December 19, 2017
Behind the Firing Line: VRA
|Welcome to NSSF’s column for firearms range owners, managers and staff. “Behind the Firing Line” works to accomplish two things. First, it recognizes ranges that have met the stringent requirements necessary to achieve NSSF’s Five-Star rating for excellence. Second, it works to explain how these ranges met specific criteria within the Star-Rating Range Program, so that other ranges working to make the grade can discover ideas and guidance for their own improvement. For more information on NSSF’s Star-Rating Range Program, visit www.nssf.org.|
—Zach Snow, NSSF Director, Range Services
VRA, New Castle, Indiana
Opened in 2017, this range is located in central Indiana, 40 miles east of Indianapolis on the I-70 corridor. The company’s original location is also off I-70 but 30 miles to the east, just across the Ohio state line.
The brand-new Indiana location encompasses over 28,000 square feet. The 8,000-square-foot retail store stocks an average of 1,700 new guns, with a revolving stock of 175 rentals. There is also a customer waiting area, office space and a 2,000-square-foot classroom used by the surrounding community for everything from hunter education to bachelor parties. There are 18 pistol lanes at 7 yards and five rifle lanes at 25 yards. These lanes use a newly custom-designed, interactive video live-fire solution to enhance the experience for the shooter (i.e., with the video, there are no paper targets or retrieval systems needed).
VRA employs a staff of 18 full- and part-time employees. This includes six certified NRA range safety officers. The facility operates Monday through Thursday 10:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6:00 p.m. The range is closed for most major holidays, including Christmas, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and Easter.
As a Five-Star NSSF range (VRA’s Ohio location is a Five-Star range; the Indiana location is undergoing its final evaluation), the facility meets best practices standards for state-of-the-art design. This ensures a high level of safety and comfort for workers and customers. Our interview included Doug and Alex Hague, father and son, who are co-owners of the facility along with Linda Hague, Jared Hague and Brock Fields. This column will focus on VRA’s recent security enhancements, while a later column will focus on its custom-designed video system.
Thinking Like it’s a Fortress
The Indiana building used pre-made concrete forms for practical, quick wall construction. They are energy efficient and have excellent sound-deadening capabilities. With no windows, the nearly impenetrable barrier offers exceptional security.
“We went 10 years without having any kind of incident or break-in [at the Ohio location]. This is in contrast to the three smash-and-grabs in the last year-and-a-half,” said Doug Hague.
Modifications to the Ohio range have been extensive, including barred windows, Lexan glass replacement, upgraded alarms and improved video surveillance. The enhancements seem to have done the trick.
“Since the improvements, we’ve had four unsuccessful attempts,” said Doug.
While planning the new facility in Indiana, it was paramount to attempt to prevent criminal incidents.
“Like many parts of America, we’ve seen a drastic increase in opiate-related crimes. So, when we were designing the new facility, we did so with the intent to take the worry out of any kind of criminal event,” said Alex Hague.
To stop vehicles from driving through the store, concrete barriers were erected in front of doorways at both locations.
“Let them drive into one those barriers — they won’t drive away,” said Doug.
The team also installed high-definition video surveillance and a state-of-the-art alarm system.
Opening Up the Interior
With a lack of windows, one might have the impression that the range and store may be dark and ominous. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. Nine-foot ceilings and spacious display cases keep the retail store and range bright, clean and open. With more than 8,000 square feet of display area and no product displayed on the walls, there is ample room for the owner’s favorite World War II art and memorabilia. Built by a local craftsman, one of the display attractions in the Indiana store is a 48th scale model of the U.S.S. North Carolina.
“I know it sounds a little hokey, but people come by just to look at this 15-foot model. It’s extraordinary in detail, and customers really love it,” Doug told me.
Cases That Protect and Save Inventory Time
Displaying firearms in a secure environment is always a priority. However, at this range, the owners wanted more than just a smash-and-grab-resistant cases. They wanted a secure, effective way to display armaments and accessories while simultaneously controlling inventory — so they designed and built the cabinet themselves. The Hague family has an extensive background in the building trades, and their combined skills and expertise contributed greatly to this project.
Each steel case is made with lockable doors. The units are behind a 40-inch-high, composite-topped counter.
“Moving the counter height from 32 to 40 inches was a big deal. We have found that it keeps customers from leaning over the tops. Besides looking so appealing, the composite tops are super durable,” explained Alex.
Each cabinet is a standalone unit. It holds the empty gun boxes and the most popular accessories. One of the best attributes of the display cabinets is realized at the end of day. The cabinets close and lock, saving the laborious task of moving everything to a safe.
“It’s so easy. At the end of the day you look in the cabinet and you know what your inventory is. There’s no searching in the back for the correct box. It has really streamlined our process. We like these cabinets so much, we will be building them next year for other retailers,” said Alex Hague.
Being Secure Saves Cash
This retailer understands their responsibility to the community to provide a safe and comfortable place to train and enjoy firearms. In doing so, they’ve saved a lot of cash.
“Once you’ve experienced an event in which you’re immersed in insurance paperwork, police reports and the ATF, it’s motivating to make sure it doesn’t happen again. The new build [of the Indians facility] has saved us a significant sum with our insurance premiums. And we sleep better knowing that a bad guy isn’t going to access our inventory,” said Doug.