition, or pre-existing health problems.

I have personally suffered from this condition many times when I have sustained a minor injury while playing sports or engaging in other physical activities. I have witnessed the common treatments of this condition as having the person lie on their back with feet slightly elevated to raise their blood pressure, keep them warm by covering the person’s torso with a blanket or garment, and administer fluid. A person can develop this condition by suffering a dislocated finger, sprained ankle, brachial stun to the torso, or the unthinkable – a gunshot wound.

From this research, I developed a shooting drill that we have included in the “Injured Officer” segment of our firearms training curriculum named as the “Equilibrium Drill.” This helps our training staff to illustrate two different concepts on how your condition may affect your firearms accuracy.

1. Physical reactions that may compromise your firearm proficiency due to an injury

2. Diminished firearms accuracy due to inebriation

Also, while serving in my former position as Director of Training with the Chicago Heights Police Department, one of my duties was to orientate and prepare the new recruits graduating from the academy for their new assignments. This included an orientation class that consisted of about 16-18 hours (two consecutive days) of training that was to be completed just prior to being assigned to an FTO (Field Training Officer). This Pre-Field Training Officer’s course curriculum consisted of topics such as handcuffing, expandable baton, OC pepper spray, and an eight hour handgun course on survival tactics at the range. My prior experience and perils as a young officer qualified me when I recited the common cliché, “Been there and done that.” I have an understanding of young male police officers, full of testosterone, and how they are capable of making many mistakes in the infant stages of their careers. We found it necessary to always discuss with the recruits the topic of off-duty encounters, which is included among a variety of topics on consuming alcoholic beverages and developing “beer muscles” while patronizing a liquor-serving establishment. Therefore, this shooting exercise also emphasized the outcome if a police officer were to be engaged in a firefight while intoxicated.

The “Equilibrium Drill”

(Simulating shooter intoxication or neurogenic shock as a result of an injury)

Target: 3 metal pepper popper plates or 3 large round balloons – I suggest you use 12-16 inch diameter balloons.

Distance: 40 feet (from the target to the established firing line)

Ammo: 5 rounds, no magazine exchange or reloads required

Weapon: Pistol or revolver

Shooting Position: Kneeling, sitting, or prone

Exercise

A. Shooter loads and makes ready, then places the weapon on the ground with muzzle pointed double down range.

B. Shooter steps back approximately 15 feet away from the weapon.

C. Shooter stands in the center circle of 2-3 range officers with his arms folded across his chest.

D. The range officers spin the shooter around in a circle for approximately one minute to create the dizziness effect.

E. After the one minute, the range officer will give the command “Go,” at which point the spinning will stop and the shooter must attempt to get to his weapon while dizzy and dazed.

F. Upon reaching his weapon, the shooter will take a shooting position on his knees or prone and engage the targets in a rapid fire manner.

Results

It is rare that a shooter in the class has been able to hit all his targets while dizzy, although there have been some exceptions. This exercise involves a great deal of humor, along with a certain reality among the class in witnessing each other’s reactions while dizzy.

This exercise has proven to be a positive illustration for the recruits, teaching them the risks of carrying a firearm while consuming alcoholic beverages in a social setting with other officers or their families. It also allows them to experience the symptoms of suffering a bullet wound so they can be aware of how it will affect their accuracy. Once recruits are aware, they can learn how combat those symptoms and regain a measure of accuracy when shooting. I encourage officers to assume a shooting position low to the ground such as kneeling, sitting, or prone. Experience has revealed that the longer you attempt to stand while suffering from shock the more likely you are to faint.

I also encourage recruits and veteran officers to remain in the fight until the threat is down or stopped. Fainting during the fight is not an option. The officer is expected to give 100% to the end and hope for a positive outcome.

About the Author

Captain Brian C. Smith is a 28-year veteran of the Chicago Heights Police Department and is currently serving as Commander of Training and Special Operations. He has 21 instructor certifications and four armorer certifications. Captain Smith has an associate degree in law enforcement from Thornton Community College and graduated from tile 184th session of the FBI National Academy. He is member of the Illinois Tactical Officers Association, National Tactical Officer Association, ASLET, IALEF, and the American Federation of Police and Concerned Citizens, where he serves as Chairman of the Survival Tactics Committee.

The Equipment You Need to Make a Good Shooting Range Great: Pt. 1

By Matt Brinkerhoff, Action Target Range Consultant

Anyone who has been to a quality shooting range knows it requires much more than a line drawn in the dirt and a few paper targets. Great shooting ranges are designed to protect customers, employees, and the environment. Here at Action Target, we specialize in designing, manufacturing, and installing superior shooting range equipment to meet all of your ballistic needs from bullet containment to target retrieval systems. Quality matters when the safety of your customers and employees are in question, so don’t settle for good when your shooting range could be great with the help of Action Target.

Bullet containment is the number one concern on any shooting range, and without the proper designs and equipment, it can be nearly impossible to ensure the safety of those inside and outside the range. Bullet containment basically comes down to two elements: bullet traps and baffles. The bullet trap should be designed to stop any high powered round and handle the level of traffic expected at your range while safely collecting all projectiles for proper disposal. Any shot downrange should be stopped by the bullet trap, but safety baffles are also needed to keep bullets from exiting the ceiling of your range or ricocheting off the walls in the event of an errant shot. With the right combination of bullet trap and baffles, you can rest easy knowing no matter where a shot is fired on your range, it won’t have a chance to escape.

Bullet Traps

Action Target offers two different kinds of bullet traps, the Rubber Berm Trap (RBT) and the Action Target Total Containment Trap (TCT). A rubber berm trap consists of an angled metal plate covered in chopped rubber two feet thick. Action Target’s rubber berms utilize a patented combination of fire retardant and nonflammable adhesive to minimize fire danger and prevent migration. Being a softer collection medium, rubber significantly reduces ricochet and lead dust in some applications which makes it a great option for ranges that don’t see excessive everyday use. Due to the simplicity and relatively low cost of the materials used, a rubber berm can be extremely economical. But if you start having more shooters than you originally planned for, it can also become a wrench in your wallet. Rubber berms have to be cleaned and the bullets lodged in them mined every 80,000 rounds. Not only does it cost money to clean the rubber berm and replenish the chopped rubber periodically, but the more days you have to close your range for maintenance, the more money you lose.

Action Target's Total Containment Bulle TrapThe Action Target Total Containment Trap can be a great solution to this problem if your daily foot traffic is able to balance the expense of installing and maintaining it. With two different types of lead removal systems, the TCT allows for varying levels of use and greatly diminishes the time you have to spend maintaining your shooting range. Essentially, the TCT is a giant armor steel funnel that directs every shot fired into a small gap at the rear of the trap. Once a bullet passes through that gap, it enters an elliptical deceleration chamber where it spins until it loses energy and falls into the collection trough through the bottom of the chamber. All of the lead is then collected and stored using one of two systems, the hands-free Screw Conveyor System or the Canister System. These two systems are designed to prevent lead exposure and make disposing of hazardous range debris as simple and easy as possible. The TCT is perfect for high traffic ranges, and when combined with our unique Dust Collection Unit, it is the safest and most environmentally friendly bullet trap on the market.

Safety Baffles

Safety baffles are often one of the most neglected areas of shooting range design, but they are absolutely crucial to the ballistic security of your range. In addition to keeping fired bullets from exiting the range, baffles offer protection for overhead lights, pipes, ventilation ducts, and other structures. As much as you would like them to, shooters at your range are not always going to shoot perfectly straight, and when they inevitably hit the ceiling, you’ll be glad you had them installed.

Action Target Safety Baffles used in LAAction Target’s patented wall and ceiling baffles are designed to reduce noise, eliminate ricochet, and ensure complete bullet containment. Our baffles are composed of four layers: acoustic paneling, plywood, an air gap, and steel. Acoustic panels are placed on the outside of our baffles to minimize gunshot reverberation within the range and prevent sound transmission beyond the range. Plywood is then used to contain shots fired into the baffle. Bullets can easily pass through these two layers, but once a bullet hits the steel and shatters, the plywood effectively contains the fragments. The air gap works as a buffer to allow the bullet room for fragmentation before bouncing back against the plywood. The most important part of the baffle is the steel plate. Action Target offers four grades of safety baffles ranging from 10 gauge steel to abrasion resistant armor steel to meet your range’s ballistic specifications and budget. If you know what ammunition and firearms will be allowed on your range, we can help you find the right baffles to complete it.

The type of training your range is expected to accommodate will dictate the configuration of your safety baffles. Action Target offers both static and tactical configurations based on the “no blue sky” principle. According to this principle, a shooter who is facing downrange on an outdoor range (though, this principle also applies to indoor ranges as well) should not be able to see any blue sky. If shooting on your range will only be from a static point on the firing line, the ceiling baffles are placed in a static configuration meaning they are spaced closer together near the firing line and further apart near the bullet trap. Even though there are large gaps between the baffles at the end of the range, no blue sky can be seen from the static shooting position at the firing line which means it’s impossible for a bullet to escape vertically.

If your range is expected to accommodate tactical training where shooters will be moving downrange, having gaps in the ceiling baffles anywhere on the range isn’t acceptable. With a tactical baffle configuration, baffles are place close together and overlap one another so even if a bullet is fired straight up, a baffle will be there to stop it no matter where it is on the range. This tactical configuration allows shooters to move freely without any danger of rounds exiting the ceiling. Wall baffles are also highly recommended if tactical training will be conducted on your range. While hardened concrete is balistically sound, wall baffles add an additional level of protection and completely eliminate ricochet while also decreasing reverberation within the range.

Rely on the Experts for Help

There are hundreds of things to take into consideration when building a shooting range, but your top priority should always be safety. Before anything else, make sure your range is going to be safe for your customers, your employees, and the environment. If you are considering building a range, talk to the Action Target representative in your region and he will be happy to help you find the right equipment to fit your needs and budget.

Please note, the tips included in this message have been found to be helpful for many clients throughout the years but may not apply in all situations. Please use judgment in determining which tips will be helpful in your particular situation.

Indoor vs. Outdoor Shooting Ranges: What You Should Know Before You Start Building

By Chris Hart, Action Target Range Consultant

Everybody has their own preference when it comes to shooting ranges. Some people like the open-air feel of an outdoor range where they can shoot steel targets at 500 yards while others prefer the air conditioned comfort of indoor ranges where target distance can be controlled with the push of a button. Both have pros and cons and there’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer, but there are some things you need to consider before building a range to make sure you are providing your future customers with what they want and need. To better help you in the decision making process, here are some pros and cons for both outdoor and indoor shooting ranges.

And be sure to try out our Build Your Range tool.

Outdoor Ranges

PROS

Action Target Line of Fire with Swing Up TargetOutdoor ranges generally require less expensive equipment. An outdoor shooting range can be as simple as a shooting line and a dirt backdrop or as complex as a law enforcement proving ground with moving targets and realistic tactical simulations. Either way, the equipment you need for an outdoor range will probably be less expensive than an indoor range because you don’t need a building to house it in.

Outdoor ranges can provide a greater range of shooting with appropriate berms. While indoor ranges are generally limited to shooting straight ahead from a fixed position, outdoor ranges allow shooters to participate in tactical training with up to 180 degrees of firing mobility. The more flexibility your range offers, the more realistic your training scenarios will be.

In addition to increased firing mobility, outdoor ranges also allow for greater tactical training freedom. Training at an outdoor range can include multiple firing stations, a greater range of distance, vehicle scenarios, and terrain-based exercises.

With an outdoor range, you are less limited in the ammo you can use. While indoor ranges are sometimes restricted to bullets within a certain muzzle velocity and bullet type, most outdoor shooting ranges are virtually unrestricted. Some outdoor ranges are even capable of handling incendiary rounds and artillery fire. While training of this kind may not be necessary or even desirable at your range, the capability is available. Outdoor ranges can also more safely accommodate shooting steel targets.

CONS

Building an outdoor range requires expensive earthwork and soil engineering. Not all sites are immediately suitable for an outdoor shooting range and may require extensive excavation to ensure bullet containment. The less suitable the site, the more money you will have to spend to make sure the backdrop and containment systems meet federal regulations and local statutes. You also may have to bring in power, water, and sewage hook ups from a long distance away, thus increasing the cost and adding to the needed infrastructure of roads, parking lots, and other development.

Due to the open-air nature of outdoor ranges, however, complete bullet containment is usually impractical due to expense. This is why location is such an important element in the building of an outdoor range. Outdoor shooting ranges must be built in an area where an errant shot that goes over the backstop is incapable of doing damage; this is referred to as Surface Danger Zone (SDZ). This can require building the range in a remote area far from the city, and being far from civilization means your customers are going to have to travel a longer distance to use the range.

It is inherently difficult to contain lead and noise at an outdoor range, and as housing encroaches on formerly uninhabited areas, more and more outdoor shooting ranges are being shut down. While the location of your outdoor range may seem safe from housing development, conditions can quickly change and endanger the future of your range. You must try to plan for variables that could affect your outdoor range in the long term future.

Indoor Ranges

PROS

Because indoor ranges can easily be built in the middle of cities, they are much more convenient for customers. For commercial ranges, that means increased visibility and accessibility. For law enforcement, that means a cut in overtime costs for police departments because officers don’t have to travel as far as they would to train at an outdoor range. They can also easily train during inclement weather conditions that would be more difficult on an outdoor range.

Technological improvements are making indoor ranges a more viable option for tactical training. Ballistic doors can allow vehicles to enter the range for training scenarios, lighting can be adjusted to simulate daylight and low light situations, sound effects can be played over the loud speakers to induce stress or simulate a combat environment, and bullet traps like the Total Containment Trap from Action Target allow for increased flexibility in shooting across firing lanes or at moving targets.

For commercial ranges, an indoor shooting range can provide a significant retail avenue. When combined with a retail firearm and an ammunition store, indoor ranges can be highly profitable ventures. Customers are more likely to buy ammo at the range where they shoot and are more likely to buy a gun if there is an opportunity to try it out on a shooting range first.

CONS

Indoor shooting ranges are more expensive to build and require a building to house them. For an indoor range you need to either build a new building from scratch or find a building that meets municipal requirements for parking, sound, and zoning that can be properly retrofitted to house an indoor range. Indoor shooting ranges also often require a target retrieval system, ceiling baffles, fully ballistic walls, bullet traps, a ventilation system, and lighting. All together, the equipment and facility costs can greatly exceed that of an outdoor range.

Indoor ranges are sometimes limited in the caliber and type of bullet that can be fired, depending on the range equipment chosen. The use of old or home-made bullet traps and the increased risk of ricochet that comes with an indoor shooting range naturally limits shooting capabilities. While modern bullet traps provided by Action Target can handle up to .50 BMG, many older indoor ranges cannot allow the use rifle calibers because their old range equipment designs will not safely stop rifle rounds. Because of size and sound constraints, some ranges don’t allow rifle shooting at all.

Indoor ranges also require costly range ventilation systems to meet OSHA and EPA requirements. For the health of yourself and your future customers, I should mention that your typical local HVAC contractor usually cannot properly design and install the type of system required for a clean and safe indoor range that I would shoot in with my own family. Ask your ventilation contractor how many indoor range ventilation systems they have designed and also ask them what design criteria is required to meet OSHA and EPA requirements. If they cannot guarantee that their system will meet these requirements, you might be making a costly mistake.

Rely on the Experts for Help

Whether you are deciding to build an indoor or an outdoor range, I recommend you contact the Action Target representative in your region and they will be happy to answer any questions you have and will help you determine what type of range and what equipment will best fit your needs and budget. They build hundreds of new ranges every year and will be able to draw on their vast experience and resources to help advise you with your project.

Follow this link to try our tool to Build Your Range and get a quote!

Please note, the tips included in this message have been found to be helpful for many clients throughout the years but may not apply in all situations. Please use judgment in determining which tips will be helpful in your particular situation.

Three Keys to Getting Your Shooting Range Approved

In the process of building a shooting range, perhaps the most intimidating part is getting it approved by your local government. Even after you’ve done all the work, raised all the money, and planned everything out, the final say still comes down to a handful of elected officials. Don’t let that make you feel powerless, though. Even if the ultimate decision is in someone else’s hands, there are still things you can do to increase your chances of success.

1) Talk to the Right People

Your local government officials need to know as soon as possible that you’re planning to build a shooting range. They’ll appreciate it if you inform them early and often of your intentions, and that communication can open doors for you later on. You’ll have a much better chance of getting your range approved if you’ve established a relationship with local leaders from the beginning.

Early communication will also help you figure out zoning issues. In most cases, land has to be zoned as either commercial or industrial for a shooting range to be built on it. Find out first thing if the land you’re looking at is zoned appropriately. Zoning requirements for building a shooting range vary depending on where you live, and some places may not even have specific guidelines for ranges. Your local officials will have the most accurate information and can help you understand the requirements. Should you discover that the land you plan to build on is not zoned appropriately for a shooting range, ask the planning and zoning committee if it can be re-zoned. Often, city governments are willing to work with local businesses on zoning issues to keep potential commerce from going elsewhere.

2) Educate Yourself

AT Builds Indoor Firing Range for OrlandoThe more you know about what’s required to get your range approved, the better. Become familiar with local noise and firearms regulations as well as environmental restrictions that will apply to your shooting range. How will you handle noise abatement? How will you dispose of lead? How will you keep customers and employees safe? All of these issues will come up when presenting to the city council. If you already know what their concerns are by asking questions and doing research, you can adequately prepare to answer them.

Once you know what standards you’re shooting range will be required to meet, talk to an Action Target territory manager to find out what options are available. Action Target specializes in building state-of-the-art shooting ranges and offers several technologies to meet the stringent requirements of government regulations. For example, Action Target’s Total Containment Trap (TCT) is the most environmentally-friendly bullet trap in the industry and makes lead containment safe and easy. With the addition of a Screw Conveyor System (SCS), all bullets and range debris are safely collected and deposited into a sealed barrel for convenient disposal. Action Target also provides sound-abating safety baffles, acoustically-rated wall systems that reduce reverberation by 98%, bullet-proof transparent lane dividers, and ventilation systems that filter air and protect customers from lead exposure. No matter what regulation your shooting range is under, chances are Action Target has a patented technology to meet it.

3) Prepare to Present

Once you’ve talked to your local government officials and learned everything you need to know about regulations and restrictions, all that’s left to do is present your plan to the city council. For those inexperienced in public speaking, this may be the scariest part of the whole process. To make the experience smoother, ask a city council member in advance what information they want from you, write down a list of questions they may ask you, and prepare all of your answers ahead of time so you don’t forget in the heat of the moment.

If you feel like you need additional backup, Action Target representatives are more than willing to attend the city council meeting with you no matter where you live. That way you can have a shooting range expert standing next to you to answer any questions about the technology and safety features of your future range.

The sales team at Action Target is willing to do whatever it can to make the approval process as seamless and successful as possible for you. If you have any questions or concerns about getting your shooting range approved, call Action Target at (801) 377-8033 and ask to speak with your area representative.

Please note, the tips included in this message have been found to be helpful for many clients throughout the years, but may not apply in all situations. Please use judgment in determining which tips will be helpful in your particular situation.

Action Target at the 2012 Bianchi Cup

Action Target recently completed one more year as the official target sponsor of the Midway USA & NRA Bianchi Cup. The National Action Pistol Championship, now in its 33rd year, was held in Columbia, MO, and featured many of the world’s top shooters competing for the prestigious cup. Action Target provided products and services again this year to ensure the range was in top operating condition.

“The Bianchi Cup is unique from other shooting competitions because it uses turning targets and other target systems a bit more advanced than you would normally see at a competition,” said David Mathis, Director of Marketing for Action Target. “Those systems are what we specialize in at Action Target, so working with the NRA to support this match is something we are proud to do each year.”

The Green Valley Rifle and Pistol Club (formerly the Chapman Academy) has hosted the Bianchi Cup every year since its inception and has used Action Target products and systems for nearly 20 years. This year, Action Target added new target clamps to speed up changing targets and provided maintenance for all of the range’s target systems. The Green Valley Rifle and Pistol Club also offered a practice range, separate from the main range, where competitors could arrive early to check their equipment and practice for the match. Action Target provided plate racks and paint for competitors to use as they warmed up on the practice range.

Founded in 1979 by law enforcement veteran and holster innovator John Bianchi, the Bianchi Cup began as a shooting competition designed to test law enforcement officers’ skill with a pistol. The competition challenged shooters’ speed and accuracy using barricades, alternative positions, and timed events. It did not take long for the match to gain popularity among the shooting community with many top shooters attending from all over the world.

The Midway USA & NRA Bianchi Cup features four different matches shooters can compete in: The Practical, The Barricade, The Moving Target, and The Falling Plate events. Shots are fired from 10 yards up to 50 yards with the shooters’ scores determined by their accuracy on each target. The shooters’ final scores are the sum of their scores for all four matches. This year 237 shooters competed for the national title with the Bianchi Cup going to Doug Koenig, who has won it a record 14 times.

In addition to being the official target sponsor, Action Target is also the sponsor for the women’s championship, won this year by Julie Golob for the third time.

Three of Action Target’s staff also participated by shooting in the competition. David Mathis, Mike Stilwell, and Chris Hart competed more for bragging rights around the office than to win a national title with Mathis coming out ahead.

The Top 3 Things to Consider When Building a Shooting Range

Building a shooting range is a huge endeavor that should be approached cautiously and systematically. There are many things to consider and potential issues you may have to deal with; however, don’t let that deter you. Building a shooting range is a perfectly attainable goal if you start things right. Even if you already own a shooting range, or if it’s just a future dream, the three steps in this week’s newsletter can help you smooth out the process and keep you on the road to success.

1) Know Your Purpose

Figure out exactly what you want to do with your shooting range and then design it. Don’t get caught up in the excitement of building a range and then try to figure out how to use it afterward. Paying for and maintaining a bunch of functions that you don’t need or want is almost as bad as not meeting your needs in the first place. We offer custom and turn-key designs for ranges of all shapes and sizes, so instead of just picking the flashiest range in the catalog, decide independently what you need to get the job done. If we don’t offer a range that matches your unique requirements, we’ll design one that does.

Make sure you know who you’ll be serving. Your customers should be the deciding factor in many of the considerations you’ll come across in the planning stage. If you don’t offer what they want, they’ll go elsewhere to find it. Do some research on your potential customers and ask yourself some of these important questions.

For commercial ranges, ask yourself:

  • Will my patrons be more comfortable at an outdoor or an indoor range?
  • How many shooters need to be accommodated at the same time?
  • Will there be unsupervised shooting on the range?
  • Are my customers more concerned with hunting or self-defense?
  • What types of guns and ammo am I going to allow?
  • Will my range be appropriate for family use?

For law enforcement ranges, ask yourself:

  • Will my emphasis be on training, qualification, or both?
  • Will my range consist of a single firing line only, or does it need to allow close-range tactical training?
  • Does my range need to accommodate the use of vehicles in tactical situations?
  • Will the SWAT team use the range?
  • What weapons and ammo will be used and at what distances?
  • Will citizens be allowed to use the range on designated days?

2) Involve the Right People

Action Target may be able to provide you with the best shooting range technology in the world, but it’s going to be the people you know that will make your range a success. The key to a smooth process is communication. As they say in the field of public relations, “Don’t bulldoze the neighborhood without talking to the tenants first.” The point is, there are people you need to communicate with before you ever start building your range.

If you plan on having resident firearms trainers, make sure they are involved from the beginning. Your trainers will be using the range the most and should have a say in the way it’s designed. Often, they are going to have the best ideas when it comes to the practical uses of shooting range technology and functions.

Local government officials play a crucial role in the future of your range. In the end, they are going to have the final say in whether you can build it or not, so establish rapport as early as possible. Talk to the county commissioner and the city council to figure out exactly what you need to do to get your shooting range approved. This may include figuring out zoning issues, environmental regulations, and local statutes involving noise and firearms. Your local officials will have the most accurate information on regulations affecting you and will appreciate being informed of your intentions early and often.

Unfortunately, not everyone is going to like the idea of a shooting range moving into the neighborhood. Their main concerns will probably be noise, lead contamination, and gun safety. This is where your public relations comes in. Talk to your neighbors and find out what their specific concerns are, if any. Then create a message to let people know exactly what you’re doing, what safety precautions you’re taking, and how the range is going to benefit the community. This can be done through public service announcements, town hall meetings, fliers, press releases, or even going door to door. No matter how you do it, make sure the people around you are adequately informed because problems will inevitably arise if you keep them in the dark.

3) Plan for Success

Obviously, no one builds a shooting range anticipating to fail, but too often people build ranges without planning to be successful either. When designing your range, leave room for future growth. You don’t want to find yourself limited when things go better than expected. You can prepare for this with careful planning and a little foresight.

Shooting ranges can get crowded when demand exceeds supply. Make sure you have enough lanes so people don’t have to wait for hours to shoot. Consider your customers when deciding how many and what kind of lanes to install. Go back to the question of whether your customers are more concerned with hunting or self defense. Perhaps a hunter shooting a rifle will occupy a lane longer than someone practicing self-defense with a handgun. If you expect or even allow rifle shooters on your range, consider building a separate area designed specifically for rifles. By separating shooters based on firearm type or purpose, you may be able to alleviate some congestion. Other suggestions for keeping the flow of customers unimpeded are to allow online scheduling of lanes, to install a webcam that allows customers to go to your website and see in real time how busy the shooting range is, and to limit how long shooters can occupy a lane.

Angel View of the Total Containment TrapThe equipment you install in your shooting range can also have a significant effect on your future success. If you anticipate a large number of shooters on your range every day, you may want to reconsider the bullet containment system you use. Rubber berms work great on ranges that don’t see excessive everyday use, but if you start having more customers than you originally planned for, it quickly becomes a less ideal solution. Rubber berms have to be cleaned and the bullets lodged in them mined after so many shots fired. Not only does it cost money to clean the rubber berm, but the more days you have to close your range for maintenance, the more money you lose.

The Action Target Total Containment Trap (TCT) can be a great solution if you are going to run a lot of people through the range. With three different types of hands-free lead removal systems, the TCT allows for varying levels of use and greatly diminishes the time you have to spend maintaining your shooting range. If your range’s anticipated level of use is on the border of being too much for a rubber berm, plan on being successful and install a TCT. Don’t limit your long-term success based on short-term finances.

No matter where you are in the process of building your dream shooting range, we are here to support you. We are only successful when you’re successful; so let us know what we can do to help. For more information on what systems will work best for you and your customers, contact one of Action Target’s shooting range consultants by calling our office at (801) 377-8033.

The Timeless Debate: Law Enforcement Use of Range Facilities?

Range owners who are preparing for a new build must consider every possible revenue stream since it is their responsibility to ensure the range is profitable. During this process, many range owners believe they will be able to entice local law enforcement into using their training facilities and have this be a major source of revenue. This timeless debate–whether or not a relationship with the local law enforcement should be a major part of a range’s business plan–should be carefully considered before embarking on range construction.

AT Firearms ProficiencyThe main thing to remember when considering whether or not to form an engagement with law enforcement is “don’t assume anything.” While developing a business plan, if it is assumed that law enforcement will participate in the range’s program and will, therefore, help the financial plan of the facility, firm commitments must be made. Even if an owner has a good relationship with the local law enforcement, commitments should be put in writing so they become binding. Keep in mind that typically, a law enforcement agency cannot give a firm commitment to a facility that is in the process of construction, so range owners must understand that they take upon themselves this risk until a written agreement can be met.

However, if for some reason a range is lucky enough to be an exception to these common procedures and a binding engagement with law enforcement is formed, the build must include the installation of turning target systems. Turning target systems are imperative due to the fact that most law enforcement agencies require officers to qualify on a timed course that has the ability to turn targets from edge to face in a set amount of time.

Another consideration while planning should be the total cost of the range facility. Range owners must take into account the maintenance, service, utilities, and other expenses that are associated with the upkeep of the facility. Experience shows that these many expenses, in addition to the increased expense required to enable law enforcement to use the range, often render it unprofitable for the range to contract with law enforcement. Now, this is not to say that a range shouldn’t support local law enforcement, but what a range owner must realize from the very beginning is that the business plan should not be structured around an agency. Generally speaking, law enforcement use is not a viable solution in a business model.

Lastly, always remember that there is a crossover point on the return on investment compared to the operating costs and the potential income. One of the greatest values of the range is when it is used as a marketing and sales tool for a quality store. Both need to work as a team in order for them to reach their maximum potential. Range operations can seldom stand on their own on an indoor range complex and law enforcement can seldom be included as a key contributor in the range’s business plan.

Before beginning your next project, speak with one of Action Target’s Territory Managers to ensure that your range is optimized for maximum performance and results.

Which System is Better for the Total Containment Trap: Conveyor or Bucket?

The goal of every range should be to increase facility revenue. In order to achieve this goal, all range products and features should be carefully evaluated to ensure they maximize revenue and are aligned with the volume of range use. While the bucket system is the ideal solution for some ranges, Action Target recommends that all facilities with a Total Containment Trap engaged at a rate of 70% or greater should use the conveyor system. In these ranges, the conveyor system is the best solution to increase range revenue.

Action Target Total Containment Trap with CanistersTime is money. The more time the range is shut down for service, the less money the range is making. In other words, each time a range has to shut down should be viewed as a potential loss of revenue. A range using a conveyor belt doesn’t have to shut down in order to service the trap because the conveyor is constantly collecting the fired rounds. When the range does shuts down for general maintenance, the workers don’t have to deal with clearing buckets and can better spend their time elsewhere.

It’s important to remember that labor is not free. Using buckets or canisters is seldom a viable solution because of the high amount of manual labor that is required, which greatly increases the cost of a bucket system beyond initial construction. Each of the canisters underneath the trap, when full, can weigh over 100 pounds. Due to the heaviness and awkwardness of these canisters, lead is often spilled and the canisters often become damaged. Workers then have to spend more time cleaning up the spilled contents. On a standard 10-lane range, there are more than 30 canisters to remove. If each of these canisters weighs about 100 pounds, there will be more than 1.5 tons of lead. By design, the canisters are meant to have a lid hammered on before removal. However too often, range operators choose to dump each of these buckets into a larger barrel or bin for removal. This creates an undue risk and safety issue as well as the potential threat of lead spillage, which again, requires additional cleanup and special handling. In short, while a bucket or canister system is less expensive initially, the cost of labor and upkeep quickly piles up.

Contrarily, a screw conveyor removes the spent rounds and lead to a single location to be removed. The movement of the lead and spent bullets in the screw conveyor is hands-free; the only engagement is removing and replacing the large barrel after it is full. This can be done easily with a small forklift or a pallet jack and requires far less time and effort than that required with a bucket system.

A final reason why the conveyor system is recommended in Total Containment Traps is safety. If a canister is allowed to overfill, the rounds will remain in the bullet trap and can potentially cause ricochet and/or clogging. Barrels can become filled with lead in as little as two weeks. The more the lead piles up, the bigger the safety issue. Range safety is critical and the screw conveyor system is the best choice for optimal safety.

To learn more about Actions Target’s Total Containment Trap, its bucket system, or its conveyor belt system, visit the Bullet Traps page.

Should I Shoot On Paper or Steel Targets?

There seems to be an ongoing industry-wide debate about which targets are best—paper or steel. While neither one will ever be crowned the ultimate victor, Action Target’s Steel Target Resource Guide gives meaningful insight to outline the strengths and weaknesses of each target type.

Paper

Action Target HoldShooting on paper is a great way to sight-in rifles and score trainings, and is great for qualifications held by law enforcement agencies. Paper allows a shooter to see where shots land, illustrating how tight groups are. The NRA and other leading organizations use a lot of paper targets precisely for this reason. Another benefit of paper targets is that they provide a bigger variety of shapes, sizes, pictures, and scenarios (there are even a lot of zombie targets out now to add an extra element of fun to training). Each organization has its own types of score zones, stages, and qualification targets, so the wide variety of paper targets allows for greater flexibility between events. Many competitions use paper targets because of this flexibility.

Steel

One of the greatest benefits of using steel targets is the instant feedback they provide. Shooters can usually see and hear when they’ve hit a steel target and this is something that cannot be done when using a paper target. Whether the range is training civilians or law enforcement officials, steel targets help shooters know whether their intended target was hit or not. Hearing and reacting to the sound of a shot hitting a target helps program muscle memory, which reinforces positive behavior. Up Close View of Static PackageJust like in all athletic training, the body subconsciously remembers how to repeat or orchestrate all the different variables required for a successful movement, or in this case, shot. The ability that steel targets offer in regards to instantaneous feedback can actually enhance training, speed, and accuracy. This is especially important for tactical shooting scenarios with movement, such as moving plates and targets. Having multiple senses invoked during this training process conditions the shooter to become a more powerful and effective shooter.

Another benefit of reactive steel targets is the pure entertainment factor. It may seem frivolous at first, but it can provide an enormous benefit to a training program. The fall, spin, bounce, and dodge of a target all lead to a fun and enjoyable experience for shooters of all skill levels. This will eventually lead to an increase in range use and therefore, an increase in profitability for the range.

So, should you shoot on paper or steel targets? In short, it depends on the purpose of the shooting exercise. As already discussed, if the purpose is for scoring, a paper target is best. However, if the shooter wants immediate feedback and would like to train on a more tactical level, steel targets are recommended. For more information on making the best decision, download Action Target’s Steel Resource Guide.

Action Target to Exhibit at April’s NRA Convention

As part of the NRA’s Annual Meetings and Exhibits, the NRA will be hosting its 141st annual meeting at the convention in St. Louis from April 12th to 15th. The upcoming convention is similar to the annual SHOT Show, but is open to open all NRA members—not just those who are commercial buyers and sellers.

As one of the largest events among the firearms industry, all major firearms manufacturers will be in attendance. This convention provides attendees with more than 340,000 square feet of guns, gear, outfitting, and even ATV’s. The expected attendance is set at more than 70,000 with more than 40 opportunities for attendees to meet celebrities at different booths during the event.

Action Target is excited to attend this year’s NRA event and will be exhibiting in two separate locations. Booth #211 will highlight Action Target range products and services while Booth #703 relates to Action Target’s consumer product lines—including field targets, paper targets, zombie targets, and other shooting range accessories like shooting bags and water bottles.

If you are able to attend the upcoming event, stop by the Action Target booths, catch some of the Action Target show specials, and check out some of the new projects Action Target is working on.

Law and Order (Part Two)

Written by Keith Mehlin

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on September 2, 2010. Due to the popularity of the article and the number of new subscribers since it originally went out, Action Target has decided to republish this two part series.

(Continued from last week…)A local firm was hired for the design of the range. We simply told them that we wanted indoor/outdoor ranges, how big we wanted them, and that we wanted classrooms large enough to seat 100 students at tables, which could also divide into smaller rooms. They did a tremendous job in laying out a preliminary plan. Both the police department and the sheriff’s department had firearms instructors who had visited an Action Target built range in Utah to observe that design. Those instructors, the sheriff and I sat down with the designers and came up with the final plan.

One of the largest learning curves for me was how to handle the air and lead contamination in the indoor ranges. One of the best decisions we made was to take the advice of Action Target and use a vendor out of Chicago who has been involved in building ranges around the world. The knowledge they brought to the project was invaluable.

One example of their contribution dealt with what came to be the final layout of the range. We had originally wanted a 20 station, 25-yard indoor range, a 10 station, 50-yard outdoor range, and a 5 station, 100-yard outdoor rifle range. During one of the pre-construction meetings, the representative from Careys, which was the range air handling vendor, asked if we normally had more than 10 people doing firearms training at one time. We normally do our training on the shift and do not have more than 6 or 8 officers at one time shooting. He suggested that we put a wall down the center of the indoor range, thus making two 10 station 25 yard ranges. That way we would only have to run one air handling system at a time under normal situations, saving us a tremendous amount of utility money over the long haul. It would also give us another range which gives us more flexibility when we schedule other agencies.

We ended up with a training facility that consists of two, 25 yard 10 station indoor ranges with state of the art Action Target computerized target systems and a 50 yard, 10 station out door range with the same target system. The ranges have outside doors in which we can pull vehicles onto the range or place anything we need to use to train in cover and concealment on the ranges. We were unable to obtain enough money to build the rifle range, however the building was designed so that that range could be added on at a later time.

The facility also has classrooms with removable walls. We can seat 100 students at tables with the walls removed, or have three classrooms that each seat about 35 students. All three classrooms have computers attached to LCD projectors for visual presentations. There is a wireless internet system throughout the entire building. We were able to physically separate the classrooms from the indoor ranges so you have little or no noise from the ranges while you are in the classrooms. We also have a weapons cleaning room with numerous stations. All stations have compressed air available for the cleaning of weapons. There are locker room facilities and a large break room that overlooks the entry way. The outdoor range has a separate control building that is also used for storage. There are bleachers near the outdoor range for times that an instructor needs to get the students together to stress a point or instruct all in a specific technique.

If I could give one piece of advice to those contemplating a new range, that would be to make sure that you have a competent person to oversee the construction of the building. We were quite fortunate to have access to the Council Bluffs Building Superintendent, Dennis Kuhlmann, who oversaw the entire project, from initial planning to the final walk-through. He has extensive experience in new building projects and was an invaluable asset to us during the entire project. Because of his experience and expertise, we avoided a lot of snags and problems as he took care of them with the general contractor, Action Target, and Carey’s.

To be able to work on and be part of a project that gave our officers one of the nicest training facilities in the country was quite satisfying. The range and classrooms have been accepted by both the instructors and the officers who are trained there. Practically all of the agencies in the Omaha metro area have either used the range or toured it and I have not heard one negative comment. I thought for sure that we would hear at least a couple of “you should have done this”, or “you should have done that” comments, but we have not heard one. We held an open house for the public which was very well attended. All of the community members who toured the facility were impressed. It all came together quite nicely and we are quite proud of the facility.

I don’t think that there are any major changes that we would make if we could do it over again. Adding the 100-yard rifle range would be one of course, and I believe that we will add that in the near future. Other than that, we are quite pleased with how the facility turned out. It meets our expectations quite nicely. We now can train regardless of the Iowa winters, do night training at high noon, and still train in inclement weather on the outdoor range. We have state of the art classrooms for other types of training and meetings which are available at all times. Over all we are very pleased and proud to have this training facility for the officers of Southwest Iowa.

Law and Order (Part One)

Written by Keith Mehlin

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on August 26, 2010. Due to the popularity of the article and the number of new subscribers since it originally went out, Action Target has decided to republish this two part series.

The Council Bluffs Police Department had an outdoor 50 yard range for 30 years plus located near the Council Bluffs Airport. This range was built in a large depression which was protected by dirt berms on all sides, including a wall of dirt approximately 20 feet high behind the target area. Approximately 5 years before the range was closed we had added computer controlled turning targets from Action Target and a two story control tower. The tower was built with the help of the FBI. Our range was built in such a way that we could easily place vehicles, both cruisers and simulated suspect vehicles, and other types of items to simulate cover and concealment on the range, quite easily. We also had a small structure in one corner of the range that we could use as a shooting house.

The Department scheduled four firearms training sessions yearly for all sworn officers, which were integrated with defensive tactics training. Our tactical team would shoot once a month. Having been a firearms instructor and defensive tactics instructor myself, I know that we were consistently providing for our officers realistic training that would mimic as best we could combat situations on the street.

Once we added the computer controlled target system and the control tower, we did not feel that we were lacking anything. At that time we had no patrol rifle policy so the 50 yard range was adequate for our needs. Nor did we have any safety issues for the officers using the range, which at the time was being used by 24 different agencies in the Omaha metro area. We were not getting any rounds coming back at the officers from the berm behind the target area. We had mined the lead some years before and it appeared to us that it did not need to be done again. We also had no liability issues on the range as far as officers using the range. We had not had an accident or serious injury on the range for the 32 years that I have been a police officer here. The only injury that I can recall came from a top strap blowing on a revolver several years ago, and fortunately that injury was not serious. We were under the impression that with the improvements that we had made, we were good to go for at least another 30 years on the range. Little did we know that was about to change very quickly.

Our troubles began in mid summer of 2002. One of the tenants at a hangar claimed that he had heard a deflected round hit the roof of the metal hangar when he was working on his airplane. He went to the city and the police department and demanded that we immediately close the range. We did not close the range but did an investigation and concluded that a deflected round did leave the range and land on the roof. We contacted Action Target, who immediately flew out and inspected the range. They made some recommendations, which were implemented, and we continued to use the range, believing that was an isolated incident and that we had fixed the problem. This did not please the individual whose roof the spent round landed on.

A few months after that, this same individual made another complaint outlining the same circumstances; however, this time he had the spent round as evidence. After a very brief investigation, we were able to determine that the rounds that were being fired on the range that day were not of the same caliber of the spent round that this person offered up as evidence. Again, we thought we were safe and continued to operate the range.

Action Target Law and Order

That all changed a few weeks later when several construction workers, who were working on a building project near the range, reported hearing deflected rounds going over their heads while they were working. I immediately closed the range because of safety concerns. While we will never know exactly how long rounds had been leaving our range, we feel that we became aware of it because of the encroachment upon the range by an airport expansion project and other building projects near the range. Before those projects, we were isolated enough that spent rounds leaving the range was not a recognized problem.

It was at that point we knew that we needed a new range. Not only were we suddenly without a place to train with our firearms, so was 23 other federal, state, and local agencies. I will always remember the feeling of despair when I realized that my officers and many other officers were suddenly without an adequate place to train to defend their lives and the lives of the people they were sworn to defend. We had to build a range.

The questions that we had when we faced up to the task was where to find the money, where to put the range, how big to build it, and what type of range equipment did we want to use. I knew that I wanted to build the best training facility possible for the officers, but I had no idea how to go about it.

Because the city had been caught flat footed with the range suddenly closing without warning, money was definitely the biggest problem. I decided to attack the problem on three fronts: local money, federal money because several federal agencies used the range, and through a local foundation. Early on in the process I came to realize that without more local involvement, the federal and foundation money would not come into play. I contacted Sheriff Jeff Danker, Pottawattamie County Sheriff, the county in which Council Bluffs is located, and we agreed to make this training facility a joint city county venture. After that decision, and jumping through a lot of political and bureaucratic hoops, local, federal and foundation money was obtained for the building of the training facility.

The research and planning stage actually went quicker than I anticipated. We already had a history with Action Target and were pleased with their target equipment and level of service. I had no knowledge of Action Target bullet traps, or any other traps on the market, but I knew that my biggest concern beyond safety was ease and cost of maintenance. After a short amount of research, I thought that Action Target had the corner on the market on ease of maintaining and simplicity of a bullet trap. The decision was made to go with that company for range equipment.

(This article continues in next week’s newsletter)