The “mainstream” media want you to believe the shooting sports aren’t really growing. These same media prefer to cast a spectacularly retrograde pall, in fact, and further insinuate that various unflattering “-isms” or other malice are at the core of any shooting activity.
A little actual experience generally provides a striking refutation of the latter, and the former is battered almost beyond recognition for the unbiased observer. However much the media dislike it, Americans of almost every description are discovering the pleasure and security of competence with a firearm, and the only thing they really want more of is places to get out and exercise their Second Amendment guarantee.
On the eastern slopes of the Rockies, a spectacular addition to those opportunities is unfolding. We paid a visit just a few miles north of Denver, Colo., (Johnstown, to be precise), and got an enticing look at the vitality and technology of modern shooting in the form of the Liberty Firearms Institute.At “something around $20 million,” the scale alone is daunting, but dollars don’t begin to tell Liberty’s tale.
To call Liberty state-of-the-art seems barely sufficient. Our recent pre-opening tour with Liberty’s chief gunsmith Keith Everett made us think “jaw-dropping” is a perfectly reasonable addition to the list of descriptors. At “something around $20 million,” the scale alone is daunting, but dollars don’t begin to tell Liberty’s tale.
Beyond the generous foyer, reception and restaurant areas (3,000 square feet), a gleaming vintage Colt Gatling gun stands metaphorical guard over 12,000 square feet of retail space. When we were there, stocking had just begun, but dozens of shotguns, pistols, bolt-action rifles and ARs were up and tagged, harbingers of more to come. These surrounded a thicket of displays for clothing and other shooting gear for varied applications and—our favorite—plenty of evidence of small parts stock and varied AR kit. No more sweating out promised on-line stock that takes months or even years to materialize.
Not in an acquisitive mood? Tucked in a glamorous corner will be co-owner Wayne Schmeeckle’s Kimber collection, hundreds of S/N #1s or so we hear, including the number one. Across from that Kimber repository is Keith’s lair—a full-service gunsmithing shop that’s taking in “six for every five we finish up.” He’s smiling now, we imagine, thinking positively about the help that’s on the way.
If schooling is more your speed, or need, Keith showed us classrooms that would do a university proud. For those who can’t drag their gear onto company property but want to shoot going to or coming from, Liberty has a large room full of lockers—er, scratch that, safes—that are available: 361, to be precise. Talk about “safe storage”!
But the real jaw-dropping scale of Liberty is not “upstairs,” as well thought out and beautifully appointed as that is (and we do mean beautiful). Downstairs—and away from civic noise issues and ignorant worries of escaping rounds—are what the real gunnies care about: 52 shooting lanes. Spread out over six separate bays, two are dedicated to pistol (25 yards), a 50-yarder where you can actually shoot the .45-70 twin of that Gatling upstairs and a 100-yard bay for rifle, complete with downrange cameras that allow you to see every hit on your target as you make it. All these sport thoroughly modern target carrier systems and support multiple (even programmable) training scenarios.
A fifth bay features a very rare commodity on non-MIL/LE ranges—indoor steel/reactive targets for use with frangible ammo. The experienced shooter will understand the appeal; there’s very little indeed that matches the feedback that reactive targets provide. Both in terms of fun and skills development, they’re the bomb. We're not sure we know anybody who ever got tired of the “ding” of steel targets.A fifth bay features a very rare commodity on non-MIL/LE ranges—indoor steel/reactive targets for use with frangible ammo.
Rarer still are the contents of the sixth bay—a “full up,” live-fire simulation room. And yes, we said “live fire.” Unlike the sims most people have experienced, this is the real deal—you essentially shoot scenarios against a movie screen system from TI Training. Your firearm, your holster, your ammo, your everything against hundreds of situations (including the most important—shoot/no-shoot). The screen is a self-healing surface that will withstand hundreds of closely spaced hits, and many thousands of even slightly spread-out ones. Tricky admission here, however. Oh, wait … nope, all part of your membership. Waaaaay cool.
That last is important: Liberty is a membership and open-to-the-public range. While there are many privileges associated with membership, you can still just show up and shoot, though they add a twist: Plan a little ahead, because to join or shoot hourly, you’ll need to demonstrate you can do so legally (pass a background check). All shooters get a detailed safety brief, too, and Makhaira Group oversees actual range safety operations under contract.
As impressive as Liberty Firearms Institute is in the “physical plant” sense, we’d suggest it’s well more than the sum of its parts. The 2016 election is likely to prove more pivotal that any other in the story of the Bill of Rights, and the Second Amendment in particular. For those enumerated rights to do as they were meant—to elevate and protect individual liberty—they must be practiced, and through such practice, grown. To see Americans put their energy and resources into that exercise are heartening, whatever its scale: building something like Liberty as the Schmeeckles have done, or merely shooting there as others of us will. Both are important.
But more important still will be a November vote, especially now that the choices are clear. One side thinks lawful Americans have the right to protect all their other rights, and that they re-earn it every day with constructive lives, law-abidingly lived. In their vanity and ignorance, the other side believes their pronouncements alone will protect your family; that you should wait for help that may quite literally never arrive. Provoked, they’ll even assert that you are the problem, not the threats they refuse to name.
Time to choose.
If you’re anywhere nearby for Independence Day, consider a stop at Liberty Firearms Institute’s Independence Day Grand Opening Celebration, July 1-3. Contact LFI here, or at (970) 578-0717.