When a fire wiped out the Law Enforcement Training Facility two years ago much was lost, but from the ashes arose a new opportunity for Maple Grove citizens. Prior to the fire, the range was booked full time by the Maple Grove police department and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s department, but in the year it took to rebuild the range into a state-of-the-art facility, Hennepin County made other arrangements for their officers’ firearm training needs. Now, even with range time allotted to the Maple Grove, Plymouth and New Hope police departments, there are still two openings a week when firearms enthusiasts in the general public can take advantage of the high tech range.
John Peterson, Maple Grove police officer of twenty years and range coordinator at the facility encourages the public to give it a try. “It’s a friendly, safe atmosphere,” he says. “During firearms operation a range safety officer is always out on the range. Safety is a huge requirement; whether you are a beginner or have a lifetime behind a firearm, everything is done in a safe manner. Our staff is experienced and can help people out with a lot of things.” The 40 yard range offers 12 lanes, or positions, from which to fire. Each position is separated by a ballistic barrier and uses a touchscreen computer to control the targetry.
Some of the best improvements are behind the scenes. “The fire [in 2011] began when the bullet trap made of crushed rubber caught fire,” Peterson says. The new bullet trap is steel, with a decelerator chamber that deposits the spent ammo into a metal pail. “We used to pay $10,000 per year to mine the trap for lead waste, now we pay $0 and the recycling pays for the filters for the air handling.”
In addition to the lanes, the facility rents out two training rooms for classes and recently added a firearm simulator. “The simulator puts the student in an immersive situation like a giant video game,” Peterson says. “You make a choice on force options. If you were a police officer you would have a choice of handgun, baton, OC or pepper spray, Taser and verbal commands.” The simulator is prioritized for law enforcement and firearm training classes, but may soon be available to the general public as well.
Richard Brown, a retired federal law enforcement officer, firearms instructor and part-time range safety officer says that a lot of people still need to hear that the range is open to the public. “We haven’t been swamped,” he says, “but the people who have come in have seemed to like it. We have the latest and greatest in targets and booths. It isn’t as crowded as other ranges, and the air is great; the ventilation moves the powder and smoke a lot.”
Justin Duerksen, who visited the range as part of a groom’s party the morning of his brother’s wedding, agrees. “My initial reaction was how nice and new and clean it was,” he says. “The facility is in great shape.” Duerksen, who shoots a .40 Smith & Wesson, has visited other ranges and feels this one compares well. “The system they run the target on was easy,” he says. “It used a nice, user-friendly touchpad. The instructors were professional and polite and welcoming, better than at some other ranges I’ve been to. As police officers, in their line of duty they have to have people skills, and they knew how to handle questions. We had some first time shooters in our group and they all seemed comfortable and had a good time.”
The range is open to the public from 8 a.m.–2 p.m. on Saturdays, and 6 p.m.–9 p.m. on Wednesdays. Users must bring in their own ammunition, and firearms are limited to either handguns or shotguns. The range sells ear plugs for $1, and also rents earmuffs for $1. NRA and high visibility targets (with a splash of color at impact site) are also available for sale; silhouette targets are not allowed. For $18, one person can rent a lane for 45 minutes or two people can share a lane for an hour for $28. Youth ages 12–17 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian at all times.
For more information visit the website, call 763.494.6151, or visit the range during public hours (listed above) at 11370 89th Ave. N., Maple Grove.