CONWAY — When Chuck Harter founded his shooting range, he knew it had to be far enough from town to let people do what they wanted to do — shoot really big guns.
The Outback Park and Public Range is located at 368 Navajo Road, a few miles north and west of Conway.
“Everybody says, ‘We really wish you were closer to Wichita.’ Well, if we were closer to Wichita, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do,” Harter said. “I can raise holy hell out here and it isn’t going to bother anyone. That was the idea.”
The range is open to the public and features short and long distance shooting, with a covered area holding concrete shooting tables and padded chairs.
“We do a lot of charity events out here,” Harter said. “We’ve done so many things out here for benefits for different groups.”
An event to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation will take place at The Outback Park and Public Range from 2 to 5 p.m. Sept. 16. Tickets can be purchased by calling 316-249-3046 prior to that date.
People who come to shoot at the range include competitive shooters, individuals who practice shooting for self-defense and tactical shooters like law enforcement officials.
“A lot of times you’re asked to shoot prone or from underneath a barrier, so we’ve done it all in grass,” Harter noted.
The Outback Park and Public Range is also a popular destination for those looking to have a party to celebrate a birthday, graduation, or mortgage burning. Groups come out for bachelor or bachelorette parties or work parties.
“Going down to the bar and having lunch is kind of old hat and you don’t get anything to take home. Here, you get the experience and you get some training,” Harter said.
Training is a big part of the range’s mission. More than 8,000 people have completed the training required for a concealed carry license there.
“We enjoy working with people, training them and helping them do their thing,” Harter said.
Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts groups have been out to the range, as well as children who come out with their parents.
“We spend a lot of time working with kids,” Harter said. “We’d rather have kids dealing with firearms with somebody who knows what they’re doing.”
Customers are welcome to bring their own guns or choose one of the range’s options. Harter offers several packages, each featuring anywhere from a single shot up to 50 rounds on different firearms.
“In one of our packages, you get 50 shots on a M249 SAW, you get your choice between an MP5, and AK-47 or a RPK rifle and then you get a choice of an AR or a pistol — a Glock 18,” Harter noted.
The Glock 18 is a popular choice because of its firing rate of 1,200 rounds per minute.
“You pull the trigger and it’s empty,” Harter said. “You can count the brass still in the air coming out of the weapon.”
Some of the more unusual weapons in Harter’s arsenal include a replica Gatling gun, M1919A4 machine gun and an Anzio 20 mm rifle.
“My God, 20 millimeters — I mean, you can hear it in McPherson probably when it goes off,” Harter chuckled.
Not only can customers choose from a variety of guns, there are also different types of targets to take on — from the standard paper targets to reactive steel targets that move when struck.
“Most people love it because just shooting paper is no fun,” Harter said. “The whole key to the thing is to judge what you’re doing and figure out how you’re going to be able to make the shot.”
The steel targets include a “hostage” target, dueling trees, poppers and a Texas star with targets at the end of five arms.
“When you hit one of them, that knocks it off and it starts to rotate. That means you’ve got to stay on your game,” Harter said. “We hear a lot of bets on this.”
The range also has a setup to train for carjacking scenarios.
“That’s not something you want to do with your personal car,” Harter said. “On this one, the windshield’s gone, so you can’t hurt it.”
Having a website and social media presence is a big part of drawing in customers from around the world.
“I’ve had people here from 21 different countries,” Harter said. “They want to shoot, but they can’t do that at home.”
Lonny Liljegren, one of Harter’s employees, said he has seen people from all over the world stop in at the range.
“Just yesterday, a young man from Belgium was here,” Liljegren said.
The Outback Park and Public Range is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays and also on Mondays that are holidays. Adults can shoot at the range for $20 per day; children 14 and under for $8 per day. The range only accepts cash or checks.
For more information about Outback Park and Public Range, visit http://www.theoutbackpark.com or call 620-489-9407.
Contact Patricia Middleton by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.