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.