Building a range: how hard could it be? Put a bunch of concrete walls up, slather a few firearms for sale on the walls, and hey-presto you’ve got yourself a range! The problem presents itself when you’re trying to elevate the range experience from the “dingy basement” level of most indoor ranges her in Austin, Texas there’s a little more planning involved. Little did I know exactly how much of my time was about to be consumed poring over at engineering diagrams . . .
Starting on January 1st I officially became the newest employee of The Range at Austin. Things had been moving full speed ahead well before I was hired; the plans for the building are dated from May of last year. But even before those plans were finalized a ton of thought had to be put into the design.
When you head to a range here in Austin, what exactly do you want to do? That question needed to be answered pretty smartly. Are most people there to shoot handguns or rifles? Do they want short range targets or long range?
According to our TTAG reader surveys, most people head to the range one to three times a month. Roughly a third of shooters head to an indoor range. And 69 percent of customers go to shoot handguns. Obviously the majority of the space would need to be useful for that kind of activity, but there’s a large portion (53 percent) who also want to shoot rifles.
Downrange, the solution is pretty obvious: make the backstop capable of handling all of those calibers.
Every backstop at The Range is manufactured by Action Target. We’ve opted for their higher level solution that allows us to fire a fully automatic 12.7x108mm DShK at it all day long. If we wanted.
Then again, we don’t really want to be replacing the backstop all that often. The plan: limit shooters to a much more reasonable caliber like .375 H&H Magnum. The higher level protection means that even on the short range “pistol” lines you can whip out your WASR-10 and blast away to your heart’s content.
Short range firing is cool and practicing with handguns doesn’t need a lot of distance, but there are shooters who want a longer distance. Texas hill country is prime hunting real estate. Giving people the opportunity to sight in their hunting rifle at a full 100 yards is an important marketing opportunity. Sixty percent of people in the TTAG survey are hunters or aspiring hunters, so providing a space for them to perfect their zero should be very appealing.
There’s another reason why this is awesome and that has to do with isolation.
TTAG’s gun reviews all use a 100 yard five-round group as the gold standard for accuracy comparison. Doing that on an outdoor range can introduce all sorts of nasty variables into the equation. Humidity, temperature changes and crosswind can all widen out the group size independent of the actual accuracy of the firearm.
There’s only one other place in the local area that has a covered 100-yard range. TrackingPoint’s R&D facility near Dripping Springs isn’t open to the public. The Range at Austin’s 100-yard lane will be miles better (so to speak), controlling all of the variables and providing a test facility for any accuracy conscious shooter looking to test the true measure of their firearm.
A gun store is the last piece that’s an absolute must-have.
Austin has a ton of gun stores, but none of them are run the way we want one to be run. The traditional setup featuring a burly plaid-shirted man sitting behind a counter blathering about politics and pushing their firearm of choice on every customer that rolls through isn’t our ideal firearms purchase experience.
The Apple store concept is a whole lot more appealing — an open and inviting space where customers can pick up and hold the guns they want to buy, dealing with a friendly knowledgeable sales staff (no longer separated by a big glass case) who wants to help customers find their perfect firearm.
All that on its own would be an amazing range, one that I’d love to use all the time. But what if we took that whole experience and made it…better?
How about staff that know you by name and have your ammo ready when you walk in the door? A lounge where you could hang out and relax for an afternoon? (Complete with local food, non-alcoholic drinks and RF’s mandatory cigar lounge.) A conference room for business meetings? We’re building a VIP experience unrivaled in the state of Texas.
The day I started pulling my first paycheck from The Range At Austin was the same day the slab was laid down. The planning work is now complete, including ground-breaking features I can’t discuss at this time. TTAG’s home range — and maybe yours — is on its way.