A WOMAN’S INITIAL EXPERIENCE

How is she treated on her first trip to the range?

Women are coming to the shooting sports in droves. So, many ranges offer specials, promotions and sales specifically to attract those new shooters. Though some women want pink guns and ladies night fanfare, others do not. They prefer to be treated simply as new shooters. The question is: How will a new female shooter be treated when it’s not ladies night?

To find out, I joined Jenn, a dear friend, on her first and second visits to public indoor shooting ranges in Austin, Texas. Her grandmother had given her a handgun that turned out to be a piece of history – and, as it turned out, that’s all that really mattered at the range.

 

Range A 

Nice, new shooting center in north Austin

The range sign was clear from several hundred yards. Minivans, pickups and sedans dotted the range’s large parking lot.  Inside, the retail space was well lit, large and laid out with an attention to detail. The shoulder mounts and high ceilings gave the place the feeling of a lodge. Guns, ammunition, scopes, knives and other gear were well represented. Apparel, though, was noticeably absent from the store’s offerings.

When Justin welcomed us at the door, Jenn explained that she’d never shot a handgun and her grandmother had recently given her one. Justin acknowledged straight away that Jenn was in charge, and I was just a tag-along. She took the handgun from the case.

“Oooh, nice gun,” he said. “1908 .32 auto. This is great.”

He spent 10 minutes praising the gun and demonstrating its safe operation.

“Whatever you do,” he said, “don’t get it reblued. That’s a really cool gun.”

He then sent us to Dale who was immediately welcoming and enamored of the Colt. He pulled out some books and showed Jenn that indeed she had a Colt 1908 .32 auto pocket gun Model 3 that was made sometime around 1913.

“That’s a really cool gun,” he said, “I’m glad you have that.”

He showed Jenn the basic operation and sent us to the range desk.

Jenn explained her situation to Allen. He reviewed the Colt’s mechanics and showed her how to safely load and fire it. He reviewed the range safety rules and sent us in.

“And ask the Range Safety Officer if you have any questions,” he said.

The shooting lane was roomy, clean and well lit. Jenn called the RSO over and explained her situation. He got excited about the gun, reviewed the guns operation and started her shooting. Within a few seconds tabs were flying like confetti from the back of the target. The RSO watched and nodded. Justin, the guy from the front, came back to the range and asked how she was doing. He coached on her grip and her aim. He watched a minute longer.

“Right down the middle,” he said.

Jenn was content after two magazines, so we packed up and headed out.

 

Range B 

Laid-back and aging shooting center in south Austin

We were nearly past the range before I saw the sign amongst the clutter of competing signs and buildings—even though I’d been here before. Jenn walked in, with me following. An employee looked at us and walked past without speaking. So, Jenn walked to the counter where two employees sat. She explained her grandmother had given her the handgun but she’d never shot it and needed some help.

“Oh, man,” Taylor said, when he saw the gun, “This is a 1908. Very cool.”

With that, Wes was interested. They spent about 15 minutes explaining why the Colt is such a great gun and familiarizing Jenn with how to operate it safely. They directed us to the cashier where Jenn got kudos for the gun and a mini-session on safety, proper use and range rules.

“Eyes and ears are right there,” the clerk said, “And, ask the range officer if you have any questions.”

We went to our shooting position, which was roomy, though not optimally lit. Four women on a neighboring lane were recording their experience on their phones. Jenn waved the RSO over and explained her situation. He inspected the gun, asked her if she’d cleaned it and then turned to ask if I had. I just nodded at Jenn.

“Be sure to clean it when you get home,” he said to her.

Then he reviewed safety rules and loaded and fired it downrange to demonstrate.

“How do I aim,” she asked.

He explained. Jenn loaded the magazine and emptied it into the center of the target at 15 feet. He nodded and walked away. Jenn loaded again and put another magazine in the black at 30 feet.

Content with her performance, she removed the magazine, checked the chamber, packed up the pistol and we headed out.

 

UNDERCOVER SHOOTER SCORECARD 

Each category is rated on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the highest score.

Editor’s note: The Undercover Shooter is an experienced recreational shooter but is not trained in technical aspects of range design and operation.

RANGE A

Customer Satisfaction Rating 

Signage and Visibility: 5 

  • The facility is clearly visible on the north side of the four-lane road.
  • A shooting range sign stands large and alone without distraction. A large second sign is painted on the side of the facility.

 

Layout and Setting: 4

  • The shooting club is located in a suburban area alongside a heavy-equipment rental outlet and near several other retail outlets.  Across the road there is a large open field.
  • The facility is divided into a large storefront retail area, a set of classrooms upstairs and the 10 standing pistol lanes and six seated rifle lanes, which are located at the back of the building. Lanes are well lit. The targets, which hang on an electric cable system, may be placed out to 100 yards.

 

Retail Product Availability: 4 

  • The large retail area stocks new long-guns and handguns from many manufacturers and carries a good selection of used firearms. They’re selection of ammunition, scopes and other accessories is also good.
  • The retail area was spacious and easy to navigate.

 

Rental Availability: 5 

  • The range advertises some 50 handguns for rent in many makes, models and calibers.

 

Staff Friendliness: 5

  • A member of the staff met us at the door.
  • All four staff members we interacted with were helpful, respectful and supportive of Jenn.

 

Safety: 5

  • Safety is emphasized on the website and in person.
  • Every staff member gave a safety review, stressed the importance of safety gear and safe shooting practices.
  • A Range Safety Officer actively monitored the range.

 

Programs and Membership: 4

  • Ladies Day: On Mondays, ladies shoot for $7.50 per hour, and all range rentals are free.
  • The Sure Shots Women’s Pistol League practices here. Ladies who shoot with them also pay $7.50/hour, get range guns for free and receive free basic instruction from Certified Firearms Instructors and IDPA coaches.
  • For $50 per hour, one- to two-hour private lessons are available and are tailored to meet the goals of the shooter. Group CHL classes are available.
  • An individual membership is available for $400 per year or $275 for six months. A family membership costs $650 per year. Shooters may alternatively make a modest savings with a Frequent Shooter Card at $150 for 12 range hours and 10 targets.

 

Cleanliness: 5 

  • The storefront retail area was clean.
  • They quickly cleaned up the casings in the shooting positions.

 

Comments/Impressions: 5

  • “It looks like a safer, sturdier, bigger, cleaner, better, newer facility,” said Jenn.
  • “People were very helpful. Justin took a lot of time with the gun and gave me explicit safety points. Dale was super helpful and went above and beyond to figure out everything about the gun. I wasn’t there to buy a gun, and he knew it,” Jenn said, “Still he was really helpful and excited.”

 

RANGE B

Customer Satisfaction Rating 

Signage and Visibility: 2

  • The facility has multiple signs, but they blend into the surrounding clutter.
  • The range is hard to find, particularly due to the location, surrounding clutter, heavy traffic and ineffective signage.

 

Layout and Setting: 3

  • The range is located in a partially wooded commercial area between a pawnshop and a gas station at a merge of a service road and what can be a busy highway. Miss the turn and you are destined to drive a one-mile loop to get a second shot.
  • The facility is divided into a small storefront retail area and the 10 lanes for rifle and pistol, which are located at the back of the building. Lanes are moderately well lit. The targets hang on an electric cable system and can be placed out to 100 yards.

 

Retail Product Availability: 4

  • The small storefront retail area was packed with firearms and accessories. They stock many new and used long-guns and handguns and carry a good selection of ammunition, scopes and other accessories. There was no apparel.
  • While the selection was considerable, the place was cramped and difficult to navigate.

 

Rental Availability: 5 

  • Fifty handguns of assorted makes, models, and calibers are advertised for rent.

 

Staff Friendliness: 4

  • “On your first time at an indoor range there’s a lot you don’t know about what to do or where to go,” Jenn said, “So we kind of walked into the store, and nobody was directing us. It’s a small place, and you can figure it out, but folks weren’t really proactive.”
  • “They were very excited about the gun,” Jenn laughed, “which probably helped. I liked that when I said I was a novice, every one of them walked me through here’s what you do, here’s how you load it, don’t let this catch your thumb, and so on.”
  • “They didn’t ask if I wanted help,” Jenn said, “but as soon as I said I needed it, they jumped on it. I’m sure they didn’t want to make assumptions, so it was on me to ask for help.”

 

Safety: 4

  • On the web and in person, safety is emphasized. Each staff member gave a safety review, stressed the importance of safety gear and safe shooting practices. A Range Safety Officer actively monitored the range.
  • “It would have been nice to have another range officer out there,” Jenn said, “because he had a lot going on. Four salesmen and one guy on the range – that was a little lopsided.”

 

Programs and Membership:4

  • An individual membership is available for $400 per year or $275 for six months. A family membership costs $650 per year. Shooters may alternatively make a modest savings with a Frequent Shooter Card at $150 for 12 range hours and 10 targets.
  • Ladies Day: On Mondays, ladies shoot for $7.50 per hour, and all range rentals are free.
  • The Sure Shots Women’s Pistol League practices here. Ladies who shoot with them also pay $7.50/hour, get range guns for free, and receive free basic instruction from Certified Firearms Instructors and IDPA coaches.
  • For $50 per hour, one- to two-hour private lessons are available and are tailored to meet the goals of the shooter. Group CHL classes are available.

 

Cleanliness: 3 

  • The small store – from the retail center to the restroom – was cluttered, so it didn’t seem particularly clean.
  • Casings littered the main floor in the range.

 

Comments/Impressions: 4

  • The facility is aging and a bit cramped, but the staff is helpful and respectful, even if not proactive. “It’s not easy to ask for help, and I had to keep asking. It’s easier to have somebody ask you,” Jenn said, “but I didn’t feel like they were talking down to me. Wes wasn’t afraid to speak technically about the gun and when he realized it wasn’t a huge interest, he moved on. I appreciated that.”
  • “Overall, there were a number of women there. And, it was good to see not everyone looked like a professional. That was welcoming,” said Jenn.

 

PREFERRED RANGE 

The Undercover Shooter’s experiences led to endorsements for both ranges: Red’s Indoor Range – North and Red’s Indoor Range – South. Both ranges offered welcoming, respectful, safe, and engaging shooting experiences for our new shooter. In the end, the superior facility wins the day, and our preference is:

 

Range A

Red’s Indoor Range – North
1908 Pecan Street West
Pflugerville, TX 78660
512-251-1022 • www.RedsGuns.com

 

All reports, comments, impressions, opinions or advice expressed in the Undercover Shooter column are solely those of independent, recreational shooting range consumers and do not necessarily represent those of the National Shooting Sports Foundation or its affiliates. Neither the NSSF nor its affiliates make any warranty or assume any liability with respect to the accuracy or reliability of any information provided by Undercover Shooter contributors. Readers are encouraged to and should perform their own investigation of the information provided herein.

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