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Fightin' Iron: A Place to Shoot

Fightin' Iron: A Place to Shoot

Reno Guns & Range is but one of myriad ranges across the country that are equipped to meet the diverse needs of today’s firearm enthusiasts. 

I envy the Earp brothers. Several years ago, I visited the town of Tombstone, where their adventures took place. Those historic events were in the Western-frontier era and my visit was a century later. Tombstone is still an isolated little town in the desert, but now it has indoor plumbing, electric lights, telephones and a well-developed appreciation for tourism. Life must have been harsh when the brothers and Doc Holiday decided to stroll down to the OK Corral. But, the land around the town is still the open desert it was in 1881. And the Earps would have little trouble finding a place to practice for the upcoming unpleasantness they’d experience with one Isaac Clanton, et al. While the typical frontiersman is commonly seen as a skilled marksman from an early age, he is probably something less than that. And—just like the action shooter of today—he or she still needs frequent practice to retain the perishable skills of a marksman. You always need a good place to shoot, so I envy Holiday and the Earps. They could practice nearly anywhere in the entire Arizona (territory).

I am, quite happily, a gun guy. I’ve had three careers and all of them involved the routine use of firearms, primarily pistols and revolvers. After school, it was infantry Marine, then deputy sheriff and currently firearms journalist. All of this happened as a result of just plain luck, for which I am eternally grateful. My point is simply that I am aware of how important it is for firearms enthusiasts to have a really good place to shoot. They grow harder to find than ever before. It should be obvious that a typical range needs flat ground next to some form of backstop, natural or artificial. The supply of such places is finite; they’re not making any more dirt. But, they are making a lot more people, all of whom understandably need living space. In 1881, when that legendary frontier gun battle occurred, the population of America was slightly more than 50 million. Sixty years later, when the first Japanese Zero nosed over and started the attack at Pearl Harbor, the population had grown to a bit more than 132 million. Today, it has exploded to in excess of 328 million. Draw your own conclusions.

It’s fair to conclude that a good place to shoot is a treasure beyond compare, but it’s fun to remember all the not-so-good places and the goofy things that happened in all those trips to the range. For example, I recall a time on one of the Marine Corps’ spotless ranges at Quantico, where several hundred 2ndLts were undergoing training with that matchless Browning Automatic Rifle. We had finished an exercise at 200 yards, policed up our brass, placed them in a bright-yellow 55-gallon steel drum and walked back to the 300-yard line. There were 50 firing points there and every one was occupied by a shooter with a BAR, shooting prone with the bipod. Targets were 300 yards away, but there was a full drum of brass at the recently vacated 200-yard line. You guessed it—some devious individual passed the word down the line: “...shoot at the brass barrel!” Until that day, I had never imagined I’d ever see a brass barrel dancing an Irish jig, but it happened. There was a great deal of official notice taken, but no harm done. Of course, I would never do such a thing, but there was a 2ndLt in that class who ended up as the Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Over the years since I left the police service, where the ranges are structured with proper firing lines and backstops, I have often improvised. This means portable benches and target frames, etc. It also means setting up chronograph systems. The ground can be important and since I live in the Desert West, it is hard-packed dirt or clay, sometimes gravel. But, I have fired across mud or even swampy water. I am a guy who enjoys shooting very much, but I used to travel from Southern California all the way to Wickenburg, AZ, to shoot with my long-suffering partner, Stan Waugh. There was a great little range there. Unhappily, it was a very cold place in the winter and unbearable in the summer. Arizona ranges often experience unwelcome visitors in the form of truly dangerous rattlesnakes. I also recall a day when we had to cease firing when an obnoxious Gila monster crawled across the backstop. They’re protected in Arizona and you have to honor that rule.

RGR (Reno Guns and Range) is a conveniently located facility in a commercial area of Reno. First of all, it’s a gun store. A large entry lobby has display cases on three walls and the variety is exceptionally wide. The modern stuff dominates, but there were a number of revolvers present, as well as accessories and ammo. There was even a used section that had several good buys. However, the range is the cornerstone of the facility’s appeal. There are 20 shooting lanes, each 25 yards long. The targets hang from a ceiling track stand that can be programmed to advance, retract and turn. I was able to rig up my board-mounted Ransom Rest to work in satisfactory fashion and the shooting progressed quite well. Ranges of this type may be the future of shooting in an increasingly crowded and busy world. RGR has a comfortable lounge for non-shooting members of your party, as well as training programs. Even a weekly trip to these increasingly popular businesses (good places to shoot) would be enough to keep that important edge with your fightin’ iron.

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