This past Saturday was Take A Newbie Shooting Day, and I had about 15 people joining me at the Bullet Hole range in San Antonio. It was a convenient drive for everyone, and offered some private shooting bays so we could have people running handguns and rifles at the same time. In theory, it was ideal for the day. In practice, it was awful.
When I woke up on Saturday morning, it had been raining for a good few hours. For every other range in the city this isn’t a problem, since they have covered shooting positions and gravel covering the ground to keep from getting muddy. Bullet Hole, on the other hand, is one gigantic mudpit. Even walking through the complex to the range, the pavement lasts only a few yards before the muddy mess that is Texas mud takes over.
Thankfully it had only just rained so there wasn’t enough time for the water to soak in, but I’ve been at the range days after a rainstorm only to leave with my shoes and all my gear caked with mud. Its annoying, it makes an awful mess, and in the summer its a prime breeding ground for the mosquitoes that roam the place in great swarms.
Before even getting a range assigned, we were treated to the worst customer service I’ve ever experienced.
Since this is one of the bigger ranges in the city, people generally start showing up and queuing for a private bay around a half hour before the range opens. Ranges can be reserved during the week, but weekends is a first come first served deal. This particular weekend was also the CHL licensing course (which sucks, I’ve taken it, don’t recommend it at all) so the microscopic parking lot was already full. Which means that we all had to park along the street, which has limited visibility thanks to some steep hills at either end of the street. Not a very safe start to the day, and the range wasn’t even “open” yet.
When the doors finally opened, there was one guy manning the counter. One. And I should mention that the line was a good 20 people long at this point, actually on the smaller side for a normal Saturday. And yet there was only one person to deal with all the people wanting to use the range.
What makes this even better is that this guy who was manning the register was 100% “tunnel vision” focused on selling some guy an Arsenal AK pistol for $900+. Which meant that the line of people patiently waiting was ignored.
For a good 20 minutes.
That’s 20 minutes where the only employee at the counter was doing nothing but doing a transfer. No one was handing out paperwork to speed things up. No one was even making an effort to be efficient.
By the time I finally paid my money and was issued one of the bays, I had been waiting in line 30 minutes past opening. And I was second in line.
I told the guy behind the counter that I was expecting more people, and he said it was cool and he’d send them back. So I popped out the door and went to practice my draw while waiting for the rest of the guys. Turns out that they were only a few places in line, and they turned up AN HOUR later.
It took the guy OVER AN HOUR AND A HALF to take money from 20 people and hand them a slip of paper saying which range they were on.
When my friends got to the range, we started the Take A Newbie Shooting day in earnest. The newbies were loving it, the experienced guys were having a blast shooting all the cool guns, and a good time was had by all. Until a few minutes later we were told to leave.
When I rented the range, we were given a two hour chunk of time to shoot. That’s the deal: you pay your money, and you get two hours of range time. I had been there two hours, but everyone else had been there less than one thanks to the guy behind the counter.
I told everyone to stay on the range while I sorted the situation out. When I got to the counter (with the same guy behind it) no one was there. There was no line, there was no one waiting, and everyone was happily shooting. So I did what seemed logically acceptable — I offered to hand him more money for continued use of the range. He said no.
We argued for a bit, and it came down to his boss being angry that people were extending their range time in the bays. I guess it wasn’t making them enough money to have the same people in the bay for two blocks of time, so they wanted to cycle more people through. I asked if we left and came back could we have another bay — the answer was no. And it wasn’t a polite “no,” the guy was actively being a dick. Even though some of our group had been on the range WAY less than the two hours they paid for, which was completely due to their own crappy customer service, we were being kicked out and not allowed to rent the range again.
Some of the staff tried to argue my point, saying that there was no one waiting and that I should be allowed to hand them more money, but the guy behind the counter was having none of that “logic” stuff. Apparently we were in the way of paying customers. Who were invisible.
The Bullet Hole range used to be run by nice people, and in an efficient manner. But those days are long since gone. What we have now are power-tripping employees and cash hungry owners that don’t care about customer service. They offer a sub-standard facility with poor accommodations that isn’t well maintained at all, and charge an arm and a leg for using it.
Oh, and if you ever bring an NFA item with you, they demand to see your papers. Doesn’t matter that they aren’t ATF agents, doesn’t matter that you’re not legally required to carry those registration documents, they demand to see the paperwork. Which I always found to be a bit invasive.
I had had enough. When we handed in our target stands and they handed back my range membership card, I whipped out my pocket knife and sliced it in half leaving the pieces on the desk. I will never go back to that range ever again. I left the Bullet Hole range and drove the 45 minutes to the Bracken Range on the northside to sight in my new competition rifle instead of paying to use their 50 yard range.
It was one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had on a range, and it feels good to vent. Especially when you can vent to 1.4 million readers and on a site that is beloved by the Google search engine.