Nestled at the foot of a mesa about 8,000 feet above sea level and four hours’ drive southwest of Denver resides one of the nation’s premier long-range shooting facilities. A-hundred-and-fifty-some-odd years ago it was a stagecoach stop. In more recent history, it served as a dude ranch resort. As of last fall, Mill Creek Shooting Resort was purchased with the specific intention to turn it into, well, a shooting resort . . .
As the “resort” part of the name implies, Mill Creek hasn’t set out to cater to the law enforcement and government tactical types so much as to you and me. Normal civvies, normal people, hobbyists of all abilities and experience levels. Whether it’s hunting, competition, self-defense, good ol’ target shooting or something else, the idea is that you’ll fit right in thanks to Mill Creek’s laid back, friendly atmosphere and flexible training courses.
Maybe you shoot but the rest of the family isn’t into it? No worries — there’s more than enough to keep them busy on a fun, mountain vacation. MCSR lives up to the “resort” part of their title by offering . . .
Horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, off road vehicle tours, and camping.
Ballroom facilities (complete with stage and full bar) and multiple classrooms or conference rooms.
Fine dining and another full bar.
Sun room with a hot tub.
A full-on church for weddings or other use.
A museum with all sorts of cool old Western stuff in it (they may or may not sell the collection, though), including . . .
A hearse from the movie Tombstone. Turns out it wasn’t built as a movie prop but was an actual, functioning (read: used) hearse from the American frontier days. Didn’t feel haunted, though, so I hopped in for a power nap.
Also, a chariot from the movie Ben-Hur. And a whole lot more.
There’s a giant potato gun that’s used to shoot baseballs into low earth orbit.
And if all of this isn’t enough, within about a half hour of Mill Creek’s property is white water rafting, one of the best zip line parks anywhere, spas and salons, shopping, skiing, and more. MCSR can also facilitate helicopter tours (or, you know, shooting from a helicopter), accommodate private chefs, cater to corporate retreats, and make other custom amenities and events possible.
The main “hotel” in Mill Creek’s secluded Wild West town, called Old Cow Town, has about a dozen nice rooms in it plus a large lounge area with billiards table, a dining room, laundry facilities, and office. There are also a couple of separate residences, and MCSR is planning on building a few more stand-alone cottages for families or couples looking to be more secluded.
Additionally there’s the main lodge / log cabin mansion, which has eight or more beds in it including a master with its own indoor hot tub. Actually, lodging possibilities don’t even end there as MCSR has full hookups for a half-dozen RVs, too.
Before moving onto why you’re really here — the shooting facilities — there’s just one more thing to mention about the property . . .
There are still a handful of buildings from the mid-1800s when it was serving as a stagecoach stop, plus a bunch of antique, horse-drawn farm equipment. It seemed too cool to leave out.
And…sorry…just a few more views of some of the Wild West town they’ve built:
Class for us was set up inside of the “Hardware store,” with tables arranged in a semi-circle facing towards a projector screen and whiteboard.
Rifles from Alamo Precision Rifles and a couple from Western Precision Rifles adorned other tables, along with cans from Idaho Suppressor Company (formerly Ballista Suppressors). We’ll cover the performance and details of these products in a separate post, but for the purposes of this long range shooting class the students were basically told to choose a rifle of their liking to use over the two-day course.
Ladd Hall, fire department Engine Captain, SWAT medic, Rescue Task Force instructor, PRS competitor, and ballistics wizard, taught the Long Range Precision Rifle course. Though I took another excellent long range shooting course just a few weeks prior, I still learned a heck of a lot from Ladd.
He not only has one of the deepest understandings of internal and external ballistics of anyone anywhere, he possesses the uncanny ability to explain and demonstrate these topics — which are sometimes highly technical and confusing — in shockingly clear, easy-to-digest and understand ways.
My knowledge of things like the wind’s effect on a bullet, how parallax adjustment really works, and shooting in order to confirm true velocity is all vastly improved now and I’m a better long range shooter for it.
After a couple hours in the classroom we stepped right over to one of MCSR’s shooting areas to zero our rifles at 100 yards. I put three, 6mm Creedmoors into a very tight little cloverleaf, made the scope adjustments, put two on top of each other through the bullseye, and called it good.
We then moved over to the driveway to calculate our rifle and ammo combination’s precise muzzle velocity. Using an approximate velocity number, the known ballistic coefficient for the projectile, and the actual air density, we engaged steel targets at 1,300 yards while dialing in the hold suggested by our shooting apps.
Once the actual, required hold was found in order to put lead on steel, the apps were able to backtrack the true velocity. Was 33.5 MOA of elevation needed over the 100-yard zero to hit that 1,300-yard steel? Well, then your 105 grain Berger Hybrid was doing 2,975 fps out of the muzzle. Forget what the box says and what your chronograph says today; they’re both wrong.
Another benefit to finding true velocity by shooting out basically as far as you can (ideally at like 90% of the distance at which the bullet begins to go transonic) and dialing that hold into the scope is that it will build in correction for mechanical error in your elevation turret. Even if correct, using chronograph muzzle velocity will lead to increasing error as you dial in for longer ranges, whereas using true velocity takes scope error into account and nets much more accurate holds from zero to extreme range.
Our first day also included pistol instruction in the classroom and, mostly, on the range. This was lead by Dorcia Meador, whose instructional and shooting resume is very impressive and far too long to list here, but includes 15+ national championships and just about every instructional certification available.
With borrowed GLOCK 19s we proceeded to run various drills working primarily on the fundamentals of grip, sight alignment, and trigger pull. Dorcia is a great teacher and many of us witnessed immediate, obvious improvements.
Once everyone was comfortable and up-to-speed, we moved over to an area with barricades and various steel targets. Ammo was switched to frangible, and we had fun shooting hostage targets, swingers, poppers, and a Texas Star in different positions and through/around the barricades if desired.
Naturally some friendly competition entered the mix as well, which is hard to avoid with a Texas Star. With six rounds in a magazine we each tried to clear the star as quickly as possible.
On my first attempt I missed my very first shot and lost focus because of it, performing poorly for me and feeling like an idiot. Thankfully we got to shoot it a few more times, and I managed to clear the star shooting single-handed (strong hand), then shooting lefty, then set the fastest time of the day shooting normally.
Day one drew to a close with some giant potato gun shenanigans, followed by a nice dinner in “Smokey’s” then social time around the campfire. I also discovered Colorado-distilled Stranahan’s single malt in Mill Creek Shooting Resort’s bar. Good stuff.
Day two began in the classroom again, and we really got into the meat of long range precision shooting, ballistics, hunting, and more.
We then drove down the valley floor in front of the resort to line up for one-mile shots. Yup, the long range class at MCSR promises to get you on steel at one full mile away. Or more! With their current setup they can easily shoot to 2,000 yards and they’re looking into extending that even farther. We decided to plop down at about 1,880 yards, which is more than a football field beyond the 1,760-yard (aka one mile) mark.
Shooting both a .338 Lapua Magnum (from Alamo Precision Rifles) and a .300 Winchester Magnum (from Western Precision Rifles), I went four-for-four on an IPSC silhouette. At 1,880 yards. Awesome. The rifles are tack drivers, and the wind calls and instruction from Ladd, Roger, and Jay were dead-on.
Hard to believe, but from there it got even better. Via ATV, UTV, truck, or horse, Mill Creek will shuttle you up onto the mesa above the resort. From the cliff’s edge, steel targets were visible everywhere.
Shooting prone, seated, and kneeling from flat grassland or rocky outcroppings, we engaged steel from about 440 yards to 1,400 yards and everywhere in-between. There were poppers, swinging targets, gongs of various sizes, IPSC targets in full and reduced sizes, and animal silhouettes peppered around the valley floor, tree line, and hills. Including one electronic steel target, which sends impact data back to a mobile device out to about a half-mile. That was a slick system, and MCSR is likely going to pick up more.
The rocks allowed for (or necessitated) some interesting improvised shooting positions, which I found fun and challenging. Seen above, I’m working on impregnating a rock and providing you with a fine view of my good side while shooting at an awkward angle to the rifle. Confirmed hit at 1,300 like this. The 6mm Creedmoor is a slippery, fast little bugger.
After apologizing to the rock and telling it I’d call, the folks at the resort sent lunch up to us. It’s definitely hard to beat the surroundings and scenery offered here, whether hanging out and eating or sending bullets onto steel so far away that over four full seconds tick by from the shot to the gong sound of the impact making it back.
With a few hours to kill before I had to leave for my flight, one of the owners of MCSR shoved a rifle, ammo, and truck keys in my hands and told me to go have fun. Driving back out to the far side of the driveway area, I ranged steel at close to 1,400 yards, estimated a 1.5 minute wind, and missed. Holding 1 MOA of wind instead, the rest of the 10-round magazine found the IPSC target. With that wind figured out, first-round hits at all of the closer targets were near-on guaranteed.
While Mill Creek Shooting Resort is up in the mountains of Colorado, it’s apparently in a bit of a “snow shadow” and sees relatively minimal snowfall plus about 285 sunny days per year. They’ll be shooting here year-round, though you may need to pack differently from my May visit.
As mentioned earlier, MCSR is geared towards civilian shooters looking to improve or test their skills. Classes and facilities cover the gamut from competition to self-defense/tactical pistol, carbine, and precision rifle shooting, plus hunting.
While any certified instructor can rent the facilities partially or in whole for a class, the basic idea here is getting away from the boot camp tactical mentality and providing top-quality instruction in a laid-back, friendly, low-pressure environment suited for beginner to expert while also providing amenities for non-shooting family or friends (or simply for a more varied vacation).
Jay, one of the principals, said a few times that he wants people to “come as guests and leave as family,” and he really means it. Furthermore, Jay and his wife, Shelley, who is Director of Shooting Experiences, made it clear that MCSR applies to everyone just as the Second Amendment does. Whether it’s an LGBT group looking to rent the place out for private instruction or individuals joining scheduled, MCSR-run classes, everybody is welcome regardless of sex or race or sexual orientation or whatever else.
If you’re looking to improve your shooting ability, learn a new skill (e.g. tactical carbine, long range, etc), or exercise your 2A rights for the first time with a group of friends, then Mill Creek Shooting Resort welcomes you.
I personally believe that securing the future of the Second Amendment requires more of the minority, women, and other historically discriminated-against parts of society embracing the fact that the 2A is for them, too.
In fact, an argument could be made that they need its protections even more. I was really happy to hear this rebuttal of the stereotype that the gun industry or “gun culture” is only for white men. And, in my opinion, MCSR did it in the right way by simply stating that they’re open to all. No focus on any given group of people other than those with an interest in shooting plus their families/friends. Let the antis define people by their differences…we’re busy hitting targets at a mile plus.
SPECIFICATIONS: Mill Creek Shooting Resort
Location: Saguache County, CO
Altitude: ~8,200 feet
Size: ~360 acres
Rooms: Approximately 14 bedrooms to accommodate families, groups, or individuals. Plus standalone 5,000 sq/ft lodge sleeps 10-12. More single-family cabins are planned.
Buildings: Lodging, restaurant, dance hall, museum, open floor buildings for classroom or meetings, barn, stable, master lodge, store, private residences, smoke house, and historical buildings.
Shooting Facilities: 100-yard rifle bay, pistol bay, varied long-range shooting positions available around property to accommodate ranges out to 2,000 yards at different angles. More rifle and pistol bays planned.
Other On-Site Activities and Amenities: mini golf, volleyball, horseback riding, picnic tables, BBQ/grills, fire pits, potato gun, horse shoes, hiking and biking trails, ATVs/UTVs/snowmobiles, full bar, hot tubs, laundry facilities, meeting rooms, and more
Off-Site Activities Nearby: white water rafting, zip line course, skiing, snowmobiling, biking, shopping, spas, and more
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Lodging/Location * * * *
Accommodations are awesome. Significantly nicer than I would have expected in terms of build, finish, and quality in every aspect of the buildings (and property) from ceiling tiles to furniture to artwork. Comfortable beds, mini fridge and microwave in room, nice dresser, functional (albeit a bit slow) WiFi, on-demand coffee everywhere. The food was great, too. Fully five stars except for the fact that it’s a four-hour drive from Denver or three from Colorado Springs. It’s a beautiful drive for sure, but four hours from the major airport is certainly out in the boondocks.
Long Range Class * * * *
Ladd is a fantastic instructor and the class covered important topics and drove them home clearly. I’d only suggest they work on sticking to a schedule and not getting too distracted by going into the weeds on some topics, though each time it was spurred by audience questions/comments. Another time saver would be avoiding drawing charts and other things already shown on the projector. I did like how all of the slides were printed out and handed to us with blank note taking areas for each.
Shooting Facilities * * * * *
Long range shooting galore with steel targets from 100 yards to 2,000 yards and the ability to shoot uphill, downhill, flat, and in different wind scenarios (across the valley, down the valley, through an updraft off the cliff, etc). A very nice pistol bay and rifle bay with tons of configurable steel targets and all sorts of different barricades. They can easily set up for PRS-style matches, 3-Gun, and other competitions. The addition of a shoot house or sims facility — maybe converting part of an existing building — would be awesome.
Overall * * * *
I can’t wait to bring the wife and kids here. The wife couldn’t care less about shooting, my just-turned-5-y/o is ready to try it for the first time, and the toddler is still years away, but I know we’d all have a blast relaxing and recreating in the mountains. It would be awesome to organize a TTAG reader shooting class and 3- or 4-day retreat, eh? There’s a partial star held in reserve for the forthcoming and planned additions, plus a slight knock just for being so dang far from the airport. Though, sure, seclusion has its benefits.
MCSR is a strong four-star facility, and likely one of the best shooting destinations in the nation.