FOP Range Inc. OPEN but with changes for use...

Update 04/15/21
Beginning April 10, 2021, the State has retired the mask and social distancing order.  This is great news for us and our members.  All shooting areas are now available to members.   Range use no longer requires a reservation.  There are no per hour fees and you can stay and shoot as long as you need.  The last year has been a challenge for us.  Very limited ammo availability, stupid high ammo prices, and financial uncertainty are to blame.  This same challenge closed a really good range in Trussville, Sheepdog Firearms.  

As for what we are doing at the Range for covid?... We are still doing what we can to keep the place clean by disinfecting the common areas, keeping the office closed and conducting all business at the service window, staff wearing PPE while assisting members, not exchanging cash and handling all transactions with credit or debit card.  We encourage everyone to be responsible, wear a mask if you feel the need, social distance while here, give others some space, be an adult about it.  We all have been doing this for more than a year.  With everyone getting the vaccine, the risks are going down.  Eventually, covid will be a bad memory.

I left the below info available so you can see what measures we put in place for the last year to get through this mess of a pandemic.

Time for a change…

Beginning 05/11/20, things will run a little differently at the range.  The State has relaxed its requirements for businesses to operate and we are able to open the range up… at a 50% capacity.

Cliff Notes Version…
Half of the range’s shooting positions are roped off for social distancing requirements.
The use of a facial mask is encouraged is now a requirement due to the 12/11/20 order.
We may only use 50% of the range’s capacity.
The Office is an employee only space.
All business and paperwork takes place through a service window at the Office. Please wear your mask at the window.
All payments will be with a debit / credit card via a phone call.
No cash accepted.  You would not like getting change made from cash with covid on it.
$25 member’s range fee is reduced to $10.
Range fee is per hour and per range used.
Members are encouraged to make reservations.
Reservations are not required but without them, no guaranteed spot to shoot on.
Member’s guest policy is changed to unlimited guests.
Guest fee is still $20.
Trial Memberships are available again to non-members.

How will it work?
Use of the range for members is now $10 per hour instead of $25.  Members should call and make a reservation for the part or parts of the range they want to use.  Members who just show up may or may not find a place to shoot.  It will be a gamble on their part.  Reservations are how we will guarantee shooting space and control the number of people at the range.  Weekends are always busier times so plan accordingly.  We have been using a reservation system since first shut down to ensure a zero contact, one person at a time on any range, safe space for members.  It is as easy as making a call before heading to the range.  Staff will manage reservations and space use to ensure compliance with the Governor's Order.

Why is there a fee to members?
With the COVID19 pandemic and the requirements on businesses that want to be open, we lost the ability to fill the Main Range by the office with trial members using the facility at $25 each.  That income stream is gone.  That income stream is what allowed the range to lower membership costs for the annual members and keep them about a third of what other ranges get for their memberships.  To be open the range has to have employees who maintain and manage the facility.  The range must be profitable to them to be paid.  The range lost money in March and April, even with the $25 use fees to all members to help fill the gap left by the loss of volume.  The range has applied for and received a PPP loan to offset these losses caused by the pandemic.  It will fill the void caused by a much lower volume of shooters but will not last long.   

Can I bring guests?
Yes, members may bring as many guests as the range has space for.  Space would be the only limiting factor.  For example, there are now only 5 shooting positions on the rifle range instead of 10.  A member wanting to bring 2 guests may as long as there is room for 3 shooters on that range during the time he wants to use it.  The guest card system has been suspended for the duration of this pandemic and the limit of 5 guests per year went away.  You may bring as many as you like.  The normal guest fee of $20 each still applies. 

How has the range adapted to the Governor’s new Order?
We have roped off every other shooting position, reducing the spaces available to 50% and ensuring space between shooters.  The reservation system will also be used to limit the number of people on the range at a time.  The use of a mask that covers the nose and mouth while shooting on the range with others around you is encouraged and appreciated.  I do not feel that it is our job to tell grown people how to be hygienic.  The Order also states that equipment cannot be shared between participants… so, the rifle rests and staplers have been put in storage.  Please plan on bringing and using your own.  Masking tape also works well for holding targets to backing. 

I’m not an annual member and really don’t want to join right now… Can I shoot there?
Yes.  Those who are not yet annual members of the range can pay a $25 fee and become a “Trial Member”.  Trial members are restricted to using only the Main Range by the office, get 6 more days at only $10 per day, can upgrade during the 7 day period to an annual membership and get use of the rest of the facility after the range safety orientation with staff.  All range fees paid are applied to the cost of the annual membership. 

Undervaluation... $$$
When this pandemic hit and the range closed, I was forced to take a good hard look at the range’s finances.  How was the range going to survive with the current pricing structure and income levels?  We had been getting by before this Covid thing hit but just barely.  I researched other ranges, looked at what they charged, their guest policies and operating procedures and compared them to what I set up for my range.  Pretty much across the board, I’m getting about a third of what the other range operations are charging.  I have always looked for ways to keep my memberships low, keep our costs down, keep our bills paid while keeping the range staffed, maintained, and slightly profitable.  Most recently, dues are discounted $20 if paid on time making a Limited only $80, Single only $130, and full only $180.  On top of that I gave $100 of free guest passes upon joining and every year at renewal.  Nowhere is it this cheap to have a place to shoot.  A place like no other.  No one else has the amenities I provide; the huge plate range, a rimfire only steel plate range, screens to keep brass off others, or target stands maintained for members.  I don’t charge enough. 

We have some big expenses...  For example, I have been embroiled in a sales tax audit with the Alabama Dept. of Revenue.  The State said the range owes for 3 years of uncollected sales tax on use fees to the "public” use of the facility.  I argued that because we exclude felons, under-aged, and impaired individuals we were not open to the public and the law as written did not apply to us.  “Public” by definition means “open to all without exception”.  I lost.  I appealed.  I got a hearing with a judge.  I argued again.  I lost again.  They said the amount owed is over $13,000.  I began saving every penny of profit the range made starting January 1, 2019 when it looked like I was going to have to pay.   It took the range until November to reach the amount owed the State.  I paid in August 2020 the day I got notice from the Judge she had decided my case.  There was an opportunity to appeal to Circuit Court but that would require a Tax Attorney with a $10K retainer but I could still loose and it cost me $23K+.  Best to cut your losses and move on.  Then in Sept. I got another tax bill for $700 for penalties and interest that had accrued during my appeal.  I paid it too.  I also made the use structure of the facility "members only".  There is zero sales tax due on membership fees.  The Trial Membership replaced the daily use deal and gets the user 7 days of range access.  My point in sharing this is that it took the range 11 months to raise the $13k.  During this time, no improvements to the facility were made.  All the profit the range made went into a savings account for the tax bill.  I don't charge enough.

How do I fix that?  A Tiered Membership System.  Here is how it shall be.  Nothing changes for current members except a small range use fee when they use the range.  This will be Tier One and current members can keep what they have.  Tier Two will be $100 more per year for the membership but have zero member range use fees.  Shoot all you want, no fee… exactly like it was before this pandemic hit.  I also created a monthly membership availability.  Same deals but payment is made monthly.  See Membership Info. 

This membership fee structure will help the range get to a level of income that will ensure a brighter future for the facility.  Members can keep what they have or upgrade at any time.  For some, the $10 use fee is a big deal and they may not renew because of it.  Anytime I go someplace and pay a little more than I wanted for something I needed I often think to myself… they need to eat too.  Business must be profitable to survive and grow.  What we have is unique and is really well done.  There is not another like it anywhere. 

I am sure there will be kinks and tweaks I will have to make to get this new system ironed out and working smoothly.  Any further changes will be posted on the range Facebook page and website.  Call with questions, 205-744-2600.

Link to Range Facebook page

Link to Range Facebook group