**cross posted at Daddy Hawk's Toy Box**
Way back about a month ago (November 16 actually) I received an email from GunDiva asking me if I lived in the Dallas area; and, if I did, would I be interested in checking out a new gun range. My response was 1) yes, I live in the area; 2) Dallas is a big, freaking area; and 3) did you say guns??? Why, yes. I am interested.
GunDiva gave me a link to 2A Mama’s November 5 blog post blegging for Dallas area bloggers to come by and check out her place of employment, Eagle Gun Range in Lewisville, TX.
Before moving on with the actual review part of this, I need to expand upon the concept of the size of the Dallas/Fort Worth area for those of you who live elsewhere (bless your heart). It’s actually relevant to part of the review as you will see shortly.
I consider the Dallas/ Fort Worth area proper (us locals call it the Metroplex) to be everything you can reach continuously without running into rural land between towns. Give or take a little that means you have an area running about 57 miles north/south from McKinney to Midlothian and about 56 miles east/west from Seagoville to Benbrook. That’s 3192 square miles of area. I’m pretty sure we can fit a sizeable chunk of New England into that space. The point is, being in the area is a relative term around here and getting anywhere in the area is going to take you a little time.
Eagle Gun Range is roughly located on the north central part of the Metroplex in a suburb more towards the Dallas side of things as opposed to the Fort Worth side of things. According to MapQuest, it is supposed to take 38 minutes/31 miles to get from my house on the south central side of the area to Eagle Gun Range. Time and distance from the downtowns to the gun range are 42 minutes/34 miles from downtown Ft. Worth and 32 minutes/26 miles from downtown Dallas. That’s assuming no traffic. Dallas/Fort Worth is notorious for bad traffic. Not L.A. or Houston bad, but bad enough. TXDOT seems to think that right now is the perfect time to have every major highway in the area under some form of construction for the next two to five years.
So, anyway, back to our review. After accepting my assignment, emails were exchanged with 2A Mama. She gave me name and location information. Turns out, I had run into the Eagle Gun Range folks at a gun show sometime last year. They had a booth set up to promote the range in advance of their opening. They were handing out cards good for one hour of free lane rental. The cards had their website information and claimed a spring 2012 opening. I kept their card in my desk drawer and bookmarked their webpage in my web browser intending to check them out when they opened.
Well, the best laid plans never survive reality…for me or them apparently.
Fast forward to October of this year, and Eagle Gun Range finally had their opening on October 16…a full season at least later than planned. I was busy with work by then and had forgotten about their card. Then, GunDiva’s email arrived. It took me a little bit due to Thanksgiving, work and a vehicle impairment issue involving my inlaws’ horrible car mojo, but I finally made it out to the range after work here recently for a little looksee.
Before going any further, please allow me to make a brief FTC Disclosure. Aside from the previously mentioned 1 free hour lane rental card which was obtained long before I ever knew I was going to do this review, I neither asked for nor did I receive any payment, gifts, gratuities or compensation in the past, present or future of any kind for this review. I am not a member, employee or owner of the range nor am I related to anyone who is. I have no personal interest whatsoever in the financial success or failure of Eagle Gun Range. The nice folks at Eagle Gun Range gave me a tour of the facility and answered my stupid questions. Beyond that, I got nothin’. So, keep on walkin’ Mr. Government Man.
I went on a recent Monday night because 2A Mama optimistically said that it should have the least amount of customer traffic. Of course, the moment I showed up, it seemed like all of Lewisville had turned up to get some target practice done. In reality, it was only five or six people checking in at the same time, but that’s still a good sign that business is that good on a “slow” night at a place that still has that “new range” smell.
So, without belaboring the review any further than I already have, let’s discuss what Eagle Range has to offer and what I think of it.
The first, and arguably most important, thing I want to talk about is safety. How many of you have been to a range and someone got their full retard on trying to clear a jam with their booker hook on the bang switch while doing the hokie pokie and turning all about? Eagle Range has gone out of their way in my opinion to minimize the potential for disaster resulting from the Idiot of the Month Club breaking all four of The Rules simultaneously.
How do they do that? Well, for starters, there is at least one ranger officer in the range at all times. His job is to keep an eye on things and make sure no one commits an egregious party foul. The night I was there, they had two on duty for 12 active lanes most of which were in use. Now, for the sake of argument, let’s say the RO is busy chastising one fool while his twin brother is five lanes away trying to puzzle out the squib round that just plugged up his gat like a bout of constipation waiting for a bean burrito laxative. Should Bonehead 2.0 manage to push another round through the pipe while the muzzle is pointed towards his neighbor, there is an inch and a half of armor between lanes. Assuming standard pistol ammo, the only casualty should be a pair or two of soiled underwear and maybe a perforated bonehead.
But wait, there’s more. Before Bonehead 2.0 even has a chance to do something incredibly stupid, there is an additional layer of safety built into each lane. Each lane has a small surveillance camera pointing at it so that the folks at the front desk can keep an eye on things as well. If they spot something about to go horribly wrong, they can radio a warning to the RO for them to give the situation their undivided attention.
So, picking your nose with your booger hook, while potentially gratifying, is not recommended. Just sayin’. And don’t even think about a light snack of nostril oysters. One word…YOUTUBE.
Moving right along, let’s talk about the actual place where you can shoot stuff. Eagle has 24 lanes split between two bays. All lanes are 25 yards deep backed by armor and ballistic rubber. The range will allow firearms up to .50 caliber as long as you forego tracer, incendiary and armor piercing ammo. They will also allow shotguns as long as you use slugs. They have this thing about you possibly damaging the target carrier system with buckshot. I can’t imagine why. Full auto, rapid fire and double taps are verboten for the same reason.
Let’s talk about lighting. How many of you have been to ranges that were lit about as well as a kidnapper’s basement? Not so here. In a word, the range lighting at Eagle is outstanding. Lighting duty is handled by standard, overhead florescent tube fixtures and is bright without being harsh or blinding. There were no major dark corners or shady spots anywhere on the range. If you miss, you won’t be able to blame the lighting.
The range is also has a lot going for it from a creature comfort point of view. I’ve been in ranges that were freezing cold or blistering hot sometimes with both conditions existing in the same bay. Outside air temps were in the 40s the night I was there, but the temperature in the range was even and comfortable. The range also employs an air circulation system that is claimed to completely change out the air in the range every 87 seconds. I have no way to independently verify that claim as I write this; however, I can say that the air in the bay was very clean smelling despite most of the lanes being in use. I’d be interested to see someone shooting a black powder rifle or dirty hand loads to get a visual sense of how well the system deals with the smoke. But, that will have to wait for another time.
The range is also quite roomy. The lanes are about five to six feet wide giving a shooter plenty of elbow room to work. The area behind the shooters is about 15 feet deep and empty with the exception of folding tables along the back wall. The back wall is covered in sound absorbing tiles that did an admirable job of mitigating the noise both inside the range and out in the shop area. One more note on the back wall, there are no “fish bowl” windows between the range and the shop. 2A Mama confirmed that there is additional ballistic protection in the back wall, and she commented that having windows there would have caused stacking of customers in the retail area watching shooters on the line. Personally, I agree with her comments and have no problem with the lack of a fish bowl. Honestly, I think it enhances the overall safety of the range.
Finally, the target carriers and retrieval system are a cut above the ubiquitous toggle switch operated line and pulley systems. I didn’t take good notes on make and model (shame on me); but, based on my Google Fu, I think they are using Action Target’s STC-1 Smart Pad system. The system has a carrier mounted on a rail similar to what you see on a garage door opener. The controller is a key pad that allows for programming of preset distances as well as manual operation. Pressing and releasing the forward/back buttons moves the target carrier a half a yard. Holding down the buttons gives continuous movement until the button is released at which point the carrier stops dead in its tracks.
Moving right along to the rest of the establishment, Eagle Gun Range’s facilities are at least on par with other ranges in the area. The shop area is well laid out and clean. I really like how the new firearms are displayed in shadow box cases mounted to the wall as opposed to the traditional counter/display cases commonly seen. For a tall guy with bad knees like me, not having to bend down so much to peruse the selection is a big plus.
They offer two class rooms which are well laid out and actually look like classrooms as opposed to another range in the area that I’ve been to lately. They are currently offering CHL Licensing (new and renewal) as well as Pistol I and II training courses. 2A Mama indicates the instructors are all DPS/NRA certified with military or law enforcement backgrounds. Other classes are planned; however, 2A Mama was not in a position to give specifics until the details are finalized.
I did not inspect the bathrooms, but I would anticipate them being as clean as the rest of the place implies they should be.
There is a lounge/waiting area off to one side. It’s long and narrow compared to the rest of the facilities, and somewhat sparsely furnished considering the capacity of the range. I believe, if my memory serves me correctly, that there was a couch, a chair, vending machines, a buffet cabinet and a flat screen TV. Having said that, it is better furnished than some of the other ranges I’ve been to recently. There was a coffee pot set up on the buffet cabinet; however, there was no coffee set out when I was there. Even if there had been, I wouldn’t be able to comment on the quality of the coffee as I don’t drink the stuff unless there is Irish Whiskey and cream involved.
Eagle will rent you one or more of over 40 firearms for the very reasonable price of $5.00 plus ammunition for handguns. I am told that they are intending to expand the number of rental offerings as additional inventory is received. They are focusing on getting in the newer, harder to get guns right now. Look for a Springfield EMP and more revolvers in the near future according to 2A Mama. You can even rent an M1 Garand or a 1943 Mosin Nagant. Although, I have question the wisdom of allowing the rental of the Bolshevik Flame Throwing Spear of Death when you have a ban on incendiary ammunition. To each their own I suppose. If you don’t know what I am talking about, let me just say it’s almost worth the $100 or so bucks to buy your own Mosin and light a round off at dusk to see the fireball that puppy belches. It’s a Kodak moment for sure.
Last, but not least, Eagle offers a respectable assortment of new firearms, gun cleaning supplies, holsters, ammunition, optics, cases and other accessories for sale. Many are pink. They even have pink Daisy Red Rider BB guns for sale. I’m not making that up either. Apparently, the owner’s wife is very big on pink and making the range accessible to female shooters. At least the ones that are fond of pink.
They also sort and package used brass for sale to reloaders. When I was there, 2A Mama commented that it had not been moving as well as they had hoped. For example, they had a bag of 100 .45 ACP cases marked for $20.00. She and I discussed that, and I suggested that they were priced a little high for the market. In our subsequent email exchange, I provided her with some pricing examples from online vendors and she responded that they have since revised their pricing. I take that as a good sign of good business sense that they are open to constructive criticism and willing to make changes when it makes sense.
As you would expect for a brick and mortar store, pricing is higher than you would see on the internet or at a gun show. I am not up to speed on the current street price of all firearms; however, I have been eyeballing several polymer framed handguns for possible acquisition in the near to not too distant future time frame. As such, I have a fairly good grasp of the MSRP and going street price for those particular items. I was a little disconcerted to see a Ruger SR9 with a price tag listing its MSRP and no other figures recognizable as an asking price.
In our post visit email exchange with 2A Mama, she conceded that pricing is higher than you would see at other brick and mortar stores. However, she indicated that this is balanced by a higher level of customer service. Being the thrifty (read cheap) person that I am, high level customer service is not as much of a priority for me as some people. BUT, I will admit that I would prefer excellent customer service to indifferent customer service. Or worse…a know it all mall ninja telling me how awesome the H und K Blastomatic (that he has probably only ever used in Call of Duty 54: Tacticool Mall Ninja) is as opposed to my Sig 1911. So, like anything else, it’s a tradeoff. 2A Mama promises that even their “old school” guys will still listen to the customer and make recommendations accordingly even if they “seem to recommend revolvers over and over to women.” Her words not mine.
Like most stores, if they don’t have it…they will order it. They will accept firearm transfers; however, they currently will only do so for CHL holders and charge $50 for the privilege. Again, the tradeoff of service over price. They will accept trades and buy used firearms. 2A Mama indicated that they acquired some of their rental guns this way. They do not have a gunsmith on staff; however, 2A Mama indicated that a couple of the employees can perform basic work such as sight installation, etc. For anything they cannot do themselves, they can put you in touch with a qualified gunsmith.
Lastly, pricing for lane rental and memberships appears to be on par with other ranges. One benefit I don’t recall seeing at other ranges is an in and out privilege subject to lane availability. Also, Monday through Thursday, active military, veterans, law enforcement and EMS shoot for 50% off.
How would I rate Eagle Gun Range on a one to five star basis (five stars being the best)? For purposes of this rating, I am basing my opinions on personal use of four other local indoor ranges in the last two years (DFW Gun Range, Winchester Gallery, Bullseye Range and Great Southwest Range) as well as one outdoor range (Elm Fork). I’ve used other ranges in the past, but some of those no longer exist or are in other cities, etc. I’ve also perused the websites of at least a half a dozen others, and I have visited but not utilized one of those. So, let’s take a look at several categories that would be of interest to most shooters.
Four and a half stars. To be perfectly honest, there is nothing lacking at Eagle Gun Range that I have seen offered at other gun ranges. However, I can’t help but feel that there is something missing. Maybe more seating in the lounge area or some kid oriented entertainment while mom or dad shoots. Again, I’ve not seen that at other ranges.
Five stars. There is only one range in the area (On Target) that even comes close to Eagle in terms of the facilities and equipment. The air circulation system and HVAC system are above par. The target retrieval system…above par. Roominess…above par. Décor…neo classical firearm with overtones of sterile environment. In short, they’ve covered most of the walls with guns and most of the floor space with gun related stuff. Don’t like it? Then why are you at a gun range? You’re here to shoot stuff not look at how well the interior decorator coordinated the wood paneling with the couch pillows and the curtains.
Four stars. For me, it’s a bit of a hike to get there especially measured against the fact that I have an indoor range less than a mile from my house (that I don’t use because I don’t like them); but, it’s only two miles further from my house than my normal work commute. So, it’s not horrible. Could it be more centrally located? Yes. Ergo, the loss of one star. Is it in the middle of nowhere? No. It is less than one mile off of an interstate highway and close to at least two other major thoroughfares. Bottom line, you can’t be close to everyone. Your mileage may vary.
Four stars. Lane rental is $20 per lane, all day with in and out privileges as mentioned earlier. That’s a little higher on a per lane basis than other ranges; however, you get the benefit of come and go as you please. Tradeoffs again. As indicated above, retail sales are a little higher, but you are paying for better service.
Four and a half stars. I am reserving a half a star simply because a place where there are firearms with live ammunition in use can never be 100% safe. Having said that, I cannot think of any one thing that they could do differently to enhance the safety of the range. Having ROs in the shooting bays puts them a cut above all the other indoor ranges I’ve been to recently. The armor between lanes is also a plus. The range is also in a relatively nice, well lit area (it’s an industrial area, but it’s close to a major highway) unlike some of the other ranges I’ve been to. Bottom line, you will be hard pressed to find a range safer than this one.
Four and stars. The only way you can get five stars in this category is to offer one of each from every manufacturer. As it was, their selection of firearms was good considering they had only been open for about six weeks when I went in to visit, and inventory was still coming in. Also, being primarily a range as opposed to a gun store, you shouldn’t expect to see the same selection you would at a gun show.
Four Stars. I would like to have seen a gunsmith on staff which other ranges have to one degree or another (I’ve not sampled the work of those ‘smiths…I just know they exist). Otherwise, the range staff was courteous, attentive, patient and helpful. As I said earlier, there was a brief crush when I came in. At one point, one of the employees (2A Mama’s husband I think) was unsure who was next, and he did what I would expect him to do. He looked at everyone standing around and said “Who’s next?”
Four and a half stars. If you live in the area, you will be hard pressed to find a better, publically accessible, indoor range. If you live elsewhere and come here to visit, this range is well worth your money for a place to shoot.