PHOTO: Jonathan Noe, a student from Germany, fires a handgun for the first time.

By Sam Nicholas

Skagit Shooting Range is a fantastic place for beginners, enthusiasts, and professional shooters alike to hone their skills in a variety of handgun disciplines. Recently, I had the opportunity to take an exchange student from Germany to the range.

Meet Jonathan Noe, an 18-year-old student from Gorlitz, Germany. This was his first time being introduced to the basics of safe firearm handling and target practice.

“In Germany, we aren’t allowed guns except under very specific circumstances. It is very different from America.” Referring to the stringent laws regarding firearms in Germany, Noe explained that licenses are only granted for specific types of sport shooting and the guns relevant to them.

“At first, seeing the guns made me very nervous,” Noe recounted, stating that he had only seen firearms in the hands of police or in movies prior to coming to the U.S. “But once I was taught the basic safety rules and started to handle them, I felt way more comfortable.”

Firearms are undoubtedly a hot topic in this nation. In wake of recent tragedies, some have called for increased restrictions while others encourage gun ownership for recreation or defense.

“I think a basic understanding of the function of a firearm is important for everyone to know because of the prominence of firearms in our society,” said SVC student Taylor S. When asked, other students agreed that shooting at a range with professional supervision is a safe way to experience firearms.

Experienced range member Brian H. noted that “simply being aware of the safety precautions when handling a gun for the first time” is key. “A huge emphasis is always placed on basic rules for handling firearms whenever someone has never touched a gun before. For most people, they’ve been told certain things but have never actually tried it for themselves.”

I believe that this knowledge is indeed important whether you’re an enthusiast or not. An atmosphere of safe practices is what every range should strive for, but I was impressed with this staff’s dedication to ensuring that every member and guest was aware of and followed the rules. Working with a beginner like Noe is a great example of how someone can be safely acquainted with firearms while totally having fun at the same time.

16 lanes, 8 on each side of the range, easily accommodate middle-of-the-week traffic. However, it is typically very busy during peak evening or weekend hours, and visitors may find themselves arriving only to wait for a lane opening. On a couple of rare morning trips, I was able to enjoy an entire range to myself with no distractions or extra noise.

For those interested in furthering their knowledge or skills, an extensive array of classes and activities from basic safety tutorials to advanced steel/moving target practice and other competitions are offered at the range. They offer weekend classes for concealed carry and Women’s self-defense, to name a couple. Sometimes, you will even find local and state law enforcement agencies conducting training at this range.

Compared to other indoor and outdoor ranges I have visited, Skagit Shooting Range is certainly one of the cleanest. All facilities appear to be kept in tip-top shape, with a noticeable effort put forth by the staff to keep the ranges clean and organized. The range safety officers are always present and enjoy answering questions or providing helpful tips.

Skagit Shooting Range allows handguns of any caliber, and some intermediate rifle calibers such as .223/5.56 or 7.62×39. Ammo, targets, and eye/ear protection are available for purchase at the range if you don’t bring your own. If bringing your own ammo, the only limitations are that it needs to be brass-cased with standard total- or full-metal jacketed (TMJ/FMJ) bullets.

If you are interested in trying out a firearm, the range offers a wide selection of over 100 different handguns and rifles for rent. Attached to the main range is their Pro Shop providing a wide selection of firearms, accessories, ammo, and other gear. The staff were very approachable and knowledgeable whenever I had questions about products that I wanted to learn more about.

After a 30-minute introductory session and 2 hours of sampling different arms, Noe expressed his delight in the entire experience. He commented that out of all the different ones he tried, the .45 caliber Glock 21 was his favorite; with the .44 Magnum Winchester Model 1892 (a lever-action “cowboy” gun) following as a close second.

“I really liked it! It is fun to challenge myself and others to hit the bullseye from so far away, especially with the smaller guns. On the bigger ones, I was really amazed by the force.”

Skagit Shooting Range is located at 1340 Bouslog Road in Burlington, on the East side of I-5 across from the Cascade Mall. The range is always open to the public (including throughout classes and events) during their hours from 9 AM to 7 PM Mon-Sat, or 11 AM to 5PM on Sundays. An up-to-date calendar of events with more details can be found at Feel free to give them a call at 360.399.7950 for more information.