Range Review – Caswell’s Shooting Range

Caswell's

Caswell’s has been in Mesa, Arizona for over twenty years, but they’ve recently acquired new ownership. I got a chance to talk to the Carolann Bergeson, the new Director of Operations about the changes at Caswell’s and what that means to shooters in the East Valley.

Interior of Caswell's

There are over a dozen gun stores in the Mesa area, including heavy hitters like Bass Pro Shops and Sportsman’s Warehouse, which could make for over-saturation of the market. Caswell’s has found success by focusing on the personal protection and hobby shooter rather than pursuing the hunting and outdoor markets and ties in their sales department with a full range of training options and the popularity of their indoor range. Their 11 bay range has electronic target retrieval systems and air-conditioning (a welcome relief in the Arizona summer) and are staffed with friendly range officers to help keep everyone safe.

With Arizona removing the permit requirements for concealed carry last year, demand for the state-approved CCW course has dropped off, but Caswell’s has seen a marked improvement in other training courses like their Intro to Firearms and Defensive Pistol classes.

Guns. Lots of guns.

One of my pet peeves is gun store clerks who treat you rudely or ignore paying customers in favor of chatting with their friends, and I asked Carolann about their customer service training.

“The key to good service is first making sure you have enough people behind the counter”, she said, “and then making sure they know what good customer service is. We coach our sales staff and have monthly feedback and training sessions where they tell us what the customers are asking for and we coach them on the best way to help the customer. We want salespeople who are courteous and helpful and have a real enthusiasm for the job.”

Range

Another pet peeve is gun store customers who shop for their wives/girlfriend and insist on getting a snub-nosed .38 or something similar, and I asked Carolann what her staff does in that situation.

“We ask the person themselves what they want in a gun. We’ve found that if we get them talking about what they’ve shot in the past, we can find the right gun for them, and if we can’t, we suggest they try a few pistols out on our range before making a decision.”

I also asked Carolann what her pistol of choice was: “A 9mm HK I got as a gift, but I’ve been trying out some of the rental guns and I think I might want to make a change.”

The indoor range and the training options it provides are what sets Caswell’s apart, allowing prospective gun buyers to try a rental version of the pistol they’re considering before they buy it, and if they chose to buy a new gun that day, Caswell’s will discount the range fee off the purchase price.

Urban Firearms Institute

Caswell’s is located at 856 E. Isabella Ave. Mesa, AZ 85204. Their phone number is 480-497-5141 / 1-888-72SHOOT and they can be found online at www.caswells.com.

All photos c. 2011 Exurbanleague.com

Reduce, reuse, repurpose

Turns out that the man purse messenger bag that WAS my old bailout bag makes a durn handy range bag for the rifle/shotgun matches at Rio.

Gear bag

I can carry rifle mags and ammo in my rifle case but what I can’t easily carry around a match is boxes of shotgun shells, water and my coupled-together magazines. The messenger bag does this rather well, and it has enough leftover space for a pair of binos for those long range shots, a multitool and a few energy bars to snack on while waiting for my turn to shoot. 

Learning from Red Bull

Consider this video for the Red Bull Air Racing World Series: What can we learn from it when it comes to promoting practical shooting?

1. Personality goes a long way. The nationality of each pilot is up front and center, giving us a reason to cheer (or boo) right off the bat. 

2. Fan-friendly venues. The fans can see the action at the venue know the score as the event happens. Ever gone to a USPSA match or IDPA match as a spectator? From personal experience, I can tell you they really suck to watch (80% of a squad’s time on a stages is spent with walk-throughs, scoring and taping). 3 Gun Nation does a great job at distilling the essence of three-gun down to an exciting competition, but a little bleacher seating and some local promotion would go  help bring in more people to the sport.

3. Real-time scoring. The fact is, you can’t tell from watching a USPSA or IDPA competition who is doing well in the match and who isn’t. Sure, a competitor may ace a stage, but what that means to the match as a whole is a mystery until the final day of the match when all the scores are tallied.

4. Big-time sponsors. Smith and Wesson, FNUSA and Cheaper Than Dirt’s revenues COMBINED probably don’t add up to one-eighth of the money that Red Bull makes in the U.S. alone. Bass Pro Shops teaming up with Top Shot is great step in this direction (even if all they show is fishing commercials during the show). 

Kids and guns

The quotes of the day are from this discussion of shotgun locks over at The High Road:

“I’m reminded of: ‘If Plan A is to take multiple .338 shots to the back, you really need to come up with a Plan B.
I’ll make a parents version: If plan A is to depend on the wisdom of a 4 year old, you really need to come up with a Plan B.’

‘I don’t trust kids…especially boys. I was one.’ “

Just yesterday, my 7 year old son managed to climb a six-foot cinder block fence without the aid of a ladder and my 5 year old son spent the afternoon “decorating” his room with Magic Marker, so let me say I’ve gone WAY beyond Plan B and I’m into Plans Q and R right now.

The gun to have if you can only have one

I’ll admit it, when I first started reading about Jeff Cooper and his ideas about self defense, I didn’t “get” the idea behind a scout rifle. It seemed to be quaint and antiquated in a world of AR’s and AK’s, and besides, semi-autos had more firepower and precision rifles were more accurate, so why get a rifle that was a compromise.

I get it now, though.

It’s not that a scout rifle is the optimal self-defense rifle or the last word in 800 yard tack drivers, rather, a scout rifle gives you 85% of both of those rifles in a package that’s small and light so that you’ll have it with you when you need it and is reliable enough to go *bang* when you need it as well.

Do I *need* a rifle like that? No.

Do I want one? Oh yeah.

Update: Hey, if you’re coming to this page from various parts of the Internet (and beyond), feel free to stick around and visit the home page for more and/or follow me on Twitter.

Plastic Fantastic

Lower

Earlier this year, I won a gun (ok, an AR Lower, but it counts, right?) off the prize table at the Superstition Mountain Mystery Three Gun.

And here’s what it turned into. 

Cav Arms lower + MagPul

  • CavArms Lower
  • 16″ Dane Armory barrel
  • VM HyTech Upper from my old AR
  • Magpul forend 
  • No-name handle and front sight

It’s unbelievably light, shoots very well and will make a great plinker/defense gun for when I don’t want to use the UEBR.

Shooting sports

Michael Bane write about the growing popularity of the (non-hunting) shooting sports

The big trend for 2010 is the bigger than expected successes of shooting competitions on television, led by TOP SHOT on History and 3-GUN NATION on Versus. I hear channels are scrambling for more shooting programming. 

Well duh. What took them so long?

First-person shooter games have been around for thirty years, which means for thirty years, we’ve been running around and shooting things in a virtual environment. It only makes sense that the same impulses that drive us to blast the legions from hell would drive us out to the range and try our hand at the real thing. 

So what would a TV-friendly shooting show look like? Well, a lot like Top Shot or 3 Gun Nation, actually. Head-to-head competition is what makes slalom skiing so exciting, and that’s another sport that relies on technique to shave thousands of an inch at every opportunity, which is also happens to be the key to winning practical shooting. 

And, to quote Jules Winnfield, personality goes a long way. Top Shot drew in so many viewers because we were attracted to the people of the sport, and not just the sport itself. NASCAR gets this, practical shooting needs to learn this, too. 

A few more things to get practical shooting more TV-friendly: 

– Reactive targets and/or real-time scoring. Waiting around for an RO to yell out “Two Alpha” (or in my case, “Charlie Mike”) is boring. Steel is good, some kind of electronic target that shows hits in real-time would be better.

– Side by side comparisons of runs. Why did Mike Voight beat Taran Butler on Stage Three? Was it because he shot a bit faster or a bit cleaner? Showing the same run using identical camera angles and editing would go a long way into helping others understand the sport. 

– Colour commentary. Many, many football fans rely on the experts in the booth to tell them why a wishbone offense is a better idea in a given situation than the shotgun, and it’s the same with practical shooting. Why did a competitor screw the pooch on a given stage? Why did one do better? Without a colour commentator, you have to be involved in the sport to know why. A good TV host can open the competition and the sport to people who aren’t shooters, making it even more popular. 

If paintball can be shown on ESPN, why can’t USPSA? Imagine how popular IPSC would get if Dave Sevigny was on the Wheaties box… 

Just a reminder…

The Central Arizona Bloggershoot is this Saturday. Come celebrate the resounding defeat of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and/or blow off your frustrations at the direction our country has taken. 

Date: Saturday, November 6th
Time: 8 am (-ish) to whenever (Kevin’s getting there at 7am: I like my rest, so I’m planning for 8).
Location: Elsy Pearson Rifle Range, Casa Grande
Food: Bring your own, and water too
Targets: Bring those too

The gun you have

I still dabble in photography, even though it’s been almost ten years since it was my full-time job, and photographers are still equipment-obsessed, a trait they share with firearms enthusiasts. Camera companies spend millions of dollars on ads that show the wonderful, striking photos you can take with your SuperTouchDeluxe XV3 (now with MondoPixel technology!), and photographers fall for it, thinking that all they need is the latest technology to turn into the next Yousef Karsh.

But the fact is, great photos can be taken with any camera, and chances are, you can defend your life with just about any firearm. It’s not the tools you use, it how you use the tools you have. Tam’s post on The Firing line nails it wonderfully.

Two reasons people are anti-training (perhaps not coincidentally, this is also why people are anti- competing in organized shooting sports):

1) “It costs too much.” Somebody has fifteen guns, a motorcycle, a PS3 with plenty of games hooked to his flat-panel TeeWee (not to mention the PS2 and PlayStation in the attic), and who knows how many other toys, and a $200-$400 handgun training course “costs too much”. Hey, Skippy, how ’bout selling that Taurus Raging Judge you were bragging about buying last week and using the proceeds to get yourself taught how to use one of the fourteen other guns you already had? (And maybe sell one of those and take an MSF class for your motorcyclin’ while you’re at it.) The problem is, people can’t point at new mental furniture and say to their friends “Look what I just bought!”

2) People can’t shoot, but think they can. At the range, nobody is really watching them shoot and, face it, everybody else at the range is awful, too. But if they go to a class or enter a match, it will get proved officially: “Joe/Jane Averageshooter: First Loser”. It takes humility to learn and lose. Humble people don’t boast on their adequacy. So most people go and buy another gun instead, because when they open the box on that gun, it won’t look up at them and say “You stink!”; it’ll say “You just bought the official pistol of SWATSEAL Team 37 1/2! Congratulations!”

If you want to take better pictures, learn about light and get some training, because chances are the camera you have is up to the task. If want to defend your life, learn to use the gun(s) you have, because they’re the ones you’ll need if your life is on the line.