Tom VanHoose knows he's on target to expand his shooting enterprise into the Helena market.
Quite a bit of research has gone into his plan to locate an indoor shooting range in Helena.
“It’s close,” said VanHoose, who owns Highwood Creek Outfitters, an indoor shooting range in Great Falls. “The income demographics are right, the shooting demographics are right … and the interest demographics are right.”
The business will be branded HCO. A nod to the other range but short because that’s what the name has become in Great Falls.
Montana is a little bit slow to adopt new things, VanHoose said. There are only four indoor ranges in the state.
“But it’s coming around,” VanHoose said. “Most people go up into the mountains to shoot. By the time you pay for fuel to drive up there, you might as well come to a nice indoor range.”
He hears from customers in Great Falls that their wives prefer going to an indoor range over going to a field or open space “where they have to pee behind a tree.”
Helena police, ATF and probation officers have stopped by to check out the site and have told VanHoose they are looking forward to practicing indoors. All of the current practice and drill locations are outside.
Helena Police Chief Troy McGee said he thinks the range will be a great addition to Helena. He has heard his deputies talk about the range and said this will bring a great service to the area.
The range will include eight lanes, three for rifle and five for handgun target shooting, as well as a full retail store. VanHoose plans to hire four full-time employees and two part-time employees from Helena. There will be instructors available.
The range will be very well lit and temperature controlled, he said. The project is state of the art and much research has gone into everything from the walls to the ventilation.
Project manager Jason Smith is impressed with all the design and detail going into the building. Smith is a commercial project manager with Golden Eagle Construction in Helena.
He had never before dealt with the insulated concrete foam walls that make up the structure and said it’s the first time he knows of their used in the area. Also, he said, the inside is lined with ballistic steel panels.
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“Safety is number one for Tom,” Smith said.
The windows are also designed so that it will be impossible to back a truck into a window to gain access to the building.
VanHoose is going all the way with interior comfort by installing Carey’s Small Arms Range Ventilation, a system designed for military grade indoor ranges using hospital-grade filtration.
“The system pushes the powder away from the shooter,” he said.
The walls separating the lanes are reinforced and entry to the shooting area will be controlled. Targets can be set 5 yards to 25 yards away.
“It will be just like the movies,” Smith said.” You push the button and the target comes right back to you.”
People must be 18-years-old to shoot a long gun, 21 to shoot a handgun. First time visitors must sign papers that clearly state the rules and liabilities.
Patrons can rent a gun or bring their own. VanHoose welcomes shoppers or perspective gun owners to get a feel for a variety of what is available.
“Come try different guns in the rental fleet,” VanHoose said. “If you like it, you can buy a new gun and get the rental fee back.”
Cost is $15 an hour for lane rental, share a lane with a friend for an additional $10. Gun rentals are $15.
The Great Falls location has Ladies Night and VanHoose said he plans to offer the same in Helena. Prices are half off and instructors will be at the range to help those new to the sport.
Annual memberships will be available for about $250 that include access for two hours each day for a year. Bring a friend and share a lane for $5. Ammunition will be sold at the store or you can bring your own; it must be inspected beforehand.
If all goes well, the range and store, located at 752 Elaine, will open March 31. Hours are planned for 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Sunday hours are to be determined.