Over the almost two decades of training in the private sector I have had the fortune to train at some first rate indoor ranges (and more than a few that weren’t quite so nice). As an armed citizen they represent great locations to practice, but you should know what to expect.
Follow the Rules
The most important consideration is to know and follow the rules of the facility. Many ranges have their own site-specific rules designed to ensure a safe environment for all their customers. I’m well aware that there are plenty of very safe shooters out there, but running training at an indoor range almost exclusively for the last two years I can tell you they are not the norm.
All it takes is for you to look at our baffles and even side walls to realize that lots of customers don’t have even basic shooting skills. As a result, range safety needs to be designed around the lowest common denominator. That necessarily means certain restrictions and you will need to either play by their rules or find another place to shoot.
You can always approach the staff to see if there are exceptions that can be made for certain training and drills you want to work on. But remember…they don’t know you from Adam and I can promise you almost everyone has asked that question.
Focus on Marksmanship
Even the most restrictive indoor ranges can provide value as long as you adjust your expectations. The biggest suggestion would be to have a plan for how you will spend your time during your visit.
What do you want to practice? Some marksmanship at distance? Maybe some follow-through drills? Some weak hand practice? Granted, some activities you may want to try may be either prohibited or closely monitored so have a plan and options in mind. Be prepared to be flexible if it’s your first time at a particular facility.
I see so many customers come through with little to no regard for marksmanship…they’re just there to shoot. Actual practice and improvement are less sexy than rapid fire or other cool stuff like holster work. Remember that putting in the time and effort to ensure your marksmanship skills are solid is never a waste of time.
Know your Target and What’s Beyond
Here is a pet peeve. I get that some of you want to use your own targets. But if hanging your own targets creates an unsafe condition — such as hitting the baffles — then don’t be upset when you’re told you can’t use them.
Rule #4 applies at a range, too. If placing your target on the hanger in such a way that it means your shots go through the target and into the baffles, it’s not safe. More importantly, it means you aren’t shooting safely.
Most facilities have an assortment of different targets to choose from so you should be able to find one that lets you achieve your particular goals. It’s not so much a matter of what target you’re using as the tasks, conditions and standards you use when you shoot. Put some time into establishing those before you arrive.
Set an Example
Probably the best advice I can give folks who frequent indoor ranges is to set an example. Recognize there is a lot going on at most indoor ranges and exhibiting safe shooting and gun handling goes a long way to making the range a better, safer experience for everyone.
Not only will the staff recognize a squared away individual, but other customers notice it as well. At times, you may even be referenced, “See how Steve is doing it? Be more like Steve.”
Of course, there’s the other side to this coin as well. Don’t be that guy. Remember, you’re a guest at the range. Just because you paid a lane rental fee doesn’t give you unlimited access to do whatever you want or authorize you to be a jerk.
Don’t take it personally if you’re asked by a range safety officer to follow the rules or change something you may be doing. The staff has one ultimate responsibility and that’s to ensure a safe environment for ALL customers. Follow the range rules, set a good example and you’ll have a good time.
While they’re inherently more limited, indoor ranges will always be popular. Just remember that they’re a business with a bottom line and just want to provide a safe, fun environment for their customers. Take advantage of these facilities — even if you don’t like all the rules — because there’s always an opportunity for growth and improvement.
Jeff Gonzales is a former US. Navy SEAL and preeminent weapons and tactics instructor. He brings his Naval Special Warfare mindset, operational success and lessons learned unapologetically to the world at large. Currently he is the Director of Training at The Range at Austin. Learn more about his passion and what he does at therangeuastin.com.