When the Afghans finally forced the Russians out of their country it took little time before the tribes once united in a ten year war fell back to the old ways. Defeating the juggernaut bear with then modern technology allowed clans to began slaughtering each other in a more efficiently.
Today The Wife, my In-Laws, and I were all enjoying some local barbecue when in walked my old childhood neighbor who is a recently certified NRA pistol instructor. He had just finished teaching his first CCW course and I asked him where he went for a range, "Man it's tough. Nobody wants to let you in to their range and when they do they inflate the price because they consider you competition."
I nodded my head in complete understanding. Living in a relatively large metropolitan area anyone who shoots from my neck of the woods can tell you the location of every range, how far it is, and what the range's fees are. Supply simply doesn't meet demand.
Shooting ranges have always been right up there with nuclear power plants for their "Not in my neighborhood" associations. When the infamous "Flood of '93" ravaged the mid-west it led to a number of local ranges being destroyed. One took the insurance money drove 40 miles west and re-opened Benchrest Rifle Club complete with a 600 yard range. Other owners wanted to rebuild but everyone from the EPA to anti-gun municipal tyrants refused to issue permits. After all the Birkenstock 90's was about saving the children, and shooting ranges "obviously" (read: sarcasm first time reader) meant dead ten year olds.
We need more ranges, and not just in that "I want" sense. We really need them. There probably has never been as many first time shooters in America, ever. I can remember when seeing AR at the range was rare and SKSs were common. These days ranges are jammed with waiting lines, black rifles, and pistols and not just old white guys. If you seek "coexistence" and "cultural diversity" you can find it easier at a shooting range than the local Thai restaurant.
The more armed citizens we have the more we need them shooting and honing a lethal skill.
I LOVE shooting and have been at it since I was about eight. I joke that my blood is composed blood, lead, copper shavings, coffee grounds, and IMR 4064. I love it because it teaches me something new everytime, it is a highly enjoyable recreation, a great de-stressing tool, and as I said a lethal skill, all rolled into one.
Some guy over there is waving his arms and telling me "sssshhhh shhhh it's not a leathal skill...it's a gun...not a weapon."
Guns are lethal and they are weapons. Some are reverse engineered for Olympic sport with crazed looped grips and ten pound barrels, but they started out as something else. Manipulation of a firearm is a lethal skill.
So is driving a car.
"but but but not in the same vein" you cry. As a former ten year old who went over the windshield of a 1977 Yellow Gremlin (I didn't look both ways) I beg to differ.
We need more ranges which means we need more allies on local municipal boards who affect land permit issuance and zoning. The more ranges, the less monopoly happens.
Because that is what we are seeing. I don't begrudge anyone from making as much money as they can (okay maybe baseball pitchers I do), but when range owners who run open-to-public ranges and run Conceal Carry courses try to financially burden a fellow instructor by jacking up rates or turning them away I get a little pissed.
"Well were competitors!" Thanks Gordon Gecko, but when you wave that NRA flag on the front door we are also family. And an instructor from the outside who is paying for an hour or two of range time per student has just walked new customers into your door. Because where the instructor without a range sees that student once for training, the same student-now-CCW holder will come back over and over and over to your range. For advice, for ammo, gun rentals, holsters, guns, and (gasp) more range time. After that they bring other friends to shoot, including....wait for it.....new shooters.
I don't know why every range I go to there is always someone behind the counter who can tell you how they came up with the idea of gun ownership and implemented conceal carry all by themselves.
New shooters means strength in the maintaining of rights. New shooters leads to more conceal carry permit holders. More permit holders means more citizens fighting back against rapists, stalkers, and spree shooters.
Besides that if there is one thing I know about working for almost two decades in a specialized field where I have competitors, not all of them last.
"Well those guys aren't professionals. My guys are" says the range owner.
Clint Smith has professionals on his Thunder Ranch range, but I've been to plenty of ranges where the guy behind the counter is working part time for ammo and range discounts (and who can blame him), but ironically may also be in possession of the worst safe gun handling skills. Embroidered Polo doesn't equal a professional, it means employed here.
Am I dogging range owners here?
Remember who your allies are. That the best marketing tool is word of mouth, it's what some people call reputation, and you either get a good one or a bad one. Being well funded doesn't mean shit when you have no street cred.
But as one reader reminded me, the coin is always two sided. As an independent instructor coming into a range we have the burden not to act like idiots and self-grandizing gurus. Range owners spend a considerable amount of their money on liability insurance because there is always some jack ass somewhere willing to do something you-tube worthy.
There are always problems in any sub-culture, but the American gun culture is rooted into our cowboy culture I like to think. We stand up to a worthy cause, we value the independent hard work of another person, and we ride for the brand. And for the American shooting community the 2nd Amendment is our brand.
We hang together or we shall surely hang separately.