Western Outdoor Times - Times Spent Outdoors: Priceless!

At The Ben Avery Range

Shoot For Mastery, Safety, Fun, Fellowship


Maybe you're not old enough to remember Ben Avery. I grew up reading his outdoor stories in the Arizona Republic.

Ben loved the outdoors and was a heck of a writer. He started writing in 1928 and continued for over 60 years. He received the highest honor that the Department of the Interior ever gives to a non-employee: The Conservation Service Award was bestowed on him in 1968 by then Interior Secretary Steward Udall. Ben Avery was the epitome of an outdoor writer, and the Game and Fish Department chose well when they named the popular shooting range after him.

At the Ben Avery Range you can shoot sporting clays, skeet, trap, archery, small bore rifles, pistols, long range – pretty much anything you can think of. You can also learn to shoot at Ben Avery – there are rentals as well as classes.

For beginners, they offer Annie Oakley and Ben Avery Sure Shots programs. The classes are totally free and open to anyone 16 years old and older. You don't even have to bring your own gun or ammo for these classes. Register online because class sizes are limited. Classes are held evenings on the first and third Thursdays of each month. You can email Jennifer Tipton at jtipton@azgfd.gov to register.

What To Expect At The Range

When we visit the range, most often it's for sporting clays or to target shoot with rifles or pistols. On the rifle/pistol range there are volunteer Safety Officers who make sure everyone stays safe.

Here's what to expect: First, make sure your guns are cased so that the trigger can't be manipulated. No gun socks. Eye and hearing protection is required. You pay for a lane inside the building and if you don't have cases, you can get some pretty inexpensively there. They are only around $20.

You can also buy targets and rent a vise if you need to sight in. Once you've paid, head over to the booth in the center of the line. After you show the Range Master your receipt, you'll be assigned a table.

The shooting tables are concrete, with two wooden stools at each table. There are nets stretched on frames between the tables so your hot brass doesn't fly over and smack the guy/gal next to you. Always keep your muzzles pointed down range, even when uncasing your guns.

Pay Attention To The Safety Officers

The Safety Officers will let you know when you can go downrange to set up targets, when you can be at the table handling the guns, etc. Just pay attention to everything they say. If it's your first time, let them know. They'll give you special attention and explain how things work so you'll feel at ease.

The range supplies wooden frames with cardboard on them that you can tape your targets to. They are clearly marked so you don't tape your targets to the wrong side. They want the frame showing on the front so you don't accidently shoot it. The target frames are inside a low, walled area behind the tables. When you first get there, grab one and tape your targets on. Masking tape is provided on rolls like you use for tape on your desk.

Inspection Time

Once the shooting period is over and the line is clear, the Range Master will announce that you can go down range to inspect, remove, or replace your targets. Head straight out from your table. You'll find concrete sockets in the ground at clearly marked intervals. Between the sockets on the concrete they have painted the table number so you're sure you're putting your targets in the right place.

The target frames fit into the sockets. You can place them at wide variety of yardages from 5 -200. If you want the 200, make sure you tell them at the booth. Not all the tables are on 200-yard lines.

Once you shoot a bit and need to replace the targets, I find it easiest to pull off a couple feet of tape and stick it to my shirt before going downrange. Then I just pull small pieces off once I'm out there at the target frame.

Know Before You Go

Make sure you know how to operate your weapon before going to the public range. The Range Safety Officers will walk up and down the line checking to see that everything is safe. When cease fire is called, your guns must be open and empty, with magazines removed and muzzles pointed downrange. If you're not sure how to make your gun stay open, ask the Safety Officer when you first get there.

The range tables are all shaded, and in June they are making improvements. The Range Safety Officer told us they were going to insulate the metal awning to make it cooler. Awesome!

As you walk toward your table under the awning, the range will be on one side and a long narrow wooden table will be on the other. You can set your range bag, water, etc., on that long table, but never uncase or case a gun there. Guns are to be handled only on the shooting table, and only when the Range Master gives the okay to be at the tables. During cease fire, you are not allowed to be at the table except to pass by it on your way to or from the targets.

Volunteer Safety Officers

I have met a lot of really nice people at the range. A couple of months ago a guy from Izor Arms (www.izorarmory.com) was at the table next to us, and he let me shoot his fully automatic AR. What a treat that was! He was so cool and knowledgeable that I got his card and took my Ruger to him to have a new Timney Trigger dropped in. He had it back to me the same day!

The Volunteer Safety Officers are the key to what makes the range a great place. If you'd like to be a Range Safety Officer, they offer training. You get free range time when you're a volunteer! You can email Dale Sagebiel at wsagebiel@azgfd.gov to find out more. There are three more training sessions listed this year: Saturday, July 11, 1-5 p.m .; Tuesday, Oct. 7, 1-5 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 10, 1-5 p.m.

Other Classes And Clinics

They even offer Air Rifle clinics at Ben Avery. An air rifle is a great way to get your kids interested in shooting. Start them early and maybe someday they'll get an Olympic gold medal!

The air rifle clinics are held inside in the AC, so even in summer, you'll be comfortable. They are absolutely free and everything you need is provided. You need to pre-register and ask for dates and times. You can do that by emailing kwatson@azgfd.gov, and let them know the full names, ages, emails, and phone numbers of everyone who wants to participate.

John Greenwell Coaches John Anderson: Sporting Clays

A friend of mine at work recently started shooting a bow at Ben Avery and she is really stoked about it. They have classes once a month at 8 a.m. and once again, they are free and everything you need is provided. It's a one-time class and to register, just email kwatson@azgfd.gov for a list of dates. Once you email to register, you'll get a confirmation with your class date. These classes fill up fast.

And, A Lot More

There is a lot more going on at the range, including 1000 yard shoots, competitions, Western shooting, special stuff for women, etc. I'll be letting you know about those things in later issues. Meanwhile, don't let fear or lack of equipment keep you from learning how to shoot. It is really fun, and you can learn absolutely free at Ben Avery. Give them a call or visit http://azgfdportal.az.gov/shooting/basf/ for more information.


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