CRESTVIEW — Shoal River Sporting Clays and Shooting Center general manager Tom Myers said participation in shooting sports has spiked in recent months.
Even now, during one of the hottest times of the year, the range still averages close to 300 shooters a week, he said.
"We've had a lot of new shooters coming out lately," he said. "A lot of them are first-time shooters; a lot of female shooters are coming out for the first time, too...”
Much of the interest in shooting stems from residents’ concerns about possible legislation that would make gun ownership more difficult and costly, Myers said.
"With a lot of the restrictions the government is proposing, I've noticed a lot of people saying, 'I've thought about having a gun but I might as well get one now before they make it so you can't get one,'" he said.
Twelve stations on Shoal River’s mile-long sporting clays course offer challenges ranging from clay size to the action the clays take in flight or on the ground.
Some pairs of clays fly the same pattern; others cross in mid air. The five-station wobble range offers varying flights of clays.
Choosing a gun
The pistol range seems to be the course’s most popular venue. Myers credits that with the number of first-time gun owners unsure about handling a rifle or shotgun, who opt for a pistol instead.
First-time buyers should be comfortable with the weapon’s feel and the way it fires, Myers said. Just as one make and model of a car won't fit everybody’s tastes, the same is true for guns, Myers said.
The cost of shooting
Shooting’s associated costs vary depending on the weapon.
A low-end pistol, rifle or shotgun costs about $200, Myers said. Most of the mid-range guns sold at Shoal River Sporting Clays are $400-600.
People wanting a concealed weapons permit can pay $50-75 for certification courses.
The $112 state permit includes fingerprinting and a background check. Depending on the gun’s price, a person can purchase a weapon, take the certification course and get a concealed weapons permit all for $500-600.
"We are trying to keep ammunition in stock without jacking the price up," Myers said. "We try and keep ammunitions affordable for the shooters, because if you don't have ammo, you don't have shooters."