I hate going to the range! There, I said it. Whew! No, I didn’t just experience a particularly bad outing in terms of my marksmanship, speed, etc. In general, I’m really not a fan of going to the range. This may seem like a strange attitude for the co-founder of the civiliangunfighter blog, but it’s the truth. I find nearly every aspect of a trip to the range to be a hassle, so I never really get to the moments that so many others seem to experience (“I love going to the range! I find it relaxing, almost cathartic.”). I actually find a trip to the range to be a source of stress in my life. It’s frustrating.
Product of my Environment?
Perhaps if I had a backyard like Hickok45 of YouTube fame, my attitude would be a bit different. The ability to walk outside my house and test firearms and all of their various accessories would be pretty awesome (and would also be REALLY handy for writing articles and reviews for this blog!). Instead, however, my wife and I have made choices over time to live in urban—and now suburban—areas that preclude such activities. As with most decisions in life, there is a trade-off (increased salaries, good schools, easy access to top-notch medical care, proximity to relatives, accessibility to large international airports, hyper-liberal governments that love to try to run the lives of…..I digress.). What that trade-off means is that I cannot just walk off my back porch and start shooting; a trip to the range is a much more involved, tedious, labor-intensive affair that often sucks the fun out of the shooting before I even arrive at the range.
If I am heading to the range, I have to make sure all of my ducks are in a row. My range bag must be double-checked to be sure it has all the essentials: at least two pistols (I might not shoot both, but if something fails on one, I don’t want to have wasted the trip!), magazines, eye protection, ear protection, Dark Angel Medical kit, shot timer, ammunition, tape, sharpie, etc. I also always bring my notebook, colored index cards (3×5 and 5×8), any printed targets I have, a pen, and then my index cards of drills I might want to perform.
Preparation also includes figuring out when I am going to go. With, as of this writing, a wife and six-year-old twins, time is my most precious commodity. As my children get involved with more extra-curricular activities, the paucity of time I had available is rapidly dwindling. Couple that with the fact that I prefer to go to the range when it is less crowded (for my own safety and sanity), and the possible times for me to go are relatively few.
If you combined the best aspects of the two indoor ranges located closest to my home, you would almost have a decent range. That right there should be a clue as to what I deal with. Between the two of them can be found what I would refer to as some rather onerous rules. Both require that I arrive at the range with my firearms AND magazines unloaded (oddly, when I would occasionally shoot a revolver, no one said anything about pre-loaded speedloaders or speedstrips!). Neither range allows ammunition that contains any steel (casings or bullets). One range does not allow shots to the heads of the humanoid targets (they have older, clothesline style hangars, and if you hit one you have to pay for it). One range allows drawing from a holster if the customer has taken their $40 safety course, but only if the last lane is available, and not if the people working at the front desk deem the range “too crowded” at that point in time. Needless to say, they often deem it “too crowded”. One range allows rifles up to 5.56mm, which is great if the customer wants to get a rough zero or practice some closer drills (range only goes out to 25 yards). Of course, whenever I am only shooting pistols, I always seem to end up with the guy with the AR Pistol with 7.5 inch barrel in the lane next to me. Oh what fun! Finally, while one range charges by the half-hour, the other charges by the hour; shoot for 25 minutes and you’re paying for the hour.
Because both places basically suck, and time is my most precious commodity, I tend to go with the range that is only about 10 minutes from my home.
But I Go Anyway
Does the above read a bit like a rant? That’s not by accident. I assure you, I could have gone into even more excruciating detail. But, hopefully the paragraphs above outline well enough why going to the range is such a chore. (By the way, did you notice that I didn’t mention rifle ranges nearby? That’s not an accident, either!). Some of our readers may have an easier time, and some may have even bigger issues than I face (I’ve met some handgun owners from Manhattan. Ah, yeah, my shooting lifestyle suddenly looks like bliss!).
I outlined all of the above to make the point that, despite all of the aggravation that comes with going to the range, I still go. To me, it’s a means to an end. I liken it to the person who hates to exercise, but forces him or herself to hit the gym, work out at home, or squeeze in workouts between other activities at work. If I think it’s important for me to work on something, then I am going to do it despite how much of a pain in the ass it is.
“Take a sad song, and make it better”
Despite the fact that I hate going to the range, there are things one can do to have a more pleasurable– or at least successful–experience.
- As described in John’s article here, show up to the range with a plan. In addition to the reasons John outlined in the article, it also helps you move with some alacrity, of critical importance when you are paying by the hour, half-hour, etc.
- If you arrive with a plan, then you already know the drills you plan to shoot. If you know the drills you plan to shoot, then you can figure out ahead of time how to modify them for your use at such a range. For example, a drill that has you shooting from the holster can be shot from the low or compressed high-ready position.
- Figure out how to get the most out of your targets. I typically buy one large target at the range (paper B-27, USPSA, or IDPA targets typically cost $1). Depending on my plan for the day, I might shoot at that target, then tape over the holes I have made, then shoot at it again. Once it gets chewed up more, I might tape an index card or a target I have pre-printed on regular copy paper onto the larger target and shoot at that.
- If there is a regular range safety officer, make it a point to talk to him/her when the range is less busy. When I first started visiting the range closest to my home, I was lightly admonished by the RSO for shooting too quickly (RSO: “Why are you shooting so much so fast? Double-taps are okay but five or six is too much!” Me: “Did I miss?” RSO: “No, but if you do that then everyone will want to do that.” Me: “Okay.”). By talking to him during downtimes since then, I have learned a bit about him (pretty good USPSA shooter) and he has learned that I am not the typical yahoo who shows up there and blazes away out of control. When the range is less busy, he is more likely to let me “get away” with some stuff he otherwise might not allow.
- On a related note, if you see people there being careless and dangerous, let the RSO know. While no one wants to be a tattler, it’s also good to go home with all the same holes you arrived with. The side benefit is, again, the people who work there will recognize you as a non-yahoo who takes what he does seriously.
- One final tidbit of advice is to limit the amount of ammunition you bring. I tend to bring a little more than I plan to shoot, just in case. But, I typically don’t shoot more than 50-100 rounds in a single session. The idea here is to stick to the plan so you don’t waste time at the range (time is money) or engage in ballistic masturbation. Think of it like gambling, presetting your limits on when to stop.
For more information on how to shoot at indoor or other ranges that have a lot of rules to work around, read this excellent article here.
I have begun looking at private clubs that are not too terribly distant to join in early 2017, allowing me to get in more of the type of practice that I would like to do. This might mean fewer occasions when I can shoot (throw a 35 minute drive in instead of a 10 minute drive), but more meaningful drills that I can shoot when I do make it to the range. We shall see.
Do you have to deal with shooting at crappy indoor ranges? How do you deal with it? Please share in the comments below or on our Facebook page. As always, thanks for reading.