Looking for a Saturday morning wait and chaos
When it comes time to visit a range and shoot, you might hear tales of crowds, long waiting periods and overwhelmed staff. So, I decided to visit two indoor gun ranges in the Portland, Ore., metro area on a Saturday morning when crowds should have been at their peak and the ranges should have been full of customers. What I discovered left me pleased.
The First Visit
The first range I visited is located beside a major city street, offers memberships and numerous classes and has 10 lanes that were each 25 yards long. It’s in the back of a community center building. Two things of note were that the facility required all guns entering the building be cased (there was a rack by the front door with cases of all sizes for customers to use) and that it required you to purchase and use their “clean” ammunition. A second range and the defensive tactics center here were designated “for use by law enforcement only.”
I could not find a range information brochure and had to ask a clerk for one. Seems the multi-page informational booklets were all located behind the service counter and not in the many information racks located in the building. By reading the brochure, I discovered that the range offers more than 60 guns to rent to members and nonmembers. I did not see them anywhere. I also read that you must have a working firearm with you before you can rent one of theirs. That didn’t make sense. I found no further clarification of this detail in the booklet.
Memberships here do not follow the regular calendar year, but begin July 1. If you take a private class, handguns are then provided. If you take other classes, such as a basic handgun skill development course, a handgun is “required equipment” but can also be provided as part of the class if requested in advance. The cost of classes range from $40 to $300, and though up to 700 rounds of ammunition are required for some classes, students must purchase the ammunition there.
This range also hosts ladies nights and has a creative Thursday night “Feed the Hungry” campaign where they collect boxes of cereal and give an $8 discount for each box of cereal delivered to them. Membership fees range from $199 for a single to $449 for a family of four.
As a nonmember, I was directed to a pair of computers at desks by a wall and told to watch a video. Luckily, I knew enough about computers to start one, find the course and begin the session. All of this required searching and knowledge of computer skills. The clerks only pointed, and then they remained behind the counter.
Upon completion of watching the video, I was handed a written test and required to complete more than a dozen questions. A few were clearly not covered on the video but required a basic understanding of handguns. I also had to hand over my personal handgun for inspection by one of the range officers. I was next led to a clear glass window and told about the range as I looked on and the officer pointed to features inside.
After I entered the range and began shooting, I was casually observed by range officers, who remained at the distant counter and not inside the range. At the completion of my shooting session, I was required to push the brass ahead of the firing line with a squeegee. I was shocked to see that on what should have been a busy Saturday morning about an hour after the range opened, there were no other customers. I did feel safe here. This range is located next to the Sheriff’s office, so there are law enforcement officers coming from and going into the parking lot and main office next door.
I was never told details about membership or asked about becoming a member here. Most of my useful info came from reading the booklet.
The Next Visit
The second range I visited on this morning is in an older building and in a questionable neighborhood. It is definitely located in a semi-rundown section of town. A huge mural with a handgun painted into it on the side of the bright yellow building clearly lets you know you have arrived at a gun range. This facility had 21 lanes indoors plus a tactical training center.
Here I found four staff behind the small counter, and I had to wait for service as other customers were being served. At this range, information was quickly stated—or blurted out—by the clerk I met when it was my turn to be served. Then I was asked if I had any questions. Next, I was asked to sign a release and another long form with range rules. Then the question of ammo came up, and though I had purchased ammunition for the visit, I was told I would be charged $5/box to use mine, or I could buy from them. I checked their prices (they were comparable here to the Big Box stores), so I bought their ammunition and saved $5/box—and my ammo.
I was also told I had to buy their targets (I had my own) to use, and would have to pay for any overhead equipment that was shot by stray rounds. Oddly, the range brochure I picked up on the counter notes all ammunition and targets must be purchased at the range. The literature is a simple, one-side photocopied black and white sheet. The wording conflicted with what the clerk behind the counter had just told me.
Memberships are available at this indoor range, and costs range from $75 for a VIP membership (you still have to pay $10 to $15 on each range visit) to $599 for a lifetime membership that includes the day range fees. The range offers several types of basic and defensive courses. To shoot here all customers must show photo identification. Numerous handguns are available for rent ($8/ session) and were on display behind glass under the customer service counter and clearly visible.
In the range brochure (readily available on the counter here), I noted that standard calibers from .22 through .44 Mag. are permitted, but .45 Win. Mag. up to .500 S&W may be used by appointment only.
The minimum age to shoot here is 14 years, and anyone under 21 years old must be accompanied by a member or guest.
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.
Customer Satisfaction Rating
Signage and Visibility: 2
• The range is visible only after your drive past the entrance, so a directional sign would be helpful by the street’s side.
Layout and Setting: 4
• Located in the back of a community center and easy to spot once you enter the building. It was inviting.
Retail Product Availability: 1
• Unfortunately no “for sale” products are displayed here, but the brochure indicates there are items available for sale.
Rental Availability: 2
• Guns are for rent, but you have to read the brochure to discover this. I did not see them.
Staff Friendliness: 3
• The range attendants/counter clerks were professional but presented a “we are Law Enforcement” demeanor. They wore guns and had matching shirts with LE badges printed on them.
• Range safety rules were posted, but no range officer was on duty inside the range when I shot.
• The range was clean and seemed to be modern and well kept.
• This range needs to be more welcoming to customers and help guide new visitors and first-time shooters to the building and make them feel more welcome. The dominant Law Enforcement presence/attitude can be a negative experience for some.
Customer Satisfaction Rating
Signage and Visibility: 4
• This range is easy to spot from the street because of the bright yellow shell, and the entrance is obvious.
Layout and Setting: 3
• As an old warehouse, the building and the range are showing some age. If they have an influx of customers, they should expand their counter space.
Retail Product Availability: 5
• Bags, ladies’ concealed carry purses, hats, T-shirts, cleaning kits and other accessories are readily available and designated as “for sale” when you enter the lobby. A great open display of goods with prices that is easy to find
Rental Availability: 5
• Guns are rented here, and there were many on display inside the glass-fronted counters.
Staff Friendliness: 4
• The staff does need to focus on the customer during check-in but otherwise did a great job in answering my many questions as a new customer.
• Range safety rules were posted, and while no range officer was inside the range area, the staff observes through a huge clear glass window and TV monitor.
• The range was functional, but the building and entrance lobby are beginning to show some age and signs of heavy traffic. The bathroom had been cleaned just prior to my arrival, but the trash can was left in the dark hallway and partially blocked the room’s entrance.
• This range could use some upgrading, but has successfully turned a warehouse into a shooting facility that obviously is well accepted by the region’s gun owners and sees a lot of activity.
The Place to Shoot
904 N. Hayden Meadows Dr.
Portland, OR 97217
503-283-1995 • www.theplacetoshoot.com