Kid-Friendly Ranges?

One of the nice things about the shooting community is that we’re a pretty inclusive bunch. Go to pretty much any range, anywhere, and you’ll find no shortage of friendly people who, as long as you follow the Four Rules, welcome you into their community of gun geeks.

Sure, we’ve got a few gamers and gear snobs, high-speed, low-drag types who may sneer at your Hi Point 9mm or your nephew’s Glenfield Model 60 with the tasteful squirrel checkering carved pressed into the stock…

… but for every one of those guys, you’ll find half a dozen more who will gladly talk guns with you, let you shoot one of theirs, or offer well-meaning, if unsolicited (and frequently wrong) advice.

Point is, gunnies are friendly sorts. Peruse my Daily Reads, or the Blogroll O’ Doom, and you’ll find no shortage of gun bloggers who extend open-ended range invitations to new shooters. Part of that is 2nd Amendment activism, promoting to our fellow citizens what we believe is a fundamental human right, but the greater part of it is, we’re justifiably proud of our guns and our heritage, and we like to share that with others. Sidle up to some guy at the range with a with a few vintage Smith and Wesson wheelguns or a 1911 or three, and you can bet that each one of those guns has a story to tell, one that their owner will share at the slightest opportunity.

Perhaps, even, let you add your chapter to the story with a few rounds sent downrange.

But a couple of weeks ago, the day after Christina’s North Texas Blogmeet, was the first time I’ve ever been to a range and been made to feel, well… unwelcome.

The plan was to head to the local range, give Christina a chance to wring out her new rifle, and introduce her daughters to shooting. We’d fling some lead for a couple of hours, and then head out to the lake for an afternoon of jet skiing. Mulligan had already contacted the range owners the day before, to let them know they’d have a party of eight shooters or so. They knew we were coming.

Still didn’t make for a warm reception, though. When the range owner’s wife learned that we’d have three new shooters, two of which were minors, and one 7-year-old kid (but not a new shooter), you’d have thought I took a shit in her coffee cup. We were imperiously told children paid the same price as adults – no problem – that we were to be responsible for our children on the firing line –DUHR! – and that she “wasn’t no damned babysitter.”

I was then treated to a diatribe about some shooter dropping his kids off in the range shed while he went shooting, how inconsiderate and stupid it was to bring your kids to the range, and a lovely tangential rant about people who hold Utah concealed carry permits.

Still haven’t figured out her hatred of Utah permit holders, actually. Maybe the inconsiderate ass that used her as a free babysitter was a Mormon.

I gently explained to the woman that two of the minors were teenagers, and that none of them would be unattended on the firing line. “My daughter knows the Four Rules by heart,” I assured her, “and she knows the range commands as well as any RSO.”

“Well, we don’t use no range commands here,” she snapped. “Got a rotatin’ beacon we turn on when somebody wants to go downrange.”

Strike One.

When told that Jennifer and Mike were both NRA-certified Range Safety Officers, her reply was, “That don’t make no difference to me. Y’all gotta sign waivers.”

“Hey, no problem there,” I smiled. “It’s a lawsuit happy world out there. You gotta protect yourself.”

“And no instructin’!” she added, with more than a little spite. “Disturbs our other shooters.”

Strike Two.

“No problem there, either,” I replied. “All of them have plenty of practice dry-firing. All they need is to send a few rounds downrange, get a little dose of recoil therapy. Not many worries in this world that can’t be cured with a little recoil therapy, right?” I favored her with a wink and my most winning smile. I’ve convinced PCP freaks hallucinating face-eating monkeys to come along quietly with me to the ER, with nothing more than my winning smile. My winning smile is potent medicine.

Range Dominatrix just looked at me like I’d taken another shit, this time on her dusty stack of silhouette targets. And maybe wiped my ass with the hem of her shirt.

While Christina and I were filling out waivers, Range Dominatrix’s husband wandered in, red-faced and soaked in sweat. I felt sorry for the guy. It was over 100 degrees out there, after all.

“They brought their kids,” she said accusingly, jerking her head in our direction.

“Well, that was fucking dumb,” was his reply.

Strike Two And a Half.

“All of which we’ll be responsible for,” I clarified, trying to head off any further argument. “They’ll stay behind the firing line, and won’t go wandering around the range unattended. They’ll never even stray out of our lanes.”

“They better not,” he warned. “Some city slicker like y’all put a round through the range shed roof last year. I got a camera down there now, monitoring everything, and my cell number painted right there on the ceilin’. One of y’all fucks up, one of my regulars will call me, and you’re outta here.”

Yes, the man called me a city-slicker. That’s a first for me, actually.

“Hey, I feel your pain, Mister,” I chuckled. “I grew up with guns, and I’ve wormed my share of cows and bucked a few million hay bales in my youth. We all gotta watch out for the city-slickers.”

“You mow your yard with a bush hog?” he wanted to know.

“No, Sir.”

“Goddamned city-slicker,” he pronounced, spitting on the porch for emphasis.

Well, alrighty then.

I told him that we’d just mosey on down to the rifle range and set up, seein’ as how the pistol range seemed a bit crowded, and we didn’t want to disturb his regular customers. He just waved his hand at me in irritation, warned me again that we were on thin ice and no safety violations would be tolerated, and stalked off.

I told the rest of the gang that I’d take KatyBeth to reconnoiter the rifle range and stake out a few lanes, and to come along when they got Mike’s flat tire changed. At the range, a couple of the owner’s regular customers occupied two of the six lanes.

Well, I suppose lanes is a charitable description. What passed for shooting benches was a long plywood bench, a warped plywood floor, and a selection of rickety folding metal chairs.  There was room for maybe six shooters to crowd in there without elbowing one other and raining hot brass on the guy to your right. The range was situated in a small arroyo, with shipping pallets used for target stands propped haphazardly here and there, at what I assume were 25, 50, 100  and 200-yard positions.

At least, I assume those were the ranges. It really looked more like a drunk wandered through Fred Sanford’s back lot and stapled targets to whatever junk piles looked more-or-less vertical. Ramshackle would be paying it more than its due.

There was an older guy to my left, airing out an SKS and an AK47. He was emptying mags as fast as he could into the 50-yard pallet target, but at least he had a makeshift mesh brass-catcher set up on the bench to his right. He seemed like a friendly sort.

The guy on my right had an AK47 with plastic furniture, an M4gery, a Remington 870 decked out in tacticool livery, and a Glock 17. He also had a couple of nubile young female friends for whom he was providing firearms instruction.

Yes, the same kind of instruction forbidden by the range owners. But hey, maybe there are different rules for his regular paying customers than for us city slickers.

His female friends were entertaining pieces of eye candy, to be sure, but they were obviously inexperienced enough that they thought flip-flops, shorts and form-fitting tank tops were appropriate range attire.

Speaking as the possessor of a Y chromosome, I’m a big fan of any fashion that complements the female form. But if I can get a brass burn between my man-boobs, I’d imagine it’s a much likelier possibility to catch spent brass between a pair of store-bought DD cups. Cleavage-baring tank tops are not what you wear to the range, even if it is 103 degrees outside.

Anyhoo, amidst the giggling and flirting and an occasional rapid-fire mag to demonstrate how studly he was, the guy on my left turned on the rotating beacon, casually announced, “pullin’ targets,” and sauntered downrange.

I cleared KatyBeth’s M&P 15, locked the bolt open, and stepped behind the firing line. Tactical Tommy and his miniature harem stopped firing, but still continued to load magazines, fiddle with their weapons, and generally play grabass while someone was downrange.

“Daddy,” KatyBeth whispered, “that man didn’t call cold range. Nobody said cease fire, either.”

“I know, honey,” I whispered back.

“Daddy, I’m hot,” KatyBeth complained. “When are we gonna go jet-skiing?”

Strike Two and Three-Quarters.

I want my daughter to shoot, and she likes shooting. But I’m not going to force her to do it when she doesn’t want to, and I’m not going to put a weapon in her hands when she’s hot, tired, distracted and cranky.

“Just let me fire one mag, honey, to check your zero,” I whispered back, “and then we can go. You can shoot your gun when we get to Uncle Sonny’s.”

SKS Guy finally got his targets pulled and posted, walked back to the firing line, and turned off the beacon. Without so much as a hot range announcement, both he and Tactical Tommy commenced firing. I parked KatyBeth in a chair directly behind me, and squeezed off a few rounds at the 50-yard target. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Tactical Tommy setting up one of his girls with the 870. Judging from her form (or lack theref), she was gonna get rocked with the first round.

“Oh well,” I figured, “not my place to butt in. If he figures that a black eye and a bruised shoulder are the way to turn his girlfriend onto guns, that’s his business.”

Predictably, she did get rocked. 3-inch magnum 00 buckshot will rock a grown man, even with decent form. But to her credit, she didn’t flinch or cry, or drop the gun. In fact, I think she even liked it. Liked it so much, in fact, that she turned 45 degrees to her left, and loosed a second round at MY 25-yard target.

Strike Fucking Three.

I stared incredulously at them for a few seconds, hoping vainly that Tommy would correct her breach of range etiquette and safety rules, but his only response was a guffaw, and a hearty, “There ya’ go, girl! Fun, ain’t it?”

“Time to go, KatyBeth,” I announced, and we packed up our weapons and ammo and got the hell out of there.

We should have left 30 minutes earlier, immediately after we got the hostile treatment from the range owner’s wife, but I put on my Diplomatic Face  because Mulligan regularly uses this range, and I didn’t want to wear out his welcome by responding in kind.

Still, it begs the question: what are the range rules concerning children where you shoot? Is there a lower age limit? Kids allowed on certain days only? Waivers that must be signed? Instruction allowed?

Seems to me, if I were a range owner or RSO, I’d be much happier to see this at my range:

Than this: