The neighborhood and small-town gun shop continues to serve a vital function for American gun owners, providing information, knowledge and services that you just can’t get online or in a big-box store that specializes in everything from shotguns to groceries. But many suburban and urban consumers are desperately in need of something in between, a full-service retail establishment that is nevertheless a comfortable learning environment.
This was the goal behind the Colonial Shooting Academy (CSA) located in bustling Richmond, Virginia. This state-of-the-art shooting range impressed me from the moment I drove into the parking lot. Its large modern building was extremely neat, well marked and expertly landscaped. Safety signage was clear and prevalent outside, and the staff was professional, knowledgeable and, most importantly, friendly. Lastly, but hardly least, CSA features the largest public indoor shooting range in the country.
GLOCKs For Rent
Essentially, CSA is the perfect place to bring a first-time shooter. Similarly, it plays the perfect host to GLOCK’s Range Program, which allows public shooting ranges to purchase GLOCK pistols at discounted prices for rental use. Ranges must purchase a minimum of five pistols and hold onto them for one year, at which point new discounted pistols can be purchased and the old ones sold. Ranges also receive GLOCK signage, gear and accessories as well as one free admission to a GLOCK armorer’s course.
Providing rental guns is akin to a test drive. If you try it, you will like it, and then you will buy it. I met with Ed Coleman, the general manager of CSA, who gave me the nickel tour and explained how the GLOCK Range Program works for them. The range opened in March 2012. I asked Coleman how well they had held up and how many times they had been rented.
“We purchased 14 GLOCKs through the program initially, plus we had a GLOCK 17 we already owned that we used for rentals,” said Coleman. “In the past year these GLOCKs have been rented more than 1,500 times, and the two GLOCK 19s and G17s we have are by far the most popular, with 567 and 628 rentals respectively.”
Customers usually buy 100 rounds of ammunition with each rental gun, so after doing some quick math in my head, I asked Coleman to confirm if indeed each of the four GLOCKs he mentioned had gone through 30,000 rounds or more. “That’s correct, and without a single malfunction,” he said.
Ryan Kindley, who works in the range rental department and as a range safety officer, said, “Most customers come in and ask for a GLOCK by name, but if they don’t specify and they are beginners, we always recommend the GLOCK because of its basic and easy-to-master design.” Looking through the cases of rental guns, I saw nearly 100 handguns and rifles from many different manufacturers neatly presented and well marked, and still GLOCK was far and away the top choice. “We have a lot of guns for rent here, and GLOCKs are only a small fraction of the total, but they are used more often than all of the other guns combined,” said Coleman.
I must admit I was a bit incredulous when Coleman told me that CSA is the largest indoor public shooting range in the United States, but then he gave me the full tour. The three-story, fully ADA-accessible, 65,000-square-foot facility includes over 5,000 square feet of open, well-lit and airy retail space with a wide selection of recreational, tactical and personal-protection firearms. It boasts a huge selection of gear, accessories, ammunition and clothing.
The full-service gun shop can handle Class III transfers and features an in-house gunsmith. A cafeteria provides drinks, snacks and sandwiches as well as comfortable seating and free WiFi. And CSA offers discounted memberships to current and retired military and law enforcement personnel.
The shooting lanes measure either 20 or 25 yards and are divided up into five separate areas for public and private use, practice and training. In total, there are over 51 shooting lanes, 39 of which having automatic target retrieval systems, adjustable lighting and the latest in lead-removal ventilation. The ranges will handle any pistol ammunition, shotguns with slugs and rifles chambered up to and including .30 caliber. All new shooters must watch a 10-minute safety video and complete a written exam before they have access to the ranges. It is little wonder that the National Shooting Sports Foundation named CSA
one of the few five-star shooting facilities in the nation.
The upstairs level includes an exclusive and well-appointed members lounge with access to two private, seven-lane ranges. The area is available for private rental, and CSA often hosts birthday and bachelor/bachelorette parties as well as corporate events and outings.
CSA also hosts regular IDPA competition and small-bore rifle leagues and offers a huge selection of extremely popular firearms classes. Courses range from NRA-certified beginner pistol, revolver and rifle classes to advanced personal-protection courses for home defense and concealed carry. There are cartridge reloading classes, ladies-only classes, multi-state concealed-carry certification courses, instructor certifications, range safety courses, youth camps and advanced tactics classes.
“Most of our classes fill up routinely, and we try and limit participation so we have a manageable class size,” Coleman said as he showed me several of the range’s professional classrooms. “We get a lot of repeat customers who start off with basic classes and advance as their skills and comfort levels improve. We also conduct a lot of law enforcement training and certification.”
Indeed, the basement level houses the tactical range, which provides 210 degrees of use, variable light conditions, moving targets and movable barricades. There is also a steel-encased, full-sized, 1,800-square-foot shoot house with movable walls, multiple hallways and 10 different rooms. There are multiple breaching doors to train officers on different entry techniques, and tactical teams will deploy flashbangs, Simmunition and frangible ammunition inside.
CSA’s impressive ventilation system is capable of handling smoke for fire training and simulations. The local fire marshals recently used the facility to simulate search-and-rescue operations. A full recording system allows departments to easily review training and make improvements as needed. “This is the largest shoot house available in Virginia,” said Coleman.
This entire basement area is used primarily for law enforcement training and includes a private vehicle bay, high-tech classrooms, locker rooms and fitness gear. On the ranges, officers don’t need to wait for nightfall to train in low-light conditions. Fully adjustable lighting systems can be set to simulate all types of exterior scenarios to add realism to training and allow for practicing with flashlights.
“The GLOCK Range Program actually merges well with our work with law enforcement,” Coleman explained. “All the area police departments use GLOCKs, so we get a lot of the officers who come here with their families to rent GLOCKs so they can try them out. It is very common for an officer to purchase a smaller GLOCK than his duty pistol for his family to have at home,” he said.
“The program we have with GLOCK is by far the best rental program we have,” added Coleman. “The biggest advantage for us is that GLOCKs require less maintenance than any other gun we rent. All we do is clean and inspect them every few hundred rounds. We have never had one break down or need any servicing.”
Several staff members are also certified GLOCK armorers, and they are kept busy with customer requests for customizing, which frequently means installing tritium and fiber-optic sights and extended slide and magazine releases. CSA also refunds any customer their gun rental fee against the purchase of a firearm.
“When we decide to sell the old rental GLOCKs, we will put them through a complete cleaning and inspection and replace any worn springs or parts, and whoever buys them will get a great deal on a reliable pistol,” said Coleman.
In many urban and suburban areas, it’s difficult to find public ranges, especially ones that can meet the demanding expectations of sophisticated shoppers. The Colonial Shooting Academy delivers on every level, offering a great facility, a welcoming staff and a professional atmosphere, as well as an array of GLOCK products for purchase or renting, that will put any beginner at ease. Happily, as Coleman informed me, CSA is already in the process of developing a second range in the Norfolk/Virginia Beach area. To learn more, visit colonialshooting.com or call 804-266-2666.