Headed on up North a bit to try out one of the "hidden treasures" of our state park system here in Ohio. The state firearm ranges in the Delaware Wildlife Area are located about a mile East of State Route 23 on State Route 229 near Norton, Ohio. This is a little less than half way between Delaware and Marion, Ohio headed North on SR23. This is great for me being that I can get there in under 25 minutes. Most people I have talked to, me included, assumed that the gun shop in Norton ran the range, but in fact they are just another license facility that you can buy a license to fire on state ranges. The license fees are very reasonable, $5 for a day pass or a can't-pass-it-up $24 dollars for a yearly permit that runs February thru January. Hell, that's only slightly more than you'll pay for a day pass at most ranges. Easy choice there. Buying one at my local gun store was as simple as passing my drivers license and cash over the counter, having the drivers license swiped, and getting a printed range licence handed back to me in a matter of seconds.
Pulled in the parking lot and was met by the range attendant Troy, a very friendly and amiable guy who was glad to talk a bit and explain the rules of the range after I introduced myself and identified myself as a new user to the facility. As opposed to other ranges that I have been too, this state range allows the use of steel casings with ammo. Nice, no more expensive ammo for me! After reading the range rules that Troy gave me and signing in I examined the ranges. Other than he was limited to a small hut for an office and port-o-potty for a bathroom, it didn't seem like a bad place for a guy like Troy to work. Despite his humble outward appearance, Troy has a college degree in fish and wildlife management and seems perfectly at home in this environment. Plus he gets to be around shooting all the time. A little job envy went through my mind more than a couple of times. The range itself is in a very beautiful area of the park with a small brook running behind it (Troy said a 4 pound bass had been pulled from it the spring before! Gun in one hand, pole in the other!!). the area is bordered on most sides by semi dense temperate woodlands, so it seems like it would be very private and peaceful, except for the sound of gunfire of course. The range is open from 9am - 4:30 pm Wednesday - Sunday. Monday and Tuesdays the range is reserved for state and local law enforcement agencies to use.
The rifle range
The rifle range is a collection of 5 short picnic-like tables against a metal guard rail cut to accommodate bench rest shooters. There is a overhead lattice of wood and metal supports that marks the upper firing limit as you look downrange. This keeps shooters from aiming over the impact berm on the back of the range and shooting into the popular adjacent state park recreation areas, which I think all would agree would be a bad, bad thing. In addition to the benches there are also wooden rifle racks located between shooting points. These racks were obviously made in house by ODNR or possibly at the nearby prison's wood shop. Either way they are a nice touch. The range is approximately 100 meters long with a stone walkway going the length on the left side. Perpendicular paths cross into the range at approximately 25, 50 and the 100 meter points so shooters can place target holders and targets. Oh yes, bring your own target holders as the range does not supply any. I got a cheap pair of aluminum holders for under $15 at a gun shop, so no big deal there. I was the only shooter on the range this particular morning (a beautifully cool morning for May in Ohio, maybe a light drizzle coming down, but overcast so target lighting was optimal as far as I am concerned) so I was able to shoot and move down range at will. That made shooting a lot more fun than what I am used to in the military with a what seems like an hour wait between firing and moving downrange to mark targets. When multiple shooters are there venturing down range is accomplished by coordinating mutual cease fires amongst the shooters. Play nice with others. The range benches worked as needed, I did not bring my shooting rests, wish I would have. The rests would have made this a better chance to try and get a good group with my new AKM clone, but oh well, I was just there to check out the place and have some fun. Which I did!!Pistol Range
The Pistol Range (Troy is in the BDU pants)
After a quick 60 rounds through the AK and a quick video shoot, I cleared the rifle and moved over to the pistol range. Similar in construction to the rifle range it had a long waist high rail wide enough to accommodate placing most gear and pistols on. A single clothesline ran the breadth of the impact berm with a few mangy clothespins attached for hanging targets. Since I only brought peel and past targets for the back of my cardboard rifle target I moved downrange to place my holders after waiting for the only other firer on the line to finish his current mags - a very nice guy named Tom that had some SERIOUS target pistols putting tight groups on paper.
Looking down range on the pistol range (pistol L to R: 1952 S&W Chiefs Special .38 Special, HiPoint C9 9mm, Stoeger Cougar 8000 9mm)
Well, the ground on the pistol range does not take well to having things stuck in it. I bent 2 legs of my holders trying to get them into the ground before finally getting some purchase in the soil and getting my target hung. Shooting my .38 Chiefs Special snubbie, Hi-Point C9 9mm and new Stoeger Cougar 9mm was a lot of fun. Again, I think it was due to the lack of other people to worry about and the fact that my new shooting buddy for the day Tom was a true gentleman and took an interest in what I was shooting, as I did with him. I felt like a jerk when he let me fire 7 rounds downrange in his .22 converted 1911 and I was all out of ammo for my pistols (I had only brought 50 rounds of 9mm and 10 .38 rounds).
The only range at this location I did not get a close up look was the shotgun range. From the parking lot it seemed to fit in with my general impression of the range as a whole and if I ever get a scattergun, I will have to check it out. There is also an archery range nearby that I again did not check out due to not being a bowman.
The shotgun range from the parking lot
Overall, this seems like a great range. It has all the things I am looking for: Close proximity to my home, use of steel ammo, an outdoor setting, very reasonable rates and a friendly and knowledgeable staff. I look forward to coming to this range many times in the future.
Shoot often....SHOOT SAFE!!