Ever shot a rifle or a pistol? What about a machine gun? At Open Range Sports, which has been open for around 8 years, allows you to do just that safely and legally. Located 15 miles outside Louisville Kentucky in a residential suburb called Crestwood in Oldham County, this 45,000 square foot facility was once a rollerskating rink. Barry Laws, a former actor who lived in Los Angeles with his wife, decided to pack it all in and focus his attention on one of his lifelong passions – shooting.
He relocated to Louisville and opened this recreational retail and educational facility that includes paint ball (they use a smaller version of paint balls called reballs although they use the same guns) and the shooting range. The business is broken down into the following focus areas:
- Retail, where you can purchase guns
- Educational, where there’s numerous classes they offer on how to shoot and how to do so safely and
- The Shooting Range & Paint Ball arena where you can “play.”
On the education front, they hold seminars and classes, where you can watch safety videos, instructors will show you how to handle a firearm safely and so on. Apparently they have “range safety officers (RSO’s)” walking around the facility at all times.
Now onto the guns, because frankly, this was the bit that I knew the least about. I had grown up in the mountains of the Adirondacks where men had rifles for shooting season (mostly deer), so I wasn’t new to seeing a rifle, but my knowledge of them were pretty non-existent before I walked through the doors of Open Range.
General Manager Matt Noyes walked me through each kind of gun and why someone might want one over the other.
I learn that glocks are the most popular brand in the country. There are micro-compacts, which are small hand guns with a weaker caliber, referred to as a 22. These were in the $250-700 range depending on the features you wanted. I assumed this is where a woman who wanted something to deter attackers would start. It made me think of so many of the girls I went to high school with in South Africa who began to carry hand guns in their purses when the violence broke out following Mandela’s initial release.
After the 22, the next level up is a 380 caliber, then a 9 mm, followed by a 40 and a 45. Caliber essentially refers to the diameter of the round hole – the fatter they are, the more gun power they can hold. For awhile, ammunition was in short supply and therefore expensive. He jokes that consumers bought up stashes of it since they thought the Apocalypse was coming. Now, there’s plenty available, he says, as he points to a massive palette of ammunition towards the front of the store.
Then, there are revolvers and rifles. Take the ARIS rifle for example, which is apparently the most popular rifle in the country. You can either pay for a gun off the shelf as is, or you can also build your own, by choosing each part, just like you do with a Dell computer. The first step is selecting a lower receiver (who knew?), then your upper receiver, and then you move onto a lower parts kit and your stock, which is the piece that abuts your shoulder. You can also choose a personalized optic if you’d like as well. Obviously what you choose each step of the way affects the cost.
Some people even upgrade the trigger, since some triggers have a lighter pull action to them than others, which I later learned when I started shooting. Other accessories include slings, polymer iron sights (front and rear) and grips (a rail vertical grip for example). They have something they refer to as the AR Bar (say what?), which is where you can choose all your accessories. There are also holsters of course, which is the thing used to carry the gun. Some people put their guns inside their waist bands, others out and for the more discrete, you can carry it against your ankle, underneath your pants.
There’s so much to learn about this industry or as some think of it as, a recreational sport. It’s still hard for me to think about it as a recreational sport since firing one could potentially kill someone. And yet, if I start to peel back the onions, I guess we could argue that you could easily die in any “adrenalin-heavy” recreational sport, such as parachuting, jumping out of airplanes, black diamond skiing and so on. It’s all about safety, awareness and knowing your limits.
The more you know about guns, what types you would use for what purpose and how to shoot in a safe environment the better. There are micro-compacts (mentioned above), sub-compacts, compacts, full size guns, long slide (which is competition length) guns and more. What is confusing at first is that the size of the gun and the caliber in which the gun is chambered is different, so you could have a large pistol chambered in a small caliber (like .22) or a micro-compact chambered in a large caliber (like .45), or the other way around, Matt explains.
Below is their retail shop which will give you an idea of the massive variety you can choose from – there are even “styling” ones for women, with handles made from textured wood and marble. Prices will obviously vary depending on style, features and of course its chamber size, whether it’s automatic or semi-automatic and so on. They even sell specialized leather purses for women which have a secure locked side zipper in the bag where you can store your gun.
Below is their 100 yard rifle range, which is apparently the longest inside shooting range of its kind in the state and area. They tout Mancom world class interactive programmable targetry and the target lighting runs with the targets and the target returns to you. They offer concrete shooting tables, shooting bags and a Supertrap bullet containment system. All calibers here are under .50 cal bmg and they offer recoil reducing “lead sleds” to increase your enjoyment of large calibers. I tried this btw and can certainly see the value.
You’ve got to have a place for empties of course.
Now onto my actual experience…
When we arrived in the main room which is a 25 yard shooting area with 12 ballistic perfect pistol stations, Matt laid down a bunch of guns on the counter, which threw me back at first. Initially the idea of doing this seemed compelling somehow, largely because it was something I had never done before and knew nothing about. I’m always like this with new activities. Then, I heard the guns go off around me, in fact, on all sides of me, and frankly, for a new timer, it’s a bit disconcerting at first.
As people shoot, the empties are released off to their right side. Those empties sometimes pop over the bullet proof glass dividers that separate each designated shooting area. As the overly trigger happy guy next to me went through his package of bullets in a five minute spurt, the empties were flying into our area and sometimes hit me in the arm.
Note that they’re completely harmless, since they’re empties, but when you’re not used to the “process,” it’s a bit alarming initially. “Ease into the process slowly,” I said to myself. What activity you try for the first time doesn’t seem a tad overwhelming at first? Kinda like the first time I tried indoor skydiving, never mind jumping out of an airplane.
Matt then proceeded to educate me on the various styles, starting with the more classic revolver style gun, which you often see in American wild west movies. Below is the Ruger SP101 which he carefully showed me how to load and is the first gun I shot….nervously so. I was so afraid that the safety switches were on while I was learning that I was more focused on that than what Matt was saying.
Word of advice: when you first start off, pick a time that isn’t busy so you don’t have a lot of noise or other distractions to keep you deterred from anything other than the how to’s and safety tips.
We then proceeded onto a semi-automatic style, the Ruger SR101, which is chambered in .22 caliber. “The 22 is a little wimpy for self defense,” said Matt, “but it’s great for shooting in the woods.” In his opinion, most self defense guns start at around 380, in which case the Ruger LC 380 is a good place to start.’
I tried a 380 next — the Walther PK380 to be precise, which is chambered in .380 caliber.
Then, he had me try the Glock 17 but with a suppressor on it which diffuses the noise a bit. That said, because of the nature of what it does well, you’ll see a lot more gun powder smoke above the gun and around you when you shoot with one on – I found this fascinating btw. The Glock 17 is chambered in 9 mm, so essentially we were working ourselves up to the “Big Grandpapa” — the MP5.
Did I mention that I shot a fully automatic machine gun? Whoah Nelly. Yup, that’s the “Big Grandpapa”, the H&K MP5 that I mentioned above, which is chambered in 9mm.
Let’s just say that this was a helluva lot more powerful than the SR22 semi-automatic I started with. There’s a single shoot option, an option where it shoots 3 bullets at a time and a final option, which is to let her loose, meaning you can shoot the whole wad of bullets in one go if you’d like.
Because the gun is so powerful, you have to be aware of where it’s moving as you’re shooting as it tends to want to make its way up towards the ceiling. It’s important to stay steady and focused when you shoot a machine gun, so you’re in control of the weapon at all times…and where the bullets are heading.
Okay, so I didn’t do too well, but let’s remember I was focused more on shooting safely and learning about the art of shooting than I was on target precision.
The staff is incredibly friendly and helpful – there’s a section where they set you up with your gear – one for guns and one for paint ball using reballs.
Below is the inside paint ball room where teams compete against each other. I watched six men play for awhile before I went into the shooting range.
And yeah….I got out there myself too for a bit but without a team. I’d love to actually try this out “properly” sometime.
After it was all done, I was no longer shaking like I was when I first walked through the door of the shooting range. Matt walked me through the safety rules once again, as cardinal reminders of what you need to embed into your brain before you pick up a firearm.
- Always treat every firearam as if it were loaded.
- Always point your firearm in a safe direction, straight away from you.
- Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
- Always be sure of your target and what is beyond it before you shoot.
Open Range Sports
6401 Cross Keys Boulevard
Crestwood, KY 40014