October 2014 The Undercover Shooter — 01 October 2014


Shooting for .22 Action

What would .22 ammo availability be at two Iowa ranges?

We, a recently retired couple, wanted to shoot our .22s at ranges, and we wondered what the ammunition situation would be like when we showed up. To find out we visited two ranges in or near Cedar Rapids, Iowa. We had been to neither range before and told the staff that we had recently retired and had wanted to target shoot but busy professional schedules had interfered until our recent retirements. We wanted to shoot two .22 rimfires we own. We intended to shoot a Marlin rifle and a Ruger revolver. It has been difficult finding .22 ammunition in area stores over the past couple of years. Fortunately, we had a few hundred rounds on hand but wanted to see if area ranges had .22 rimfire shells for sale to shooters and what the price would be.

 

RANGE A

A modern range just north of Cedar Rapids

The business had existed in a small building until about six months ago when it moved into a new spacious structure nestled between several high-tech companies. We viewed their informative and user-friendly website prior to visiting. It provided an excellent description of the facility, services, costs and expectations. Range rules were clearly indicated on the website, and we appreciated that they were worded in the positive. For example, one rule was “always keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready,” instead of in the negative, such as, “don’t touch the trigger until you are ready to shoot.”

We visited on a weekday afternoon when it was not busy. As we entered the 4,000-square-foot reception/showroom several staff members were chatting, but as soon as she saw us a young staffer left the conversation and welcomed us. She became our guide and instructor spending over a half hour with us before we actually began shooting. After explaining fees and procedures, we joined ($19.95 for an annual family membership), paid a $16.99 hourly lane fee and purchased 100 rounds of .22 rimfire ammunition for $8.99. Another staff member took over at the reception area while the young woman led us to a spacious classroom and reviewed range rules and safety procedures both orally and in writing. We were asked to initial safety points as we proceeded through the checklist. She gave us each a pair of shooting glasses to keep and led us to two of the nineteen 25-yard shooting lanes. When we expressed interest in the backstop she left briefly and returned with a sample of chunks of car tires that stop bullets. She then showed us how to mount targets and operate the switch that moves them backward and forward. We felt that she was making sure we were comfortable and capable of having a safe session. Before she left she remarked, “Have fun.” After slowly shooting the 100 rounds we left through the reception area. Two staff members thanked us for coming and invited us to return.

 

Range B

An established range on the west side

This business was founded in 1956 and has been in its current location for about 42 years. We viewed the website before visiting. It was minimal and antiquated but provided basic information on hours open and services available.

The range is just off a busy road set within a variety of small businesses. The sales area was small but pleasant, with several animal mounts and a relevant feature article by a former Gazette outdoor sports editor on the wall. An array of reloading supplies and loaded ammunition was for sale. Firearms were available for sale or rent. The range has eight 25-yard shooting lanes and one 100-yard lane. To our knowledge this is the only 100-yard rifle range in the city.

When we entered the sales room no one was visible. After a few minutes an older man appeared and welcomed us. He told us there was no membership required and the shooting fee was $20 per lane. He had .22 shells for sale at $9.99 for a box of 50.

After signing a liability release we were instructed to go downstairs and use the lighted lanes. There was no tour or verbal review of range rules or effort to show us how to affix targets or move them back and forth. We descended to an old but adequate series of shooting lanes. Empty shell casings littered the floor and avoiding stepping on them was difficult. We were shooting at .22 targets that were too small to fit on both clips, so we were only able to attach the target on one clip. Because of this and a robust ventilation system, targets fluttered. Otherwise the range and shooting experience were safe and pleasant, and we appreciated the availability of several rifle rests.

This range is well established among local shooters and is adequate to 1960s and 1970s standards. It is functional and safe, but greater attention to detail would have made our initial experience more pleasant and welcoming.

 

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 not trained in technical aspects of range design and operation. In this case, one—the husband–is an Army veteran and active hunter who has only occasionally been target shooting. The other is fairly new to target shooting although skilled in a diversity of athletic activities and is a certified physical education teacher. Neither had previously visited either range.

 

RANGE A

Customer Satisfaction Rating

Signage and Visibility: 1

● This range is located about a half block off a busy road, yet there was no sign on the main road and only a faded, tipped-over sign outside the building. We had driven near this range many times but never knew it existed.

Website: 4 

● The website was well done, user friendly and comprehensive.

Layout and Setting: 5

● This range is impressive. It is located in a commercial area dominated by high-tech companies and professional offices. The relatively new structure was planned with much attention to detail. It is modern, attractive, clean and well maintained. The building consists of a large retail and reception area, a classroom, rest rooms, and nineteen 25-yard indoor shooting lanes. It lacks a 100-yard lane. We believe shooters with walking disabilities could easily access the lanes.

Retail Product Availability: 4

● A wide array of new and used rifles, shotguns, and handguns are for sale, with many available for rental. Reloading equipment and supplies were well stocked, as was a diversity of ammunition and miscellaneous shooting supplies.

Rental Availability: 5

● The range has a variety of firearms available to rent.

Staff Friendliness: 5

● This business provides superb customer service. We were treated with courtesy, respect and friendliness and were cordially “guided” through our first shooting experience by a young staff member. Just before departing several staff members thanked us for visiting and invited us to return. We were pleased that at least two women are on staff. The atmosphere was so pleasant that it invites return visits.

Safety: 5

● Safety is comprehensively emphasized on the website and in person. Since the staff did not know us or our shooting ability we were personally guided through the process that included registration, safety instruction and a range tour. This reinforced the safety emphasis but also was excellent customer service. By the time we began shooting we felt that staff had assessed us and realize that, although new, we would have a safe and fun session.

Programs and Memberships: 5

● The $19.99 annual family membership and $16.99 hourly lane fee are reasonable. Membership includes a set of safety glasses, a five percent discount on some ammunition, and special promotions. The business organizes shooting leagues, holds concealed carry classes and has a simulator. There is a discounted lane fee during midweek days.

Cleanliness: 5

● The facility was spotless.

Comments/Impressions:

● This is a quality business and shooting resource. Our only criticism relates to lack of signage and general visibility. We left feeling that staff went out of their way making our first visit pleasant. They succeeded! The business felt energetic and enthusiastic.

 

RANGE B

Customer Satisfaction Rating

Signage and Visibility: 5

● A prominent sign is posted on the main road. The range is easy to find.

Website: 2

● The site is bare bones and antiquated.

Layout and Setting: 4

● The range was well designed and constructed to standards of a few decades ago. It is safe and functional. Shooting lanes are underground and reached by stairs. People with walking disabilities could not easily access them.

Retail Product Availability: 4

● The inventory includes a diverse array of firearms, reloading supplies, ammunition and some shooting accessories.

Rental Availability: 4

● Many firearms are available for rent.

Friendliness: 2

● When we entered the showroom no employee was visible, and we looked around for several minutes before a man appeared. He was adequately helpful but showed no enthusiasm greeting first-time customers.

Safety: 2

● The range layout is safe. Enough shell casings were on the floor to constitute a slip-and-trip hazard. We signed a liability form and were instructed to go unescorted through a door, descend the stairs and shoot in the lighted lanes. Stronger verbal emphasis on safety by staff would have been prudent.

Programs and Membership: 2

● No membership is required to shoot. We believe this range is heavily used and appreciated by skilled and frequent shooters with minimal emphasis on attracting newcomers.

Cleanliness: 3

● The facility was adequately clean, with the exception of all the shell casings on the floor, but it could use a thorough “spiffing up.”

Comments/Impressions:

● This is an established range with decades of service to shooting and shooters, but it is rooted in the past. Experienced shooters would be comfortable here, but we didn’t feel it would feel particularly welcoming or comfortable to newcomers, especially young people and women. It felt tired.

PREFERRED RANGE

RANGE A

Midwest Shooting, Inc.

1490 Ketelsen Drive

Hiawatha, IA 52233

319-393-1888 ● www.midwestshootingsupply.com

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