Indoor range developers give it their best shot
Like so many other local shooting enthusiasts, Shad Knowlton one day found himself literally dodging bullets in the north desert, where lead often flies in multiple directions and many times safety can seem more of an afterthought.
But unlike the everyday typical frustrated shooter, Knowlton is in a position to do something about it.
He and his family are currently building a massive, multimillion-dollar, world-class indoor gun range along 31 Road, a facility that when completed will be one-of-a-kind in the region.
In the works are nearly 40,000 climate-controlled square feet, a dozen-lane tactical rifle bay, just as many handgun lanes, solid-filled walls with ballistic plating, an archery bay with targets potentially at 25 yards, a full-service retail shop and gunsmithing facility, an entire floor of classroom and education space, and a host of technological and safety amenities to boot. The facility is expected to open this summer.
“With the amount of gun people and hunters that are here in the valley, this facility even seems too small,” the 34-year-old Knowlton recently said amid the orderly pings and whirs of work crews reconstructing the more-than-30-year-old former manufacturing facility.
“We went over and beyond what we needed to, really,” he said.
The entire facility — which will eventually be the Rocky Mountain Gun Club — is close to five acres, just off of the Interstate 70 Business Loop, in a building that originally was the manufacturing home for Marmot, maker of outdoor clothing and equipment.
After kicking the idea of an indoor range around for about four years, the project kicked into high gear when Knowlton’s family closed on the property last year, paying just $1.5 million of the $4 million asking price.
“I couldn’t believe this (building) fell right into my lap,” said Shannon West, prideful mother to range developers Knowlton and Caleb West and sister to well-known local entrepreneur Tammy Allen.
Their bid on the property set in motion a lengthy approval process with Mesa County, all the consequent background checks and license approvals and the massive job of designing a soup-to-nuts shooting space from scratch.
“There’s nothing on the Western Slope that will be comparable to this,” said Tina Hall, the real estate agent who brokered the deal.
SPECS AND FEATURES
All told, the price tag for the facility could exceed $4 million, Knowlton said — the cost of creating a truly multi-use facility that utilizes the latest in building, shooting, safety and security technologies.
Knowlton described it as going “all out.”
The range will be able to handle calibers up to .50 BMG, but they’ll only allow people to shoot up to .308s.
The four-foot-wide tactical rifle bays will have solid ballistic steel panels and be Rhino-lined to add a layer of safety against possible ammo fragmentation.
Handgun bays will be similarly protected, and Knowlton was insistent on having some of the best bullet traps available.
Bullets offered at the range will be lead-free, and the family said they overspent on an advanced air filtration system to keep air flowing and clean. Don’t expect the typical stale smell of gunpowder, Knowlton said.
A newer model, golf driving range-style roller will pick up all the brass.
Skylights and windows are being darkened and filled in, and the building’s cinder block construction and advanced sound dampening should make the club an acceptable neighbor.
Above-and-beyond safety is a running theme. Shooters who pass background checks will start in a safety room, where they’ll put on ear and face protection before entering range areas.
There they’ll be watched by range safety officers and instructors at every turn. Surveillance cameras and tight access control will be unavoidable.
“This is different because nobody has an indoor gun range like this, so there are going to be a lot of rules that people probably aren’t going to like at first,” Knowlton said.
Education will be a major component at the facility, with more than 10,000 square feet planned in classroom and event space.
Since the gun club is a family affair, Knowlton expects the range of education opportunities to span ages and genders as well. From basic National Rifle Association training, to kids’ clubs, to ladies-only classes, to concealed-carry courses — all levels of training will be offered.
And for those who can see themselves spending a considerable amount of time at the range, they’ll have the chance to purchase memberships, which will offer perks like private restrooms and lounge areas, discounts on ammunition and access to an outdoor patio and the facility’s gun safe room.
Memberships aside, anyone who can pass a background check and follow all the safety guidelines will be welcome to walk in anytime and shoot, winter or summer.
The range could be open as soon as Aug. 1, Knowlton said.
SHOOTING OPS SORELY NEEDED
For a region so replete with shooters, the opportunities for organized shooting are primarily limited to a few, small, always-busy indoor ranges and public ranges in the north desert area along 27 1/4 Road and on East Orchard Mesa.
“People have been talking about (building a big indoor range) for 20 years in this town,” said Jerry Stehman, owner of Jerry’s Outdoor Sports. “I would have liked to have done it years ago, but it takes lot of wherewithal to put something like that together.”
A recent effort, initially pushed by the town of Palisade and supported by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, has focused on potentially building a world-class outdoor shooting and education facility in De Beque Canyon, where a longtime power plant is in the process of being decommissioned. Proponents of that project often cite the lack of shooting opportunities in the area in promoting the idea.
“Clearly there’s a need for what we’re proposing, in terms of a public range, run by (Parks and Wildlife),” Palisade Town Administrator Rich Sales said, adding that he’s familiar with the indoor gun club project. “But we’re still very much looking to the potential of having a shooting range at Cameo.”
For law enforcement agencies, the indoor range has natural synergies.
A large section of the range will be dedicated as a training area, with modular walls and doors and varying light conditions, to mimic real-world conditions that tactical officers might encounter.
Knowlton plans on offering what is called Simunition — non-lethal training ammunition, similar to paintball, but intended for use in professional shooters’ rifles or sidearms.
Whether it’s official training, or recreational shooting, or firearms shopping, or learning gun safety or education, Knowlton said he’s heard from a lot of local sportsmen and “gun nuts, like I am” that they’re pumped about the project.
“The fact that we are going to offer a really nice facility for everybody — I think it’s going to not only be beneficial for us, but be beneficial for the whole valley,” Knowlton said.
“I think once we get the word out, and everybody starts finding out about it, I think we’re going to be busier than we can comprehend.”