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Shooting Ranges in the Ozarks See Steady Increase in Visitors

In 2000, the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Andy Dalton Shooting Range and Outdoor Education Center near Ash Grove, received 9,000 visitors.  In 2017, 25,000 visits were recorded, as the Center’s special events, programs, and public shooting gained popularity. 

KSMU’s Mike Smith talked with Mike Brooks, the Outdoor Education Manager at The Andy Dalton Shooting Range and Outdoor Education Center for the KSMU Sense of Community Series on Firearms in the Ozarks.

Credit Missouri Department of Conservation
Mike Brooks manages the MDC Andy Dalton Shooting Range and Outdoor Education Center, near Ash Grove Missouri.

“Over the years, we have done a variety of programs helping people learn how to use firearms ammunition and archery equipment in a safe responsible manner, for recreation and hunting,” said Brooks.

“Here at Andy Dalton we have a 20 position covered rifle-pistol range with target frames at 7, 15, 25, 50, 75, and 100 yards in each lane.  We have 4, trap and skeet fields and a shotgun patterning field for those who want to pattern test their equipment,” Brooks said. 

The overall mission for the Missouri Department of Conservation says Brooks, “…is Fish Forest and Wildlife Management for the State of Missouri, but a lot of people have a hard time understanding how a recreational target shooting would fit into that mission scheme."

“The answer to that,” Mike Brooks said, “is as hunters, we want to harvest an animal cleanly, and not injure the animal and allow it to run away and suffer. So in order to do that, it’s important for the hunter to come out to practice so they can be more proficient in handling the gun, and more accurate in shooting the firearm.  The Dalton Shooting Range is a safe place to practice those things.”

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a firearms industry trade association formed in 1961, there are 38 shooting ranges within an 80 mile radius of Springfield Missouri. 

Credit Mike Smith / KSMU-FM
A.G. Paul operates the Sound of Freedom Gun Range in Ozark Missouri.

“We’re an indoor gun range with 16 lanes divided into 2, 8 lane sections,” said A.G. Paul, owner of The Sound of Freedom Indoor Gun Range, in Ozark Missouri.

“All of our personnel are trained Range Officers and we concentrate on safety. We brief them before they go out not to turn around in or leave the shooting stall with a gun in their hand.  It has to be holstered or cased before they leave the shooting stall. We watch them pretty close and give instruction pretty close,” said A.G. Paul.

The Sound of Freedom Gun Range has a retail area for firearm purchase or rental, and classroom space where Conceal Carry classes and other programs are held.  The SOF shooting range is also where the Thursday Shooting League named Bulls-Eye, competes.

“If you get into competitive shooting, you’ll find it’s not the scary thing you thought it was,” said Bulls-Eye league member Jan Stanford.

Credit Mike Smith / KSMU-FM
Jan Stanford has been involved with recreational shooting for 5 years, and is a member of Bulls-Eye, the Thursday shooting league at Sound of Freedom Gun Range.

“My husband and I got real involved.  It’s fun! I enjoy the competition and the people are great.  It’s enjoyable, and my children think ‘What In the world happened to grandma she’s shooting a gun?’ But there’s an old saying I’ve heard may times: ‘I’m having fun when I’m shooting lead downrange’, that’s a good day,” said Stanford.

Jan Stanford enjoys her time “On the range” with family and friends but doesn’t lose sight of the serious nature of responsible gun ownership, use and preparedness.

“I’m almost 70, and I’ve talked to a lot of women who are a little afraid in this world right now. I’ve encouraged many of them to come out and learn how to shoot. ‘I pray to God you never have to pick it up in a bad situation’, but you never know in this world,” she said.

“If you come out to shoot competitively and get to know other people who shoot, and learn how to shoot, that takes the fear out of it. And that’s what you need to do; take the fear out of picking up that gun if you ever need it,” said Stanford.

In an e-mail response to KSMU’s question, Bill Brassard, National Shooting Sports Foundation Senior Director of Communications shared NSSF research data for 2016:

“The number of Americans who participated in some form of target shooting in 2016 was 50 million. Regarding the number of target shooting ranges in the country, NSSF estimates there are about 7,000,” wrote Brassard.

Credit Mike Smith / KSMU-FM
This gentleman is ready to send his target back to the shooting stall for inspection.

According to the NSSF, around 100 shooting ranges are operating within a 180 mile radius of Springfield. 

Mike Smith's career at KSMU began in 1980 as a student announcer when the former Navy Submariner attended (then) SMSU with help from the GI Bill. In 1982 Smith became a full time member of the KSMU family as "Chief Announcer", responsible for the acquisition, training and scheduling of the student announcing staff. It was also in 1982 when Smith first produced "Seldom Heard Music" a broadcast of Bluegrass which is still heard on KSMU and every Saturday night at 7CT.
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