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.
I would add “shoot drills” to the list. The fifty round drill I detailed in my content contest article is probably the most useful one I’ve found for an indoor range.
For those that don’t want to look it up:
The best way to train at an indoor range is to go to an outdoor range instead. There is one somewhere so take the extra time to go and stop being a pussy about the weather. Your ears and lungs will thank you as well. I fucking despise indoor ranges.
I went to an indoor range once. No fun at all. I’d rather shoot beer bottles thrown off the river bridge
Boy, that is no lie! But it’s BAD! I remember Dad tossing bottles out in the surf so I could plink them with a scoped .22, in the vicinity of 1961. Indoor range does not compute.
Totally agree. A lousy, stressful environment to practice, and a horrible place to introduce people to shooting. You can’t speak to each other, can’t hear anything, can’t remove hearing protection while not shooting to mitigate either, the RSOs are often creepy and/or weirdly intimidating, and you’re beset on all sides by the lowest (and most dangerous) common denominator of gun owners. Also, the guy on the far end doing .308 mag dumps out of his rented M14 gets really annoying really quick… ask me how I know.
Man, what shithole range are you forced to visit? I’m truly interested as to how the owners keep the place open if that’s true.
I got stuck next to a clown who rented the full auto machine gun. I was sprayed with .22 brass from that thing for an hour. Then he rents a .44 mag because he’s a Dirty Harry fan and went through 3 boxes of shells.
I’m there with my .22 pistols trying to dial in red dots and it was like shooting in an earthquake zone.
Hate it when that happens. They couldn’t move you to another bay?
Fill up beer cans with water (as you finish them off) and shoot them off a stump. That’s how you do it. :^)
I have never been more at risk for being shot than at public ranges
I will never go agaiy
But… bit… gun owners are mature, responsible people. They know and practice the four rules. They have the wisdom to understand the difference between Stand Your Ground and a bad shoot. Surely you’ve read enough of TTAG to know this to be true?!?!
I don’t like open air public ranges, especially unmanned ones. Had a jackass clear a shotgun pointed right down the line at 2 of us. We almost shoved it where it counts.
I also won’t go to a open air public range alone. It’s an invitation to get robbed or killed over your guns. I also carry a pistol at these open ranges in a holster. Not taking any chances down range I prefer everyone walk to the targets and not stay back. This isn’t possible everywhere though
The one open air public range i visit has a RSO on duty that enforces the 10 foot back rule from the open action guns. IT’s worth a few bucks a year to shoot there.
Agree with you there. I like open air ranges when they have competent and watchful RSOs present. The ones that don’t…no thanks. I’ve had more than one experience of encountering groups at unmanned ranges that appeared to be high on drugs and completely incompetent when it came to safety procedures.
I wish mine had a vibrating cleaning tank.
Just after college restarted this year we went to the local indoor range we have a membership at, a large group of college students had come in and rented several handguns- and was also using every piece of ear and eye protection the range had. Outside the range in the prep area, i was getting ear protection on and stuff and the kids were going in the range in two groups (once again, they had all the ear pro) and half the second group started to go into the range to ‘just watch’, while some of the others in the first group started to go in without the ear protection actually *on*. When I yelled for them to put the ear pro on BEFORE going in, they looked at me like I’d just sprouted another head…
(note, major uni in a free state that has lots of not-free state kids going to it, most of them had probably never touched a gun much less been to the range)
I find “square range” time both frustrating and useful. Frustrating because I can’t draw from the holster, or “move off the X” while shooting, but useful because I can concentrate on the basics (trigger control, sight picture, etc.), and because I can take beginners for their first exposure to a gun.
I’ve taken probably a dozen different people to the range for their first time. Most of those were people who had never even held a pistol before, and some were somewhat anti-gun. The most recent time was just a couple of weeks ago, when I took a husband/wife couple for their first exposure. He was very psyched to handle/shoot a semi-auto, and she was kind of afraid/nervous. I take people to the West Coast Armory range (near Seattle), since I’ve seen their commitment to safety.
I always go over the 4 rules with them before we even get to the range, along with what they’ll see and hear. I find preparing them for the noise and the range etiquette helps calm them down. The staff at West Coast is very friendly, and goes over the 4 rules with them again before they enter the actual range area.
For the husband/wife couple, I told them I would bring several of my pistols, all the ammo we’d need, and targets; all they had to pay for was their range fee (about $16 per person). I brought three pistols (.22 Buckmark, 9mm S&W, and Glock .45). I explain that each has a different “feel”, with different amounts of noise and recoil. But I make sure that they know that none of them are going to “knock them back” like they’ve seen in TV/Movies.
Even “gunshy” beginners like the .22; very little noise, very little recoil, and good accuracy…especially at 3 yards, which is where I always start beginners at. After a couple of shots with the Buckmark, the wife was much more relaxed and calm, and said she enjoyed the shooting. I let them try each pistol if they wanted to, and both decided that they wanted to try all three. Both were especially curious about the Glock, since EVERYONE has heard of Glock pistols. The husband was also eager to see how much recoil the .45 had.
Neither had any trouble firing any of them safely and accurately, even the Glock, although the wife didn’t like the recoil. She was happiest with the Buckmark.
By the time they left, the wife was talking about MAYBE getting a .22 pistol for herself, and the husband was very interested in other 9mm pistols. I told them that I’d be happy to answer any questions they have about the purchase process, licensing, storage, ammo, etc. Also gave them a very brief explanation of why I-1639 (in WA state) was a very bad idea, and why they should vote against it.
By any measure, it was a very successful time.
“at 3 yards, which is where I always start beginners at.”
Bravo. I do the same, building skills and confidence.
Last month, I took my bestie and his sister to the range. She hadn’t shot before, so I started her at 3 yards. She was safe and, after a dozen or so rounds, she was quite accurate. I started calling her Annie Oakley.
Lo and behold, her brother was belittling both of us for shooting at such close range. I couldn’t understand why he was being so negative until I noticed that he’d been shooting at 7 yards and was missing badly while she was drilling the bull.
Sibling rivalry can be such an ugly thing.
TTaG readers, and folks like us, largely represent the most hardcore, most dedicated upper echelon of the gun community. With over a hundred million gun owners out there, that’s probably millions of retards (even if only a single digit percentage of gun owners are complete morons) and millions more who, while not dumb, were either taught wrong or simply don’t care as much as they should.
And while this is based purely on personal anecdotes, I’ve typically found that folks on outdoor ranges are better. Even more so if it’s not even a monetized range with rules and facilities, meaning there are no RSOs and you can police each other
Yes and no. I’ve been muzzled multiple times at outdoor ranges. I’ve had parts of household objects land from the sky near me from d-bags using tannerite in said household objects in the pistol bays. I’ve had the excrement scared out of me when I was downrange and it turns out cold range Does mean everyone, even the people on lane 1 while I’m near lane 10.
I’ve also had the most fun shooting crap at outdoor ranges and BLM land… like anything it’s a risk benefit, and usually the benefits outweigh the risks. You have no idea what a 9mm can do when just shooting paper indoors, when you shoot pumpkins or watermelons outdoors you get a much better respect for the round 🙂
Someone really shot tannerite at an indoor range without intervention from a RSO? Packed into a small appliance? Hard to believe…
Outdoor range. County range no SRO, open 24/7… awesome place to shoot but better early in the morning or not on a weekend.
I was in the pistol bay and could hear BAM, BAM in the bay behind me, though it was someone shooting something magnum until part of something landed right next to me, got the heck out of there ASAP, drove my car around to see what was going on and when I saw the idiots shooting appliances I just drove off and called the sheriff, never heard what happened after that.
Our first indoor range opened up a while back and only lasted a few years, went once and honestly didn’t care for it. Just felt weird to me, and i guess i wasn’t the only one. Everyone here shoots outside, plus $25 per person an hour. Nah, drive 20 minutes up the hill and do it all day in the fresh air for free. As long as you got a hunting license.
Some of us don’t have much choices about the ranges we shoot at. I shoot at a couple different indoor ranges. A Point Blank range opened near me within the last year and it is really nice with their sound deadening technology pretty amazing compared to other ranges I have been too plus lighting and ventilation are excellent along with very reasonable prices on range ammo. I enjoy pistol shooting but not enough to spend four hours driving round trip to get to a good outdoor range. Now that I am retired I go to the indoor range on weekdays in the morning to early afternoon and they are much less crowded an those there seem more serious about their shooting than the weekend crowd. I work on marksmanship between 7 and 25 yards taking 3-4 pistols along and enjoy that.
If I’m willing to shoot at an indoor range I can shoot pretty much every Friday when I head home a little early from work. If I’m going to restrict myself to an outdoor range I’d only get to shoot maybe once a month. With a wife and four kids I try not to take away from the weekend family time. Unfortunately I don’t get to shoot my rifles much but shooting pistol every week has made me much better with my everyday carry pistol and my home defense pistol, Sig 365 and Sig p220 respectively. The indoor range I go to is well run and reasonable at 15 bucks for two hours.
I like the idea of supporting gun ranges that have a 50 to 100+ year history of owning land in the community.
Usually this means outdoor rod and gun clubs, but certainly some of them maintain indoor facilities.
A lot of indoor-only ranges are strip mall businesses that are here today, gone tomorrow.
I shoot at an indoor range pretty much exclusively. It’s a small range,and I got at 9AM on Saturday mornings, when idiots are home sleeping.
I am able to practice marksmanship, can start at low ready and simulate drawing from concealment, and I have a huge degree of autonomy.
At the large outdoor range, I have to deal with multiple RSOs. I have to wait until the range is cool before checking my target. I am stuck shooting at one distance. When I’m at the indoor range, I can train at 3-20 yards during my range session.
I live in the city. That means I can hit the indoor range in about 12 minutes and I am looking at 30-45 minutes worth of driving to get to an outdoor range. I also have a six year old daughter that unfortunately due to the complexities of modern life my time with her is essentially limited to the weekends and weekdays after 5pm.
So while I’d love to shoot outdoors, I am not willing to give up the extra 2 hrs of my weekend away from her just to commute to an outdoor range.
When she gets a little older and we can go together I’ll be more inclined to make the trek.
1. Don’t make a mess and cleanup after yourself. Police your brass.
2. Watch the F bombs. People bring women and children and some men don’t like the language. Pretend your mom is with you.
3. Save the massive mag dumps for when you are alone. Especially from big bore. It’s really annoying the the rest of us trying to work on our skills.
4. Leave the camera in the car.
5. We are not there to chit chat , especially when it’s by the hour we are paying. Save it for the lounge. We are not there to discuss politics or news events.
6. Don’t offer advice unless asked or someone is doing something dangerous and stupid. Especially if you’re new to the sport.
7. Don’t be shy about asking for help or questions about shooting. When we have a minute we can help, just don’t expect a half hour lesson.
There are probably a few more but these are my pet peeves.
Good way to go death. Even when you double up the hearing protection.
Love the “rental” ranges where skinny kids are shooting AKs with their weight on their heels, blasting away at the ceiling.
I went to an indoor range twice. The first time, I had just arrived and was setting up, when some jerk with a big bore pistol began blasting away in a stall one away from mine. Even with hearing protection, I was reeling from the noise and concussive force. I wished dearly that I could beat the bastard’s face in.
The second time was with a friend. Same range. Had fun, that time, but came home to find the fire department putting out a neighbor’s house fire. Decided then that the indoor range was bad luck.
Was a knuckle dragger who used to hate indoor ranges . Did some courses at sig accademy indoors and said to my self the old adage that it ain’t raining ( or snowing) was then you ain’t training is for fools . Got lucky the Preserve at Boulder in Rhode Island has 33 and 150 yd rangers . Pods of 3-4 grouped together with each bay having sound proofing. 90+ degrees shooting a Barret in 50 and a friend’s 338 laupu while others were running 22 match gun at 100 yd on the 150 range . Realized I am now shooting more as can go at night. After work and in pouring rain. Couldn’t convince them to let me shoot trap on the indoor 150: in the winter though