Which type of shooting range is best?
So you’ve started looking around for a shooting range in your area to practice your skills, and you’ve narrowed your selection down to two options.
The first is an outdoor shooting range, offering a more rugged and old-fashioned experience.
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The second is an indoor range, which is fully equipped with the sleekest and most modern amenities you could want from a practice arena.
Which one is the better choice for you?
Read on for our compare and contrast, pro and con studies of these two very different shooting range environments.
Outdoor ranges offer more movement
One of the best reasons to opt for an outdoor shooting range instead of an indoor one is the sheer amount of space you have available to you when you are outside. An indoor shooting range is built in such a way that most of its space is set aside for actually positioning targets a fair distance away from the shooter. While this makes for good accuracy training, it doesn’t give the shooter a lot of room to move around or switch positions.
Outdoor ranges, on the other hand, are not limited by space constraints, and therefore offer a much wider range of motion. In turn, outdoor ranges are better for more flexible types of firearm training, from tactical training to practicing shots from different angles and positions.
It’s weather dependent
If you’re the kind of person who likes to head to the shooting range when the weather is crummy and there’s nothing else to do, you probably aren’t going to be a big fan of outdoor shooting ranges. Rain, snow, or heavy wind are just a few of the elemental occurrences that will make outdoor shooting ranges useless for days, weeks, or even months at a time.
An outdoor range allows you to play the elements
With the previous point said, being exposed to the elements while shooting isn’t always a bad thing. On the contrary, getting a chance to shoot in different light levels, temperatures, or with the wind rippling through the field is a good learning experience.
In most practical shooting scenarios – especially the fall hunting season – you are going to need to be comfortable with aiming accurate shots in low light, calculating shot trajectory in the wind, or reloading your gun with stiff, cold fingers. Outdoor ranges can teach you how.
Bring your own stuff
This point won’t be a big problem for most shooters, since part of the idea with going to the shooting range is to gain experience with a firearm you already own. However, remember that most outdoor ranges don’t have rental booths where you can buy ammunition or rent guns, goggles, or ear protection.
If you want to shoot an outdoor range, you’re going to have to bring all of your gear for yourself. The upside to this rule, of course, is that you can bring pretty much whatever weapon you want to the table, from a sidearm to a rifle to a shotgun.
Outdoor ranges are cheaper
In many cases, outdoor ranges are less expensive than indoor ones, simply because maintenance and utility costs are lower. When you aren’t paying for electricity, heat, and other indoor amenities, the price tag for access is understandably going to be cheaper.
An indoor range is rain or shine
Whether it’s the sweltering peak of summer or the withering doldrums of winter, an indoor shooting range will be open for business.
More than that, indoor range operators generally keep their establishments at a cool, controlled, and comfortable temperature, so that you can shut out any distractions and focus entirely on aiming your shot. If you live in an area that sees extremely hot summers or cold winters, you are going to want to have an indoor shooting range on your radar, because you’ll need it if you want to have any flexibility when it comes to firearm practice.
Indoor ranges are usually pistols only
Easily the biggest drawback to indoor ranges is that many of them don’t allow you to bring rifles or shotguns into the mix. In other words, if you’re only worried about testing your sidearm accuracy, an indoor shooting range is great. If you want to hone your skills with a traditional hunting weapon, however, you’re going to need to look elsewhere.
As hinted at earlier, most indoor ranges have a service booth that allows you to rent equipment or buy ammunition. This is great if you forget your extra box of bullets or your shooting glasses at home one day, but it’s even greater if you’re in the market to buy a new gun.
The best indoor ranges will be fully stocked with the most popular pistols on the market, so that you can rent guns and test out different brands and models to pick the one that fits your needs best. If you ever find a shooting range that offers a similar service for hunting rifles, buy a lifetime membership and tell your spouse that you are never moving away, because you’ve hit the jackpot.
Rules, rules, rules
The “pistols only” rule is the most egregious one that most indoor shooting ranges enforce, but depending on the range, the rules and regulations you will be expected to follow can stack up even further. These rules range from how much you can move around while shooting your gun to whether or not you can do a full “draw, aim, and shoot” motion with your pistol.
Basically, if you want to control your own shooting experience, go with an outdoor range.
Indoor ranges are easier to find
Location and convenience are two huge determining factors for which shooting range will earn your business, and in most cases, indoor shooting ranges win that battle handily. While rural areas may have a nice balance between range options, the closer you get to an urban area, the more difficult it is going to be for you to find an outdoor range. Add weather considerations and a few other factors, and there’s no doubt that indoor ranges are considerably easier to find than outdoor ones.