How we came to be the F.O.P. Range Inc.
The range was built in the mid 1970's by the FOP Lodge 58. It was designed as a 50 yard Police Qualification range, the current Main Range by the Office. It has been maintained by the Lodge through volunteers who spent much of their personal time making sure it was kept operational. I was one of those volunteers.
Over the years, the popularity of the range grew as more people found out about it. It was one of the best kept secrets in western Birmingham. A citizen could join FOP Lodge 58 as an Associate Member and would have the range available to them pretty much whenever they wanted it. It cost $35 per year to join the FOP Lodge 58 as a civilian Associate Member and upon joining, the member received a card they could take to the Pleasant Grove Police Department and use to check out a set of keys to the range.
While they used the range, there was little or no supervision or enforcement of safety rules. It was not the best of conditions. At its peak, the Lodge had about 490 Associate Members, all using the one 50 yard pistol range.
In mid 1995 the Lodge began to discuss the problems with the range and its upkeep. A motion was made to make it a "Police Officers only" facility to cut down on the wear and tear, and reduce the cost of operating a firing range. Pleasant Grove police officers Tony Snyder and Jon Grigsby (me) countered the motion and offered to lease the property from the Lodge to open the range as a private shooting facility. A committee was formed to explore the options available to the Lodge and in November 1995, the Lodge, Snyder and I entered into a long term lease agreement. In January 1996, the range re-opened as the F.O.P. Range Inc..
Membership grew very quickly the first 3 months of operation with 150 new members joining almost immediately. We began construction on a much needed Rifle Range, along with several new pistol ranges. By spring, we had 7 ranges operational. We decided in our business plan that we would do everything we could to make the range as safe a place as possible. This included having onsite supervision during business hours, constructing a new safety berm along one side of our road entering the range, running water to the office building and fixing the restroom.
We purchased liability insurance for the range and have received a thumbs up by the insurance company's inspector. He approached us as a "prospective member" to learn all he could about the operation of the range before telling us who he was. He was happy with what he saw and gave us a good report.
By 1997 membership had grown to about 225 members. We did spend some money on advertising in early 1996 and again in spring 1997, but have relied mostly on word of mouth since then. Membership is still growing. We have plans to continue to improve our facility by purchasing new equipment every year as funds allow.
June 1998, I bought out my business partner and made several changes to the way business was run. Each change has made the range a more desirable place to be a member.
In 2001 I moved a house to the range, moved my family in, and became the resident caretaker and afterhours onsite security.
June of 2002, I created the "Public Range". I added a berm and target stands to accommodate handgun target shooting at 12 yards, and added berms and target stands at 25 and 50 yards. Civilians now have a nice safe place to shoot in Birmingham without having to commit to an annual membership. They were restricted to using only the Pubic Range. To use any other range, they must upgrade to an annual membership.
In 2016, we did a major renovation of the property, created the Handgun Steel Plate range, the Rimfire Steel Plate range, and expanded the main range and rifle range. All were done to accommodate the nearly 1500 members the range now had.
In 2018 the range was audited by the AL Dept of Revenue for sales taxes. Seems Alabama has an "entertainment tax" which all 4 of the CPA's I had used since 1996 knew nothing about and I now owed over $18k to the State for taxes I had failed to collect. I appealed, argued that the range was never a public access facility because all dictionaries and even Black's Law dictionary defined "public" as open to all without exception and the law said "all businesses open to the public...". We had exceptions. We were not a carnival ride this law was written for. Due to the nature of our gun related business, we excluded lots of people... such as felons. I lost. Judge said she thought the Legislature intended for the law to cover my type of business. I paid. No more Public Range.
So... we now have a "Trial Member" range. Trial members must meet the same requirements of membership as the annual members. Trial members pay $15 for a month of access and a $10 range use fee every time they come out. Seems the Legislature wrote an exception for Private Country clubs so money collected from the members and guests of members was not taxable.
The F.O.P. Range Inc. range facility is available to any law enforcement agencies who do not have their own range facility. Currently local Municipal, State, and Federal Law Enforcement agencies use the range regularly for their training and scheduled qualification of their personnel. One range, the Training Range located on the north side of the facility, is used for police qualification and training. Agency and commercial use of the FOP Range do not effect member's ability to use the facility.
Take a look at the range development pictures. Here is some of the best money we ever spent.