Have you ever sat back and wished that you could just go shooting whenever and wherever you wanted? When I first started shooting and learning to compete in pistol and multi gun matches, I was living in in the south. I remember vividly just how difficult it was to find a range to practice. Where I lived the only ranges were private “members only” ranges with a long waiting list of names hoping to gain access to the range. I really struggled to find practice time or an area that I could set up mock stages and be capable of running or shooting to train for matches.
I remember having to call around to my friends who were members of Georgia area ranges and ask if anyone could take me out shooting with them. It was sad, maybe pathetic even, but I felt like I was constantly looking for my next gunpowder hit. It is really hard to mooch off of your fabulous friends, although I have to say that the shooting community is full of some of the most amazing people that I have EVER met.
I did all of this searching over 5 years ago, and I am quite sure that you may wish for less randomness and steps. Desert Tech comes to the rescue with a Desert Tech Range Locator tab directly on their website. It has the Google map along with distance to each range along with their address, public/private status, and even the maximum shooting yardage that each range advertises. You may find the perfect range for you in one step now. My way was fun, but Desert Tech sure did make it much more sensible!
It was a Facebook post that actually got me started competing with pistols. My sweet husband and I were at Deer Camp during the summer, and we were working on mowing shooting lanes, setting up tree stands, and organizing food plots to grow. While just hanging out and playing around at camp, the leader of the hunting camp handed me a Thompson Center 454 Casull and wanted me to hit the water jugs that he had set up for me. It was what I thought was the highlight of the entire weekend, but only until my message inbox went off.
One of my childhood friends had just sent me a message. He has known me since I was single digits, and I was so happy to hear from him. As it turned out, he had become an incredible gunsmith and was building some of the most phenomenal competition pistols that I have ever laid hands on. His message was simple: “Call me when you can. We need to talk”. When I got service once we got out of the country, we had the conversation that has changed my entire world. Bobby created a shooting team for his company, and he was looking for a lady to train and develop into someone that could encourage more women and family involvement in the shooting sports world. He asked if I would drive down and spend a day training and learning with him, I could not say yes fast enough.
When we got the next free weekend we drove to Camilla, Georgia. Bobby spent time walking me and my husband through his shop and taught us all about how his guns were created. It was eye opening at how much heart and soul went into each handgun. I knew then and there that shooting was going to be my favorite outlet. I had no idea that it would evolve into what it has today, but that simple message from Bobby was the beginning of it all.
I learned quickly that finding a place to shoot was the hardest part of training. Bobby outfitted me in an M&P Pro 9mm loaner pistol along with a belt and 5 mags so that I could start training until I purchased my very own custom. I only got one year of training with Bobby and shooting at our team range over in Phenix City, Alabama. I was really scared when we moved to Utah that I would lose the opportunity to compete and keep being active in the sport that I just fell in love with.
Little did I know that I hit the jackpot when we moved to the Salt Lake area of Utah! One quick Google search, and I had more ranges and shooting groups than I could shake a stick at. Once I performed the Google search, then I followed the listed ranges or groups to figure out which ones really had what I was looking for.
The first public shooting range I found was the Lee Kay Shooting Range on the edge of Salt Lake City. We were living in South Jordan, Utah at the time and this range was 20 minutes from home. It was open to the public and had pistol bays, rifle bays, an archery area, and even shotgun areas for clays/trap shooting. Once I read all of the details of the location, then I searched it on social media.
If you don’t really use social media for anything else, I can tell you without a doubt that it is a vast pool of information and groups. I typed in Lee Kay Public Shooting range into my Facebook search engine and found the page for this location. Once you like the page, you get updates in your feed about upcoming events, special seminars, and any closures or remodel information so that you always are apprised of what is going on before you go. The phone number to contact the range is listed as well as the web address.
I got super lucky. Not every area has a local range as open and educational as this one, but some simple swipes on the keyboard revealed an incredible amount of information to me. My special area of focus when we moved to Utah was USPSA (United States Practical Shooting Association). I hit back over to Google and keyed in USPSA Salt Lake City, Utah. I immediately got info on a group located just behind the LEE KAY range! It was divine intervention. I jumped back over to Facebook and keyed in the SLPSA (Salt Lake Practical Shooters Association) name into the search tab. The page that popped up was likely the most game changing local find of my shooting existence.
I scrolled through match after match announcements on the SLPSA social media page. They also sent out dates and match announcements for other nearby ranges and big events. I liked the Facebook page and sent a message to introduce my family to them. I got all of the information about how to find them since they were located behind Lee Kay, and the access road was easy to miss.
Once I made it out to the range for my first match, I got to meet all of the local shooters and the match team. They all shared other groups and social media pages to follow in order to find more and more local events. It was mind boggling at how much shooting was going on! I could have shot a match every single weekend within about a 30 mile radius! This was before it became impossible to find ammo or reloading components, but the calendars remain full for events nonetheless.
If you don’t find yourself a fan of Google searching and using social media to locate ranges, then you could always head down to the local Cabelas or Scheels stores and speak with the folks that either work the counter or are shopping at the Shooting Departments. Most people are easily approachable and happy to share information (as long as you aren’t asking for a hunting spot location) ☺
Feel free to call your local DWR office and ask for their advice in finding some ranges near you. You do have to get out of your comfort zone and do some work in order to find quality shooting ranges and groups, but once you make that initial connection it seems that the flood gates open for more and more options. Throw yourself out there, and pull up your search engine! It is time to go shoot, let’s go!
If you are looking for a range, or just searching to see what is nearby, here is the link directly to the local range tab on the Desert Tech page. Pack your bags and get out there.