Getting out to a shooting range is certainly fun. And for those of us who carry a firearm for self-defense, it is vital. Proper training and practice can literally be a matter of life and death.
Thankfully, there are many training activities — like dry-fire exercises or drawing from concealment — that can be done at home and with no outlay of cash. But if we want to be fully prepared, it is simply a fact that we need to spend some time live-fire shooting. And that means a shooting range.
Some of you are fortunate enough to have sufficient land to shoot in your own backyards. My youngest son is a perfect example. He lives on 7 acres in Kentucky and has quite a nice range in his backyard. But for most of us, shooting will involve going to a gun range.
Indoor Range or Outdoor Range: Pros and Cons
Note that both indoor and outdoor ranges can be open to the public or restricted to members only. Still other ranges split the difference — open to the public but offer various limited membership programs featuring discounts and/or benefits like preferred access at busy times. Check them out.
Full disclosure: I like outdoor ranges. I belong to one that is rated top in the state of Florida. It is a members-only facility that is secured by full fencing and multiple closed-circuit cameras. Access is by magnetic key card with picture I.D. I pay an annual fee that allows unlimited range time. That means the more I shoot, the less my cost per visit!
Most indoor ranges are open to the public. As a result, they can be extremely crowded at more popular times. Typically, the fee to shoot is either a fixed amount per visit (regardless of how long you shoot) or based on an hourly rate. Rates vary depending on what part of the country you call home.
In major metropolitan areas (especially those in anti-Second-Amendment states), fees can be quite high. This is because governments have forced many ranges to close, thus limiting competition and driving up rates.
Weather can be a serious consideration in choosing a gun range. In the upper Midwest or Northeast, winters can be downright brutal. At the other extreme is the Southwest, where states like Arizona and New Mexico can see temperatures of well over 100 degrees in summer.
In Florida, where I live, weather is fairly shooting-friendly year-round — except for July and August, when temperatures soar. Also, summer is the rainy season, and thunderstorms and heavy rain can be an almost daily occurrence.
During milder periods — whether up north or down south — outdoor ranges can be perfectly acceptable. But in those cases where weather makes outdoor shooting uncomfortable or even miserable, indoor ranges might be the way to go.
Training Considerations at the Range
Outdoor ranges have certain features that can benefit those of us who carry. For starters, they often allow drawing from a holster. Most indoor ranges do not. Being able to practice drawing and engaging in live fire is a big plus.
Many outdoor ranges also allow shooting at multiple targets. My own range takes it a step further. It has eight action bays that permit multiple targets even set at differing angles and distances. This allows truly realistic practice sessions. The range also hosts IDPA-style pistol tournaments on a regular basis.
Finally, while gun ranges are not typically politically correct institutions, there are exceptions. In my travels, I have encountered restrictions (at both indoor and outdoor ranges) such as not allowing typical silhouette targets because they look like people or requiring at least three seconds between shots (no double-taps or rapid-fire drills).
Bottom line, live-fire practice is essential. Whether indoors, outdoors or some combination of the two, make sure you put in the time. It may save your life.