■ SUBMITTED BY MISTY NICHOLS
Last Friday a group of curious ladies had the opportunity to participate in a weapons training class provided by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. This was an educational morning filled with class time, a tour of the Lee County gun range, as well as supervised time on the range.
During the half-day course we participated in class time related to “stand your ground” and concealed weapons carry statutes. The training officers made this portion of the class particularly interesting by relaying first-hand accounts of different situations their deputies have encountered. Through this process, participants were able to gain a true appreciation for Lee County deputies, what their jobs entail, the daily dangers they face protecting our community and the vast weapons training they are required to complete each year. We also learned that nearly 22 percent of Lee County deputies are women.
The training officers were highly professional, extremely knowledgeable and amazingly patient. After all, dealing with six ladies with little to no weapons experience is no easy task. Nor is it one they had been specifically trained to undertake.
The Lee County gun range is a 51,000 sq-ft., $7.7 million dollar state- of-the-art facility whose primary mission is devoted to law enforcement firearms training. It houses the Lee County Sheriff’s Office training staff, two separate gun ranges (a 14-lane 25-meter range, and a 22-lane 50-meter range) and multiple classrooms. In addition, the facility is also designed for use as a hurricane command center, and the ranges double as hurricane shelters for Lee County Mosquito Control and Sheriff’s Office aircraft.
What makes this facility truly different is that the entire facility was designed for both public and law-enforcement use. So any member of the public who would like to shoot at this beautiful range is allowed to do so. All that is required is a $25 membership, which covers the cost of a background check. Other costs include range usage at $7.95 and ammunition at a cost between $25 and $31 per box. You cannot bring in outside ammo, since the range only allows the use of nontoxic ammo. The nontoxic ammo ensures that all users of the facility enjoy a safe shooting experience by reducing or eliminating heavy metals and chemicals such as mercury, barium and antimony. The exclusive use of nontoxic ammunition also reduced initial construction costs by $400,000 and continues to reduce annual operating costs by more than $200,000.
This facility was built with safety in mind. The range interior is designed to prevent any stray bullet from escaping. Seven-inch-thick concrete walls are lined with ballistic steel. Range entrances are offset to ensure that stray bullets are contained. All doors leaving the range are bullet-resistant or otherwise protected to prevent projectiles from escaping the range area. The public viewing area at the lobby is protected by five-layer ballistic glass more than two inches thick. A granulated rubber bullet trap safely captures projectiles without ricochet. Laminar airflow moves combustion air away from shooters at a rate of 75 cubic feet per minute. A high-efficiency particulate air filtration system removes airborne particles associated with non-toxic ammunition. In addition, the sophisticated air-conditioning system monitors carbon monoxide levels to assure that safe air quality is maintained at all times.
The range is open to the public on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Thursdays from 2 to 8 p.m. If you are interested in taking a basic firearms class, it can be arranged for $55. Just remember: You must pass a background check before you are allowed to use the range. All weapons must be unloaded and displayed upon arrival, and you must wear long pants and closed-toed shoes. All shirts must have sleeves.