Shooting ranges in the United States

Shooting ranges in the United States

There are many shooting ranges in the United States open to the public, both indoor and outdoor. Usually, both privately owned guns or rental guns rented from the shooting range may be used, although there are some public ranges that only permit their own leased guns to be used. Those that only permit their own guns are most often those catering to international tourists in major tourist destinations, e.g., Orlando, Florida. Usually, there is adequate instruction in use of rental guns at shooting ranges by a range master or other individual to enable one to easily learn use of any rental gun in just a few minutes. Each shooting range facility in the United States is typically overseen by one or more range masters to ensure gun safety rules are always stringently followed.

Specialized classes and licenses

Typically, no license or advanced training beyond just gun familiarization (for rental guns) and range rules familiarization is usually required for using a shooting range in the United States; the only common requirement is that the shooter must be at least 18 or 21 years old (or have a legal guardian present), and must sign a waiver prior to shooting.

Self-defense classes are also usually available for a fee at shooting ranges, covering gun use in much more detail.

Some ranges offer a class for a concealed carry license, which is available in many states. Some states issue the license only after a short course, and in some it is optional.

Shooting range locations

Most cities in the United States with a population of 30,000 or more have one or more public-access shooting ranges. Exceptions include cities in the states of Hawaii, California, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Washington, DC, all known for gun control policies in general, where the numbers of ranges may be only one for every few hundred thousand people, or none at all.Fact|date=April 2008

Throughout much of the rest of the United States, especially in areas where the dominant side of the gun politics debate leans towards gun rights, and where no license is usually required to own a handgun or rifle or shotgun, and there is often no requirement even to show any identification prior to buying ammunition, the typical number of ranges approaches one for every 15,000 to 25,000 people.Fact|date=April 2008

Of particular interest to international tourists interested in public access shooting ranges in the United States while on holiday, especially gun-friendly states include Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, New Hampshire, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah, among others. All of these typically have public access shooting ranges with rental guns available at a modest fee. Ammunition costs for rental guns varies, of course, but 9 mm Luger (usually the cheapest service caliber round) is often available for around $19 per 100 at Wal-mart, or slightly higher ($22-25) at most public access shooting ranges. Costs of .22LR cartridges often run less than $0.02 per round.

Private or restricted-access shooting ranges are also owned and used by police departments, private companies, private membership shooting clubs, and the military for qualification and/or continued firearms practice and training. These private ranges typically have more-specialized features not seen in public ranges, e.g., large caliber rifle and automatic weapons ranges.

There are several types of shooting ranges, each catering to different classes of firearms, and meeting different needs. Some are inside buildings; others are outdoors and cover many acres.

Outdoor ranges

* On a shotgun or trap range, the shooter aims to hit sporting clays or skeet that are mechanically-fired (or in some cases, thrown by hand) across an open field. These involve shooting clay disks also know as clay pigeons thrown in various ways. Both skeet and trap are Olympic Games and the sports are practiced by many bird hunters to sharpen their marksmanship.
* On a rifle range, shooters typically fire at targets 100-300 yards (91-275 meters) or greater distance. Many rifle ranges feature mechanized steel targets that automatically reset upon being hit. Hunters in particular often use rifle ranges to calibrate or "sight-in" their weapons prior to hunting.
* On a handgun range, shooters fire semi-automatic pistols, revolvers, and (sometimes) submachine guns at stationary targets along, or at the end of, a 15-100 yard (13-91 meter) long lane.

Most outdoor ranges have established strictly followed procedures for ensuring that a range is either active ("hot") or inactive ("cold"). When everyone on the firing line agrees for the line to go hot, actions may be closed, magazines may be loaded, rounds may be chambered and guns may be fired. When everyone on the firing line agrees for the line to go cold, magazines must be removed, guns must be unloaded, actions opened, and all the guns must be placed on tables. Only upon confirmation, often with everyone with their hands in the air, does the line actually go cold. Guns may not be loaded or even touched when the line is cold.

Outdoor shooting ranges usually are backed by a sandbagged barrier or specially-designed funnel-shaped traps to prevent bullets from ricocheting back at the shooters. Many older outdoor ranges only use an earthen berm, which is often composed of sand, and called the impact berm. Most outdoor ranges additionally restrict the maximum caliber size, or have separate ranges devoted to use with rifles firing heavier caliber cartridges. Many outdoor ranges do permit the use of automatic weapons on specially adapted Class III weapons ranges.

The largest problem currently with outdoor ranges is the lack of sufficient area behind and beside the impact berms. This area, usually called the Surface Danger Zone (SDZ), is a fan-shaped area that extends lengthwise to the ultimate ballistic distance of the round fired. Outdoor ranges often use baffles to contain fired rounds within the range, and, with proper design can reduce the surface danger zone area. Guidelines for surface danger zones vary widely. The National Rifle Association maintains guidelines for range design, but often the U.S. Military range design guidelines are more prescriptive, specific and easier to use.

Targets using Tannerite are sometimes used for indicating long-range markmanship accuracy, but only at high power rifle and full-auto outdoor ranges. (Tannerite is a binary explosive that is not exploded unless hit with high-velocity rounds. Pistol rounds will not set it off.)

Indoor ranges

Indoor ranges differ in construction, depending on the type of weapons to be fired:
* On a rifle range, shooters typically fire pistol caliber carbines at targets 100 yards (91 meters) distant. The common practice is to follow rules much like those required on outdoor ranges.
* On a handgun range, shooters fire semi-automatic pistols, revolvers, and (sometimes) submachine guns at stationary targets along, or at the end of, a 15-100 yard (14-91 meter) long lane. Paper or cardboard targets are hung from a dummy or target holder positioned on a slide; this arrangement allows the shooter to control the shooting distance and retrieve targets for inspection. The target is typically hung from a replaceable hanger attached to a mechanized or motorized assembly that can be placed at varying distances from the shooter, by means of an electrical switch or manual pulley system. Common range shooting distances are 5 yards (4.5 meters) to 7 yards (6.4 meters) minimum, up to 25 yards to 33 yards (23-30 meters). Most ranges have minimum shooter-to-target distances, set by the range master, determined by safety considerations.

Fees for using indoor public shooting ranges vary widely with local costs, but a typical rate starts at $10 per hour of use, with targets available at a modest charge if you do not bring your own. Additional fees usually will also pertain to damaging target hangers, lights or baffles, up to damaging motors, which may cost as much as $200, per incident. Unlike for outdoor ranges, or for indoor rifle ranges, indoor public handgun shooting ranges are usually run continuously "hot". The only exception is if a target falls from a holder and needs to be retrieved. In this rather rare scenario, some ranges will go "cold", after all guns are placed on the firing line table with their actions open. Other ranges have a policy that no shooters may go forward of the firing line at any time, so the dropped target is considered lost and must be replaced.

Indoor ranges usually have a projectile trap consisting of curved or angled steel plates, shredded rubber, or specially packed and groomed sand, with reinforced baffles attached to the ceiling and walls. The most modern ranges additionally include anechoic chamber technology (foam wedges), or place other sound absorbing materials on walls, floors and ceilings for additional noise reduction. Such ranges also usually have an air-locked corridor for soundproofing, with doors at opposite ends of the corridor. Noise from the range is effectively contained as long as only one door is opened at a time; it is considered a breach of etiquette to open both doors simultaneously. Ventilation is designed the to be sufficient in quantity and directional control to reduce concentrations of lead in the air to safe levels in the shooting area.

The maximum caliber size is sometimes posted on the door of the airlock on each particular range, or in the lobby or ready area if the facility only contains one range. Most indoor ranges restrict the use of certain magnum calibers, or the use of automatic weapons, primarily to prevent damage to the facilities. Other ranges do not have a caliber restriction, but instead limit projectiles to a certain muzzle velocity, often 2000 feet per second, or bullet construction.

Common safety practices

Nearly all public ranges require that all guns be unloaded prior to entering, or leaving, the range facility, irrespective of whether one holds a concealed carry license. The same is true for rental guns leaving or returning to the rental counter, going to and from the shooting range.

Whether indoors or outdoors, all shooters are required to wear safety glasses or goggles, although some ranges will allow impact-resistant corrective glasses as the only eye protection. Ear protection is also required, either ear muffs or ear plugs, as long as one is within the defined boundaries of the range and the range is hot. For indoor ranges, these must be donned before going through the air lock door, and kept on as long as individuals are within the high noise area.

The instructions of the appointed range master are to be followed at all times.

Holster drawing, cowboy action shooting and combat-style shooting are not generally allowed, except on specially designated action shooting ranges, which often have additional safety requirements and equipment. Regular public ranges that do allow such shooting usually restrict the practice to designated persons, such as Law Enforcement, professional shooters, or others designated by range personnel.

Cost of shooting

If one brings one's own guns, ear and eye protection, it is often possible to buy a 50-round box of 9 mm ammunition and target, rent an indoor lane for an hour, and enjoy shooting for under $25 in the United States. Fees for outdoor ranges are often even less, often running $6.50 for 3 hours of range time. Along with a 500-round brick of .22 LR ammunition that often costs less than $13.00, it is possible on an outdoor range to enjoy an afternoon of shooting for under $20. Gun rental fees vary, depending on the model and caliber, but for a typical, non-exotic handgun, costs are only modestly higher. Hearing and eye protection rental fees are modest, often available for under $3 each.

Shooting ranges that cater to foreign tourists interested in shooting handguns may have special package deals for under $20 for instruction, assistance, and shooting. Larger caliber guns and automatic weapons are available for tourists at some ranges as well. Fees for renting larger guns are only modestly more, but rental fees for automatic weapons can rise quickly, to hundreds of dollars, depending on the number of rounds one wishes to fire.

For those interested in more heavy use of the local shooting range, annual memberships are also available at many indoor U.S. shooting ranges. Both individual and family memberships are often available. Typical costs vary but annual membership is usually available for around $200 per person, or slightly more for an entire family. Such plans typically have an "all you want" usage of the range, unlike the typical 1/2 hour or 1-, 2-, or 3-hour rental time slots when renting a shooting lane as an occasional shooter. For anyone shooting more than 8-10 times a year, annual membership is often cheaper than paying an hourly rate. For the more exotic outdoor sporting club private ranges, annual membership in the NRA is usually mandatory.

Environmental issues

Since 1990, many outdoor public ranges in Government-owned facilities and parks in the United States have been temporarily closed due to concerns over lead contamination and ground water contamination, mostly a result of legislators responding to gun politics issues. Privately owned facilities have largely gone unbothered by recent regulatory changes. Gun politics issues are a concern for shooting enthusiasts, who feel that their access to public shooting ranges is being infringed.

Almost all outdoor ranges are under scrutiny, as many were poorly designed and lack the Surface Danger Zones required for safe operation. Though they might have existed in this form for many years, encroachment from residential and commercial growth along property lines have increased concerns over safety.

See also

*Action shooting
*Gun politics in the United States
*Shooting sports
*Skeet shooting
*Trap shooting

External links

* [ Florida Today article on shooting ranges]

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