I think this is the first time I'll be naming a range near us, but this one is worth talking about.
A few months ago, an entrepreneur came to Maryland Shooters with a question for the forum: "What do you want to see in a range?" Naturally, the masses responded with enthusiasm. This was unbelievable...a range actually wanted OUR opinions before opening? REALLY??!? Everyone listed their grievances with the other local ranges and specified things they absolutely wanted to see in this new location, and the owners took it all in...and thus far, they've made something excellent with it.
The range in question is Freestate, and out of all the ranges I've been to in Maryland, they're the one I'm actually going to join. They have TWO bathrooms (where most have one, if you're lucky), classrooms, a waiting area with chairs and tables, an onsite gunsmith, a location where a snack bar will be (in the works right now), and air conditioning on the range itself. The guys who own and operate the location are courteous, friendly, and welcoming. The range itself is modern, with an electronic target deployment system and active targets, and a bag bench behind the shooting stalls. Oh, and they allow .223 rifles AND silhouette, zombie, "bad guy," and animal targets They have a decent class offering including Tactical Pen. Memberships are under $300 (cheapest around, from what I've seen...), and I'd say it's worth it.
I waited until my third visit to the range to do my writeup because I wanted to see them under different situations. Here's a summary of the three visits.
First visit: Fourth of July weekend with Chris, friends MB and P, and myself.
The visit itself was nice enough. We were given the tour of the place, shown how to use the target deployment system, and set up with two lanes. Overall the experience was pleasant, but we could tell they were still working on things. The women's bathroom was lacking fixtures and had a unisex sign on the door. I brought this up and was told it would be better by the next visit.
Second visit: Two weeks ago with Chris and his coworker, my coworker, coworker's SO, and myself.
This visit was more pleasant (despite a malfunctioning AC system). We showed up around 10:15 and they were still setting up for the day - apparently they had people waiting outside before they opened at 10. We were set up on three concurrent lanes and had our shooty fun. My coworker and their SO had to leave early, so we closed out our two lanes while Chris and his coworker continued to shoot. While I waited for them to finish up, I waited at the tables and had a nice chat with Randy, one of the owners. We discussed the range, how business was going, and my opinions of other local public ranges. I noticed he would not share any opinions of those other ranges and consistently steered the conversation back to his business. This was incredibly professional, and made me feel more confident about the range sticking around. Oh, he bought me a soda, but he didn't need that to win me over. Promised I'd get a membership when I had the disposable funds for it.
Third visit: Last night with my cousin V.
They were busy! It took a few minutes to get us signed up for a lane (part of that was V filling out the initial waiver). I did notice the clientele differed drastically from previous visits - most notably in the amount of female patrons. For once, I wasn't the only female adult! That said, I think the owners/ROs need to clearly define the rules regarding entering and leaving the range area. There is a two door "airlock" sort of setup, where you must shut one door before opening the other to reduce noise between the range and the lobby. The doors do not automatically shut, and apparently the individuals who were there last night assumed otherwise. I had to correct the group more than once (because no one else was doing so). This is a problem, and one I hope the range addresses.
Overall, I'm pleased with Freestate...and I'm never going back to the range we used to frequent.