Gun Ranges: Indoor vs. Outdoor

indoorIt’s not enough to just buy a gun. You’re going to want to practice with it and get proficient with it. That means that you’re going to need to shoot it. Unless you’re fortunate enough to have a yard like Hickok45, you’re going to have to eventually go to a shooting range. Now, we’ve talked in the past about what to expect on your first day at the range. While I’m sure there’s a great segue from that opening to “let’s talk about picking a range that’s best for you”, Daylight Saving time started today and my brain just working enough to come up with one. So with that in mind, let’s talk about picking a range that’s best for you.

If you only have one range in your area, well, picking your range is pretty easy at that point. If you’ve got multiple options, well, things can get a little more complicated. Probably not as complicated as I’m about to make it but I refer back to that whole Daylight Saving comment from before.

In the world of shooting ranges, there are ultimately two options: Indoor and Outdoor. Thankfully, there’s enough of a difference between the two range types to write an article about so let’s take a quick look at the advantages and disadvantages of each. There’s actually a lot of give and take with both of them, as it turns out.


This is the shooting range most people think about when someone mentions “shooting range”. It’s indoors, naturally, and they’re usually divided into about a dozen lanes. The bright side is that they’re usually air conditioned or heated. This means a potential for year-round shooting as, no matter what the weather is, if you can get to the range you can shoot. The downsides, however, are surprisingly plentiful.

For starters, there are usually only a dozen or so lanes. This means that, on a crowded day, you’re going to be waiting a while. The confined indoor area also means that the gunfire noise and accompanying concussion is going to be stronger. For new shooter and my fellow ligyrophobics, this can be a bit uncomfortable. Personally, I tend to double up on my hearing protection when I shoot indoors.

Finally, you’re usually pretty restricted in terms of what guns you can shoot. For example: there are 4 indoor ranges in my area. One of them will only lets you shoot pistols (and you’re not allowed to use reloaded ammo). Another will let you shoot pistols but will only let you shoot .22LR rifles. The third lets you shoot rifles but you have to use very specific ammo. The fourth lets you shoot pistols and rifles as long as they’re not steel core and the rifles are below a certain caliber. Long story short, if you have just a pistol, you have nothing to worry about. If you have an extensive collection then you might not be able to shoot all of your guns in one place. At the same time, considering most indoor ranges top out at 25 yards, rifle shooting isn’t going to be much of a “learning experience” there anyway.


outdoorLet’s say that Slappy Kincaid, entrepreneur, decides to buy a couple acres of land. He then puts a bunch of mounds of dirt on it, along with an office and some lean-to shelters in strategic locations. Ladies and gentlemen, we have witnessed the birth of an outdoor range. In most outdoor ranges, you can shoot whatever you want to shoot.The only ammo restrictions I’ve encountered thus far is the super long range stuff like .338 Lapua and .50 BMG, just because the ranges here don’t have the range to safely support them. If you live out west, chances are that’s not going to be an issue for you.

Because there aren’t technically “lanes” at most outdoor ranges, there aren’t lane dividers either. This allows the noise and concussions of your shots to dissipate into space making it much easier on the ears and sinuses. There’s also, typically, a lot more space available at outdoor ranges so even on crowded days there isn’t much of a wait.

The downsides, however, aren’t many but they’re big. First off, outdoor ranges are very weather dependent. If it’s raining, things get muddy and guns can get wet. Wet guns are no fun. My local range usually closes for rain and, lately, has had to stay closed for a couple days after big storms because of too much standing water. Also, I might have mentioned it a couple (300+) times but I live in Florida. During the summer, an outdoor range is absolutely miserable here. When the weather is 99 degrees with 100+% humidity, it is just hell trying to shoot. I either have to get out really early or resign myself to dry fire practice.

The biggest problem with outdoor ranges, however, is safety. While every outdoor range I’ve been to has range officers watching our every move, there’s still some procedural things that are different at outdoor ranges. At an indoor range, you usually have some mechanical device to retrieve your targets for you. You push a button and the cardboard backing flies towards you and you can replace and examine your target in the relative safety of your own lane whenever you want.

At an outdoor range, if you decide you want to change your target, you have to wait for a bit and call “cold range” once everyone else shooting is ready. Then, once the range is cold, you walk out into the firing range and replace your target out there. You’re putting a lot of trust in your fellow shooters.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to go with an indoor range our outdoor range depends on your needs and desires. The most important thing, next to safety mind you, is to pick a range and go to it as much as possible in order to be the best shooter you can be. One quick “pro tip” before I close up: once you’ve found a good range, stick with it. Getting to know the range workers as well as the others that frequent it will pay off in the long run. Why? Well, that’s another article. You’re just gonna have to trust me on this one for now.

Images used courtesy of On Target Sports and Ancient City Shooting Range.

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