Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Guns: Places to Shoot - Off the Beaten Path Edition

In a state as big as Florida, you're going to find shooting ranges in some out-of-the-way places. Here are a couple that I visited after the conclusion of my quest to see Space Shuttle Endeavor's last flight...

APHF Shooting Center review

Most museums rate pretty low on the interactivity scale. For the most part, the American Police Hall of Fame & Museum in Titusville (confusingly located across the street from the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame) doesn't break the mold - there are exhibits talking about forensics labs, a memorial for LEOs killed in the line of duty, and your standard historical pieces on the lawmen of the Old West and the Roaring '20s. Interesting stuff, sure, but not exactly the most hands-on experience you can have.

Then you notice that there's a shooting range on the premises...

It's small (50 feet is the maximum distance), but the equipment is fairly nice. Unlike most of the indoor ranges I've been to in Florida, the APHF range had electronic target movers, decent air filtration, and clear lane dividers that helped cut down on the "shooting in a closet" feel you get from most indoor stalls. Out-of-towners (especially those who hail from anti-gun cesspools like NYC and Chicago) will likely dig the combo pack - for around $35, you can get museum admission, range time, a rental 9mm, a box of ammo, eye and ear protection, and even a little instruction on how to use the darn thing.

Due to the crowds for the shuttle launch, the range was pretty slow at the time I visited. One of the staff even had time to demonstrate a new-to-me technique for reloading my S&W 642 (stick the ejector rod between the left fingers and rest the cylinder on top, essentially palming the gun). Overall, the APHF Shooting Center is worth a look just for the sheer novelty of being able to shoot inside a tourist attraction.

Indian River Skeet & Trap

Clay shooting is extremely popular in certain areas of the country. I've seen factory-like range facilities, with dedicated pullers and shooters lined up three deep to wait their turn.

Indian River Skeet & Trap is at the other end of the spectrum: intimate, secluded, and family-operated:

Your first clue comes from the trip in - a dusty, winding dirt road that leads you past open fields and a sand mine. There's no paved parking, and the "clubhouse" is an air-conditioned shipping container/trailer where the owner/operators spend much of their time (their kid was playing on a computer). Despite the no-frills approach, IRS&T manages to pack in skeet, trap, wobble trap, five-stand, and two sporting clays courses.

I shot skeet and trap with a gentleman named Thomas, a birdhunter from Georgia. The range uses a Briley automatic token system for its fields and doesn't have pullers, which was a foreign experience for Thomas (I was used to it - Gator Skeet & Trap didn't have dedicated pullers, either). There weren't any bonehead restrictions on what shotgun you could use, so I busted out my Rossi 20 gauge (Note to self - a 20 gauge kicks like a mule when you chamber it in a 5 pound, 18.5" barreled shotgun with a hard plastic stock). Good shooting and good company - not too much more you can ask for in this world.


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