First lesson — the words firearm and weapon are not synonymous.
And Derek Bostock, president and CEO of Red Deer Shooting Centre, will politely correct people should they mistakenly use the W-word.
“We call them firearms. A firearm to us is a tool. Simple as that,” said Bostock inside the Red Deer County centre as the muffled pop of gun shots could be heard from its state-of-the-art indoor firing ranges.
“They are a tool to a police officer. They are a tool to a hobby guy like me. It becomes a weapon when the person behind that tool decides to use it in a dishonourable way.”
Red Deer Shooting Centre opened its doors 15 months ago with a retail gun shop, a 22.75 and a 45.5-metre (25 and 50 yard) range, and space and staff to lead training sessions in gun safety and firearm licensing.
Bostock, 31, of Red Deer, said anything can be used to do something bad.
“What happened in Ottawa, one guy used a firearm, and before that one guy used a vehicle,” he said referring to Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent who was killed recently in a targeted hit-and-run in Quebec and the shooting death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.
“If people intend to do harm, they’ll do it with whatever means they have regardless of what it is.”
Red Deer Shooting Centre, located on the edge of Red Deer at 486 McCoy Dr. in McKenzie Industrial Business Park, is the only facility of its kind in Central Alberta.
The centre has grown from six to 15 employees and has room for additions to the building.
“We’re not here to force people to own firearms and to shoot. That’s not what we do,” Bostock said.
What the centre does is give people the opportunity to try shooting in a safe and affordable environment, or at very least learn about gun safety, he said.
“That’s a big chunk of our business. We give people the opportunity to try shooting.”
He said customers include a growing number of unlicensed walk-ins, along with competitive sharpshooters, and hobbyists. Some people want to learn how to defend themselves. Hunters also use the facility, but lean more to outdoor ranges.
“Law enforcement is really growing now that they started recognizing us as a central, top-end facility they can utilize.”
Currently practising at the centre are Red Deer RCMP, Alberta Sheriffs, and Lacombe Police Service.
The centre’s two firing ranges, Alpha and Bravo, each have six lanes.
“We built government-grade, state-of-the-art. We built with the best technology available today from the U.S.,” Bostock said.
Constructed specifically to house the centre, the gun fire produces little exterior noise. Bullets are absorbed in a .7-metre (30 inch) deep berm consisting of granulated rubber on a steel deck. The bullets don’t fragment when they hit the trap so there’s zero lead dust.
“Our biggest advantage is we have a true 50-yard range indoors. That’s quite an accomplishment. It is the most versatile 50-yard range in Canada. Period.
“That’s the range the RCMP use to train in our facility and they can move down range to accommodate all their training needs.”
Both ranges are three-metres (10 feet) high and shooting lanes are 1.2-metres (four feet) wide.
“Lane width and ceiling heights, those are all larger than the average range. Bigger is better. It’s more comfortable. We’re pretty proud of it.”
But for all its bells and whistles, Red Deer Shooting Centre is not just for elite shooters.
“This is foremost a family place. This is a place where families can come that are in the hobby and learn to shoot, or if they already shoot, shoot with their kids, or with their wives, nephews, grandparents, whoever. Second, we serve the sport and law-enforcement community.”
Target shooting is a popular hobby, and handguns are the firearm of choice at the centre, he said.
“Out of any firearm, (handguns) are the most engaging. If you don’t do the basic fundamentals every time you pull the trigger, it’s the difference between being dead centre and off paper. It’s that challenging. It’s not like the movies where they make it seem it’s so easy to shoot.”
International Practical Shooting Confederation practises have been held at the centre. Biathlon competitors in the upcoming 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer could use the centre for training.
The centre has partnered with Bo’s Bar & Grill for Tuesday Date Night.
Walk-ins are welcome. Groups should book ahead.
Firearm licences are not required to try shooting at the centre as licenced, fire range officers are within arm’s reach.
Guns are available for rent on site, and a fire range officer accompanies anyone without a licence to teach general gun safety, how to operate a firearm, and the facility’s rules.
“Everyone here leaves laughing, smiling, pretty pumped, because it’s a different experience people couldn’t get here before.”
Bostock said believe it or not, about 40 per cent of customers are women, who mostly come in groups. It’s only a matter of time before there’s a women’s only night and local shooting leagues for customers. For more information visit www.rdshootingcentre.ca.