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Indoor Range Open in Juneau
Juneau residents began squeezing off the first live rounds at the new $1.9 million indoor shooting range in the Mendenhall Valley in early December. The Juneau Area Hunter Education Indoor Shooting Range features seven lanes, a classroom and a large empty area that will be used for archery practice once funding is available.
Those who want to learn or practice their skills out of the wind, rain and snow may bring their rifles and handguns (not exceeding .45 caliber) from 5:30 to 9:00 on Monday and Tuesday evenings and 1:30 to 7:30 Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Phone the range information line at 586-4101 for current hours and notice of special events and closures.
“I encourage people to call and I can let them know what to expect,” said Randy Waters, the range program technician. “We may be adjusting the times a little in the coming months as we see what works best.”
Waters said all new shooters using the live-fire range must go through a brief range orientation and safety briefing. The steps include:
Check in at the front counter
Complete the new shooter registration form
View the Range Orientation and Safety Briefing Video (about 20 minutes)
Read, understand, and sign a Rules Acknowledgement Form
Review the orientation and ask questions (if you have any) with a range staff member
Pay for lane rental
Put on eye and ear protection before entering the live-fire range
“I tell folks to add about 20 minutes to your shooting time for that first evening of shooting,” Waters said. “Then they’re able to jump on the range that same night.”
Beginners and inexperienced shooters are welcome, and Waters is available to offer help as needed.
Targets are also available for sale. Most targets are five for $1.00 or .25-cents each. Larger targets are .50-cents each. Eye and ear protection is required, and is available for sale or rent.
The range is designed for .22 rim-fire rifles, air rifles and pistols, hand guns up to .45-caliber, including .44 magnum. No shotguns or muzzleloaders are allowed, and shooters may not use armor-piercing or tracer ammunition. For safety reasons, so holster-draw shooting is allowed.
All firearms must be unloaded and cased before entering the facility, with the exception of on-duty law enforcement personnel.
The fee for using the range is $15 per hour (but shooters may purchase a ticket for two individuals in one lane), unless they qualify for discounts through volunteer activities at the range. Those interested in volunteer work can query Waters at 586-4101 for more information. The range also offers a punchcard special. A shooter may buy six lane hours in advance for $90.00, and will get an additional hour free.
Shooters aren't the only ones who have to pay for the new public service. Fish and Game must follow a lot of environmental rules to keep the facility open and that won't be cheap. Costly equipment is the reason the building will likely operate at a net annual loss of as much as $200,000.
Due to the risk of lead contamination from spent bullets and vaporized shot, air must be sucked from the shooting area to vents in the back of the building where a series of filters trap lead, mercury and other possible contaminants. The air is then sent outdoors. Spent bullets are collected from a steel trap at the end of the shooting gallery and will either be recycled or sent to the city's household hazardous waste center in Lemon Creek.
On a recent tour through the innards of the building, Waters pointed at a solid wall of intakes, ducts, pipes and other devices required for compliance with Occupational Health and Safety Administration regulations.
"There's no special funding ... it's coming at a cost to the (agency's) other management programs," said Dale Rabe, management coordinator for Fish and Game's regional office.
The money for those programs comes from the sale of hunting licenses and taxes on firearms and ammunition. The proposed hikes in hunting and fishing license fees in 2005 will help pay for the new range. Fish and Game was under heavy political pressure to open shooting ranges in Alaskan cities but wasn't provided additional funding, Rabe said.
"These ranges are heavily subsidized," Rabe said. "For every $1 earned, we're likely to spend $4 just to have it operating. That's why volunteers are important to keep the program viable."
Waters said the state is in the process of working out the logistics and administrative requirements for compensating volunteers with range time. As soon as that has been addressed, he will have a volunteer program in place.
“We’ll be looking for folks to set up and manage shooting leagues, and to serve as range safety officers,” Waters said. “We also need range ambassadors. They don’t have the full responsibility of range safety officers, but provide some assistance and support for new shooters, people with questions, anyone who needs a little help.”
Waters said he also hopes to find someone or a group of people to spearhead the NRA marksmanship qualification program. These are progressive shooting courses that build shooting skills.
The city of Juneau has provided $131,000 to help open the building. The local chapter of Territorial Sportsmen provided $10,000. Fish and Game allocated $500,000 in federal aid, designated for hunter education, over the past few years for the building. The building, designed by North Pacific Erectors, includes tables, a large television and classroom space. A separate part of the building includes a closed-off space where archers may one day be able to practice their skills as well.
The archery space was not completed due to lack of funds. There are no lights, water or heating and the floor is made of gravel.
"It's an opportunity for the future," said Matt Robus, director of Fish and Game's Division of Wildlife Conservation.
This article originally ran in the Juneau Empire. Riley Woodford contributed material to this version.
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