Occasionally people who are new to shooting will ask about the pros and cons of indoor shooting ranges v. outdoor shooting ranges. Now there’s a loaded question! As with most things in life, there’s a trade off when talking about using an indoor v. outdoor range, but both certainly have benefits to offer, as well as downsides.
If you poll people who shoot at both types of ranges, the two biggest issues you will hear mentioned are weather and noise. Let’s face it, Texas gets hot and some parts of the State get really hot! If you are in the Gulf Coast part of Texas, it also rains a lot and the humidity is ever-present. During the winter, parts of Texas see low temperatures that many non-Texans find hard to believe. So in terms of weather, there are definitely times when the advantage goes to indoor ranges.
Indoor ranges also tend to be available later in the evening than is typically found with outdoor ranges, though there certainly are exceptions. This makes them more accessible to people who like to shoot in the evenings after work and when the kids are out of school and can participate. Several indoor ranges offer special programs and leagues during the evening hours like IDPA or ISPC competition. These matches often require the range to close to the general shooting public, so they tend to offer these events only one or two days a week.
So what are the typical cons related to indoor ranges? Noise was already mentioned and it’s certainly the primary complaint heard from shooters. Many choose to “plug and muff” meaning they use both ear plugs and shooting muffs to dampen the louder conditions created by sound reverberating off the walls of indoor ranges. Sound deadening material can be used on the walls and it helps to a degree. But there is only so much that can be done.
Another issue often mentioned is temperature. The dilemma faced by owners and operators of indoor ranges is how to control both smoke and temperature. If the air is exchanged fast enough to keep the range clear of smoke, it is difficult to keep the temperature at a comfortable level. This is especially true during the summer months when air conditioning units have a difficult time cooling the air that is being rapidly exchanged. Indoor shooting ranges that can both exchange the air fast enough to keep the smoke cleared while maintaining a comfortable temperature had made a substantial investment in their HVAC system.
Let’s talk about outdoor shooting ranges a bit. As previously discussed, outdoor ranges are at the mercy of the weather. Temperature, humidity, and rain cannot be controlled, but efforts can be made to ameliorate these problems to a certain extent. Covered firing lines and other shading devices help, as do misters and fans to make a summer day of the range much more pleasant.
The biggest benefit offered by outdoor shooting ranges as variety. Typically, one can shoot types of firearms at an outdoor shooting range that cannot be accommodated at an indoor range. Some outdoor shooting ranges also allow people to engage in types of shooting that is prohibited at indoor ranges. For example, drawing and engaging the target from a holster is usually prohibited at indoor ranges while it is permissible at certain an outdoor ranges. (Even at outdoor ranges, this type of shooting is often prohibited by commercial ranges, while private clubs allow it.)
Many outdoor shooting ranges also offer a greater variety of shooting distances not available at indoor ranges. A 25 yard indoor range is rare, but outdoor ranges often offer targets at 200, 300, or even 1000 yards.
So which is better, indoor ranges or outdoor ranges? Neither/both. It really depends upon the type of shooting that you want to do, the time of day you have available, and weather conditions. In the best of all worlds, you will have access to both types of ranges so you can select the one that best fits your needs at any given time. So don’t right off either type of range; support both of them with your patronage. Every time a shooting range closes its doors for good, we all lose.
Shoot, have fun, and do it safely!