by B. Gil Horman - Monday, August 15, 2011
Experienced shooters may think an article about finding a gun range is like a write-up on how to breathe. Naturally though, new shooters need to know where they can practice. Likewise, a move to a new city or a trip out of town might leave you wondering where you can go to exercise your Second Amendment rights. Here are a few tips to speed up the process.
For those who still prefer the feel of paper in this electronic age, or those who, in their recent move still don't have their Internet connection, those yellow-paged phonebooks are still a good place to start. Every book uses its own fuzzy logic for organizing information, but think of FiGS when you let your fingers do the walking. Start with Fi for Firearms, then G for Guns and finally S for Shooting. Under one or more of these sections, you should find a list of local gun shops.
Why are you looking up gun stores when you want a place to shoot? Two reasons: First, many shops also provide ranges. How clearly they note the presence of a range on their premise varies. In other words, just because the ad doesn’t mention a range, doesn't mean there isn’t one. A few quick phone calls will let you know who has a place to shoot. Secondly, the shops that don't have a range can usually point you to one. If, in the course of calling, you hear about the same shooting range a few times, then you know it's probably one of the better choices in the area.
You can use the same FiGS search parameters on the Internet. Enter one of those words into your favorite search engine, along with the name of your city andstate or zip code. You should get a list of local gun dealers with contact information and maps. The Internet will sometimes throw in more information than you could glean from the phone book.
The Internet also provides some powerful search tools dedicated to finding a place to shoot. One of the best is the National Shooting Sports Foundation's Where To Shoot website. Just fill out your location information and search parameters, and you will get a list that includes indoor, outdoor, private and public ranges. Another good tool is the NRA's Find NRA Near You page. This tool goes beyond range locations to include a variety of NRA related events and organizations.
Visit Your Local Gun Dealers
Hard facts from the Internet or phonebook are nice to have, but they rarely present the whole story. Is the staff at the range friendly? Are you free to work or will someone be breathing down your neck? Are the facilities clean and up-to-date, or is it just a hole-in-a-hill? If you have moved to a new town or you are just ready for a change, spending some time at the local gun shops can be helpful in sorting out which range will meet your needs. Most staff members and other customers will tell you about the ranges they like to visit.
Ask Friends and Family
Some of the very best range time to be had is tucked away in Mother Nature's shooting gallery. Letting your friends and family know you are looking for a good place to shoot can reveal all kinds of lovely locations for an afternoon of plinking. Be sure you understand the local regulations, get permission before entering private property and take the supplies and precautions you need to be safe while shooting outside.
Connect with National Clubs and Organizations
Another quick way to find a good range is to contact the wide variety of shooting clubs or organizations that offer memberships throughout the country. Many of these groups have regular meetings, training sessions and competitions, all of which require a good shooting range. Most of these groups have put together useful websites to save you time in learning more about what is going on in your area. It’s not possible to list every organization, but here are a few to consider in your quest for range time:
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