When it comes to shooting ranges, there is no end to the unique experiences available: machine gun, sporting, military style, helicopter-based - you name it, some town in this country has it.
But for practical purposes you’ll always have two basic options: indoor and outdoor. Each comes with its own set of benefits and drawbacks, and determining which one is better comes down to personal preference more than anything else.
That being said, there’s one thing that any shooting range can offer: a safe, curated area in which you can safely practice the sport. A dedicated location to head to when you want to fire off a few rounds is great and all, but what does each kind offer, specifically?
Outdoor Shooting Ranges
The most obvious benefit of an outdoor shooting range you’ve probably guessed already: distance. The great outdoors isn't exactly limited when it comes to space, so rifle ranges are able to offer lanes of 300 yards or more. Indoor ranges can’t quite compete when it comes to those distances. It simply becomes impractical to try and contain that distance in an indoor range.
Another, more subtle benefit of an outdoor range may be the space. Outdoor ranges demand a large open area, and for some, that may be the perfect environment to unwind in. The open air might be more attractive than firing inside a building, but it also means that the ranges are often located in rural areas. If you’re okay with potentially travelling a ways to get to an outdoor range, this kind might be perfect for you.
With space also come other options. In the openness of the outdoors, your target choices tend to expand, too. While indoor ranges may only be able to offer a variable-distance paper target, outdoor ranges often have stationary targets, in addition to skeets. Firing at clay pigeons is an experience unique to outdoor ranges, and it’s a challenge many people seek out.
This kind of shooting range also has a flipside, though. While the outdoors are a fantastic environment for long-range shooting, they are also subject to the elements. If the weather is too hot, too cold, or stormy, outdoor shooting ranges may be forced to close, and nobody really wins in that scenario.
Indoor Shooting Ranges
And in the other corner: indoor shooting ranges. Do they stack up against the benefits of an outdoor range, or are the drawbacks of the outdoor elements enough to make indoor the victor?
While extreme weather may force outdoor ranges to close for certain seasons, indoor shooting ranges can operate pretty much any time. The outdoors may be refreshing, but they can also be a plight, especially in the dead of winter or summer heat. Indoor shooting ranges need not worry about weather or time constraints. Some even stay open 24 hours.
The closeness of an indoor range may make them a more convenient location, too. While outdoor ranges are often located far from cities and deep in rural country, indoor ranges’ smaller size mean they can be built almost anywhere. If you don’t fancy driving an hour to get to the range, indoor ranges might be the place to go.
Another strong benefit of these ranges is that of curation. Indoor shooting ranges often boast climate controlled environments, restrooms, lockers, and additional conveniences. By confining the range to an indoor environment, these ranges offer many benefits more than simply an area to shoot. This might make indoor the more alluring option, but there are still some drawbacks to an indoor range.
The versatility of indoor shooting ranges are much more diminished than the wide variety of options at an outdoor one. Based on the range’s specific building layout and type of bullet trp, some calibers and sizes will be restricted. Ricochets and damages to the range are prone to happen with certain sizes. Additionally, indoor shooting ranges may not be accommodating to rifles. The long distance that rifle ranges demand may mean that rifle firing is not permitted at an indoor range. In contrast, outdoor shooting ranges don’t have these drawbacks.
So, Is It Better to Practice Indoors or Outdoors?
These examples are far from comprehensive, but hopefully they outline a few of the major pros and cons that each type of range offers. The nuances of each make either kind of range a solid option for practice or sport. In short, outdoor ranges offer the following benefits:
- Greater distance to practice with
- Skeet shooting and regular targets
- Refreshing, outdoor environment
On the other hand, indoor ranges often provide these benefits:
- Controlled environment without the elements
- Convenience of location
- Amenities like lockers, A/C, and restrooms
Keep in mind these aren’t the only benefits that either of these kinds of ranges offer, they are just some of the most prominent.
Taking a look at the drawbacks for each might also help you make a decision:
The Final Verdict
The truth of the matter is, both kinds of ranges have drawbacks. Unfortunately, the perfect range has yet to exist. While each can offer some enticing benefits, the decision is truly up to you. If you’re looking for a range where you can test the absolute limits of distance and push your skills to the limit, go for an outdoor experience. Alternatively, an indoor experience can ensure maximum comfort, while also providing a safe area to shoot some bullseye’s.
If you’re new to shooting ranges, take some time to try out different options in your area. Evaluate where you get the most bang (yes, pun intended) for your buck, and enjoy the experience! You may discover that you love it all and don’t want to choose.