Outdoor Versus Indoor: Which Range is For You?

This post was originally published on 27 April 2013 on The Arms Guide.

People who have been reading my posts on The Arms Guide should have noticed a pattern in my posts by now. I am always talking about the importance of firearms practice and the factors that make it up. This post is no different. In past posts, I have made mention that nothing replaces actual trigger time. Unless you have a large estate where you can establish a shooting range, you’ll have to travel to a range to get in that trigger time. This is not a terrible thing: sure, you’ll probably have to expend some gas, but it can turn into an event. When I go to the range, I’ll end up eating out either before or after the range (even both if the money gods are kind to me on that particular day). If friends are available and interested in hitting up the range, I’ll bring them along, too.

Point blank, going to the shooting range is damn fun! But which type of range should you go to? Shooting ranges really break down into two types: outdoor and indoor. The definition of each should be blatantly self-apparent. Let’s talk pros and cons of the indoor shooting range first.

The strongest pro of the indoor range is that it’s not weather dependent. You can go to the range when it is raining, sleeting, snowing, or beautiful outside. Short of a natural disaster, the indoor shooting range will be open. On days where it is extremely cold or extremely hot, shooting in an air-conditioned environment really does help to relax the shooter. Didn’t have time to pick up ammunition? Not a problem: most indoor shooting ranges will have ammo for sale, though at slightly inflated prices. The indoor shooting range is also phenomenal in that if you are investigating what kind of gun to buy, many of them will have the most popular brands of sidearms available for rent so you can test them out for yourself. Many also sell the guns there, so if you like what you’ve rented and have the cash on hand, you can buy the weapon that day, in accordance with local statutes. The last advantage of the indoor shooting range is that they are easily the most prevalent type in urban areas. Where I live, in Tucson, the nearest outdoor range is quite a drive away.

range indoor centralville_opt
An indoor shooting range. (photo courtesy of Centralville Sportsman’s Club)

Now, before you go, “Well, damn, indoor ranges sound like where it’s at!” allow me to put some things into perspective. Indoor ranges have two major drawbacks. The majority of them that I have been to do not allow you to fire anything above pistol caliber, and you cannot move and shoot at an indoor range. At some, I haven’t even been allowed to practice drawing and firing from concealment. The rules vary from range to range, but it’s a general rule of thumb that at an indoor range, you will be engaged in static pistol shooting. Any trigger time is better than no trigger time, but you also must train as you fight, which makes this a major disadvantage. Also, the cost of shooting at an indoor range is more than likely going to increase due to amount of services available to you. This is only fair: they have to pay for maintenance of the offices and range, the air conditioning, vending machine maintenance, alarm security for the high value items kept in the store, amount of employees they staff, etc.

range outdoor_opt
The Boss Lady herself, Destinee, putting rounds to paper with Cory and Erika at an outdoor shooting range.

Having touched on the indoor range, let’s talk about the outdoor range. The outdoor range is usually in an open space, and it allows you some movement. Some outdoor ranges even allow for total movement, which makes it a great asset in tactical training. Outdoor ranges also expose you to the elements. While I mentioned being comfortable as a pro of the indoor range, sometimes, you need to be uncomfortable to train. You need to know how you are going to reload your handgun when your fingertips are numb from the cold, or how well you can stay on target with sweat dripping into your eyes, or how to adjust for wind when shooting at distance. These are things you can’t do while insulated from the elements. Since most outdoor ranges require lower levels of maintenance, their costs are a little lower than their indoor counterparts. Best of all, you can shoot rifle, pistol, and shotgun at an outdoor range. This allows you more trigger time with other tools in your arsenal aside from your sidearm.

The biggest downside to the outdoor range is that the threshold for acceptable weather is much, much lower. All but the slightest amount of rain will cancel range operations, and if it gets too windy, or it snows heavily, the range will be shut down in most cases. You end up needing to bring your own ammunition, and in most cases, your own eyepro and earpro. Most outdoor ranges, you won’t be able to rent or buy firearms. Most state and local statutes require outdoor shooting ranges to be outside city limits, so another downside is having to drive a ways if you live in an urban area.

range bullet hole
The author firing a rented suppressed Uzi at the Bullet Hole, San Antonio, TX circa 2007.

I have been to a range that mixes qualities of both. The Bullet Hole in San Antonio, TX is an outdoor range with indoor accommodations. You can rent and buy firearms there, as well as buy ammunition. The ranges were outdoors, which provided both the environmental pros and cons, but they did have rules about moving and shooting, like an indoor range. However, they had pistol, shotgun, and rifle ranges. While I could not combine training of those and do transitions, I was allowed to get trigger time on my AR, my handgun, and shotgun, which made for an all-around valuable training day.

One thing to note about shooting ranges, both indoor and outdoor: many of them offer blocks of instruction for home defense and concealed carry. If you are a new shooter, I would definitely find a range you are comfortable with and then ask them about what training they offer. Take advantage of every training opportunity that comes your way. It can only make you a better shooter.

Like all of my articles, don’t take this at face value. Keep what I’ve said in mind, but do the research, find what works for you, learn about the shooting ranges in your area (while I have listed generalities, no two shooting ranges are exactly alike), and get out there and put lead on paper.

Be sure to leave your thoughts, questions, and comments below and thank you for choosing The Arms Guide, THE place to learn about firearms in a friendly setting!

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