January 31, 2017: Range Review

Shooters World Tampa converted a former furniture store on Fletcher Avenue in Tampa into a destination location for all things gun. The store and range opened in 2013.  The timing was fortuitous, former President Obama was the Gun Salesman of the Year in 2013.  The high demand he spurred in the public helped solidify Shooters World as a prominent emporium of guns and gun related merchandise.

The range is in the back down the center isle past the historical displays. The entrance is on the right.  They have had to reroute the shooting range entrance and sign in areas to accommodate the demand.  When my wife and I arrived at 4:30pm on a Sunday afternoon the gentleman at the information desk directed us to the range to fill out the required waiver. 

There were two tables with chairs and plenty of pens and stacks of waivers to fill out. The waivers were pretty standard stuff with the range rules on the back.  Nothing onerous, but note they are a “lost brass” facility.  Staff actively use squeegees to push the expelled casings forward of the shooting line.  If you are shooting revolvers you could recover your casings as you eject them. 

Once the waivers were filled out we joined the physical queue or shooters waiting to check in. What wait? Yes there is waiting involved and I have heard this from other shooters who go there on the weekends.  By the time we filled out the waivers, waited in the check-in line, paid our $30 ($15 each) for one hour, we were checked in a little before 5:00pm.   Now there is some more waiting and by the look of some of the other shooters they expect it as some had eReaders and magazines. 

When you provide a cell number they use it for virtual queueing. You immediately get a message notifying you of the expected wait time.  33 minutes in our case.  We took the time to get a complimentary coffee and cold drink from the industrial strength Keurig and Coke Freestyle machines.  Then we looked at some of the exhibits where I was able to show my wife an M1 Garand that her Dad had told stories of when he served in the National Guard.  There is a display of artillery rounds near the restrooms and we saw a 105 howitzer that also frequents my father-in-law’s National Guard stories. 

We received a six minute message so we made our final preparations to enter the range. When we got the lane assignment text message we grabbed our gear, dawned our eye and ear protection and entered the air lock.  These locks are large and could easily accommodate half a dozen people and their gear at a time.  I later read the range is ADA compliant, so the wide doors and generous space behind the firing line is by design. Passing into the range we had to go through another door to get to lane 8.  The range is sub-dived into four sections.  Three 25 yard ranges with a total of 27 lanes and one is the 100 yard rifle range with 7 lanes.   

The target hanging and positioning system is traditional cardboard hanging from movable runners. There are no measurement markings on the walls or ceiling but the control displays yardage in .5 yard increments.  There are only two buttons, one to move the target out, and the other to move the target in.  We brought our own 11”x17” backer that we hung on the supplied clips and then used the supplied tape to attach our AP-2 and 9” paper disk targets to the backer. 

That reminds me of the first time I took my kids to a picnic. “Daddy, why are the people eating off targets?”

The runners were stable and there was no side to side swaying. My wife did notice that some of the larger paper targets were waving a little in the breeze.  I must compliment the ventilation system as excellent.  There was not the rush of a blower directly over the shooting position.  The design provides air flow that is not distracting, but very efficient at moving smoke away from the shooters.  At 25 yards there is also amble space for dissipation.

Because it was so crowded my wife and I had to share a lane. If we had gone one at a time there was little chance we would get adjacent lanes.  The one lane worked out for us on this trip because my wife was working on her Winchester/NRA Sharpshooter Qualification and I was running the timer and putting cartridges in the speed loader. 

The 25 yard ranges are advertised to permit up to .308/7.62x51mm NATO ammunition. The 100 yard rifle range can accommodate .50 BMG.  Initially is was a little disconcerting to be in a lane next to someone shooting 12 gauge buckshot and feeling the percussion wave. 

My wife completed her Sharpshooter Qualification and I worked with my carry gun out to 60 feet utilizing the laser which shows up much better inside a building than on our outdoor range. When we packed up there were several open lanes available but since they close at 7:00pm on Sunday no one else was coming in. 

The facility is top notch with excellent ventilation and target runners. The hourly rate is par for other ranges in the area.  Aside from the wait it is a nice range. 

I will post an update after I am able to speak to someone about bringing in an outside class. I had inquired a couple of years ago and the arrangement was price prohibitive for the small size classes I would bring.  I’ll find out if that has changed. 

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