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Range Designers Step Up To Today’s Challenges

‘Give me land, lots of land.’

December 01, 2000  |  by Mark Watford, AIA

In the Line of Duty

Two Brown Reynolds Watford outdoor shooting range projects, LeMoore Naval Air Station in California and the Lubbock Police Academy in Texas, offer good examples of how land requirements impact the range design considerations.

In the case of LeMoore NAS, planners were aware of property requirements upfront and, given the nature of the facility, had adequate available space for the range.  The $1 million Navy facility accommodates 12 shooting lanes at a maximum range of 1,000 inches and includes an open-air, overhead steel truss system, which dramatically reduces misdirected rounds.  This state-of-the-art range covers 420 acres of land.

In Lubbock, however, space was an issue. The city planned on building the $880,000 training facility on a portion of land at the former Reese Air Force Base, but additional land was required to build the range and maintain safety.  Planners believed berms would be enough to minimize needed land, but while berms do assist in containing the tiny projectiles, the chance of the bullets traveling beyond the mounds of soil was still considerably high.

The decision on the side of safety was to relocate the 15-handgun-lane and six-rifle-lane range to a place with more available space. The new facility has earth berms that surround the handgun and rifle ranges, along with a system of overhead baffles for the rifle range, effectively neutralizing the chances of an accidental discharge leaving the SDZ.

The Lubbock Police Department chose to be cautious and go the extra mile to protect those they serve.  And these thorough safeguards will serve the department well when it hosts the Texas Police Games next summer.

Last Shot

Adequate firearms training facilities are critical to the operation of law enforcement agencies, and well-trained police officers are integral to public safety.  As cities grow, however, there will be more pressure on departments to develop better-designed facilities, using the latest safety features to make sure weapons training does not pose a threat to the well-being of those whom the officers are training to protect.

This drawing illustrates how the various factors, including baffles and width of shooting line, determine shape and size of the footprint for the “surface danger zone.”

Law enforcement agencies should plan now for future needs and seek early support for the acquisition of tracts of land that can later be used to buffer training ranges from the growing population.  Agencies should consider cooperating and, where practical, develop regional firearms training facilities.  This could prove more cost-effective in areas where adequate buffer land may be hard to locate or would be cost-prohibitive for a single jurisdiction.

Indoor ranges, popular with departments where outdoor ranges are not practical, present their own, unique design challenges, including safety and environmental requirements.  Plenty of help, however, is available to law enforcement from federal agencies, professional organizations and consulting firms.

Whether they are indoors or outdoors, shooting ranges can be made compatible with surrounding communities while providing the vital training today's law enforcement professionals need.  Agencies simply must know and plan for the special needs these facilities require. The majority of ranges are outdoors and they require plenty of one thing - land, lots of land.

For more information visit

Mark Watford is a principal at Dallas-based Brown Reynolds Watford Architects, Inc. The 60-person firm specializes in solving complex and challenging planning assessment and design projects, including those for governmental and institutional clients and shooting ranges. BRW has three regional offices located in Dallas, Bryan/College Station, Texas and Kansas City, Mo.

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