Who remembers the hit ‘80s sitcom, “Cheers”? The TV program was one of the most popular shows in history, and the theme song was called, “Where Everybody Knows Your Name.” When the regulars would walk in to the bar, folks would yell his/her name, making the customer feel welcome.
Years ago, there was an indoor range about a mile from our house that was my “Cheers” range. I was one of their first customers, and once the women’s shooting league to which I belonged, A Girl & A Gun, included it as one of their ranges, I became a regular. And, yes, whenever I walked in, the staff would acknowledge me with a warm, friendly, “Maureen!” Sadly, the range has since closed, but every time I drive past the building, it brings back fond memories.
According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), there are about 18,000 indoor ranges in the United States. This time of year, with the temperature plummeting in most states, many women are choosing to shoot indoors. Indoor firing ranges offer protection from inclement weather, and are often staffed with instructors and range safety officers, unlike most outdoor ranges where you are shooting alone.
To find a range near you, ask the staff of local gun shops and sporting goods stores that sell guns and ammo. You can also use the Where to Shoot app or find a list of ranges that achieved a three to five-star rating from the NSSF.
So once you have your list, how do you find a local, indoor range that’s a good fit for you?
Is it safe? Once you’ve chosen a range, I suggest you check it out before you pay to shoot. Sort of like a “try before you buy” scenario. Observe the shooters—are they practicing the three basic NRA safety rules? (ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction; ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot; and ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to shoot.) If not, is a Range Safety Officer intervening and correcting them? For example, if a shooter needs to go downrange, is someone yelling, “Ceasefire”? At that point, the shooters should stop firing, put down their guns, and step away from the firing line.
“Gun safety is always number one to me,” says Dorothea Clevenger, NRA Instructor/Range Safety Officer. “I have walked into a range, saw improper firearms handling, and have left immediately.”
Are they inclusive towards women? Do they have female instructors and/or Range Safety Officers? Are there any women sales staff? Or how about a Ladies Night where local women’s shooting leagues and female customers can rent the range at reduced prices? Some ranges also offer packages to accommodate bachelorette parties, in addition to bridal and baby showers. These are all good signs that women do shoot there, even if there aren’t any when you first walk in.
Is it budget friendly? Find out if you can bring your own firearm, or if you must rent theirs. Also ask if you can bring your own ammo. Most indoor ranges I’ve shot at insisted I purchase their ammo. I wasn’t crazy about this, but I noticed they didn’t mark it up that much so I was alright with it. Hey if it keeps that range open, all the better!
Is it quiet? I’m an outdoorsy type of gal, so I prefer outside ranges for many reasons. One of them is they are more quiet than indoor ranges. Also, the outside ranges I belong to are out in the middle of nowhere, so chances are, I’m the only one shooting. But when you’re checking out indoor ranges, ask about what kind of soundproofing they offer. For example, The Scottsdale Gun Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, has 32 shooting lanes. That right there in the “plus” column, because chances are, you can pick a lane away from the other shooters for less noise. This range also has state-of-the-art sound dampening technology. Other ranges have large, thick, soundproof walls between lanes.
Is it healthy? Ranges should follow federal environmental and occupational controls to protect the health of their customers and staff from the negative health effects of airborne lead, noise and other potential exposures. Top Gun Shooting Sports in Arnold, Missouri, offers the latest technology in air filtration to ensure its patrons are breathing clean air. For more information, go to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.
Is the size a good fit? Some of my friends like a smaller indoor range, because they like to form a friendly relationship with the staff. Yet others prefer a large range, because they use their range time as their escape. They walk down the line, and choose a lane away from everyone else. Most of the indoor ranges I’ve shot at offer from five to 30 lanes. Also, think about the length of the shooting lane you would prefer, such as 25 yards vs. 50 yards, and choose whatever works for you.
Can I purchase a firearm there? I like indoor ranges that have both shooting lanes and a retail showroom that offers a wide variety of firearms. Some facilities even offer discounts—if you rent four guns, and purchase a firearm that day, you get your rental fee back. This setup really works for me because I like to try a gun before I buy it.
Does it have a variety of targets? Find out if they only offer cardboard target backers, where you tape or staple your own paper target, or if they also offer a large assortment of steel targets to choose from.
What kind of guns can I shoot? Ask staff about the variety of guns you can either rent or shoot, if you can bring your own, such as semi-automatic, long guns and/or shotguns. Many ranges only permit shotgun shooting if you are using slugs, for example.
Does it offer classes? “Many ranges have caught on to the current demand for classes and competitions,” says Bien Schwalm, A Girl & A Gun Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania chapter member. “It adds to the community feel as well as provides opportunity to improve your shooting.”