Seeking to create Coconino County’s first indoor shooting range for people to practice skills, participate in competitions and learn how to be safe with guns, Rob and Elise Wilson are aiming to open Timberline Firearms and Training in early 2017.
The couple purchased land in East Flagstaff on U.S. Highway 89 and Copeland Lane to build the 10,000-square-foot facility, which will house a full retail store with firearms, ammunition and accessories, a classroom for training, and twelve 25-yard indoor lanes.
“We’ll be providing everything needed for all skill levels – from someone who has never handled a firearm before to competitive shooters and law enforcement officers,” said Rob Wilson. “Our retail store will stock those supplies and accessories that we, ourselves, have confidence in to deliver what they promise. With both a classroom and indoor range, we’ll be conducting courses that run the gamut from firearms introduction courses to advanced skills in firearms, first aid, survival and other training.”
The couple recently received unanimous approval for a conditional use permit on the Timberline property from the Coconino County Planning and Zoning Commission.
“We were both humbled and seriously impressed by the support the community showed at the hearing. Nearly a hundred folks showed up to voice their support for the project and did such a great job that the commission applauded the crowd. Those speaking in support ranged from grandmothers to NAU students and youth shooters. We also heard concerns from some, and we’re designing our facility in a way to ensure we’ll be good neighbors,” he said.
Since the project’s inception, the Wilsons addressed questions about noise.
“When we submitted our application for the conditional use permit, we had committed to sound levels not exceeding 55 decibels to ensure that we would not adversely impact our neighbors,” said Rob. “For reference, 55 decibels is quieter than a normal conversation and much quieter than the existing sound from Highway 89. Our range design is such that it will contain the sound. It will be constructed using eight-foot thick concrete walls. Just like other ranges in Camp Verde and the Valley, you won’t be able to hear anything outside of our building.”
Timberline Firearms and Training also plans to recycle all of the spent brass and copper rounds. Meantime, the Wilsons are working to relocate the prairie dogs that live on the property.
“Elise, being the animal lover that she is, was concerned about the prairie dogs and contacted Habitat Harmony in Flagstaff. They contacted Game and Fish and it turns out the prairie dogs are needed on the Kaibab [National Forest] to repopulate a colony that was decimated by the plague. In August, after the pups are old enough, we will do the relocation, which will take time and money. Look for a ‘GoFundMe’ account soon!”
“Most of the funding for this effort is being provided by a small grant through the Arizona Game and Fish Department,” said Urban Wildlife Planner Hannah Griscom, who works out of the Lake Mary office. “There are several sites with existing burrow systems that could receive the colony, but we are still in the process of working out the details with the receiving land owners”.
Griscom and Habitat Harmony’s Emily Nelson Renn are coordinating the effort with the Wilsons.
In the last decade, the couple has become more active in competitive shooting sports. As a result of that, they say they recognized the unfilled need in Northern Arizona for a safe and environmentally friendly place to practice.
“Nationwide, there is approximately one indoor range for every 18,000 people,” said Rob. “A lot of folks in Flag have traditionally used the forest to practice. This is becoming increasingly difficult with forest roads being closed, fire restrictions and winter weather.”
Elise is a regular participant in Cowboy Mounted Shooting (horseback) competitions. She is a state co-leader of The Well Armed Woman, a national non-profit educational organization, and conducts classes for women who want to learn how to shoot.
“Learning to be comfortable and competent with a gun has increased my confidence in shooting and everything else,” said Elise. “I’ve also found it to be a really fun sport. It’s something Rob and I enjoy doing together. I also believe everyone should learn how to safely handle guns. We want to offer free training on the basics of firearms and work with local organizations to ensure the widest possible exposure to firearms safety.”
Timberline Firearms and Training will be offering the NSSF (National Shooting Sports Foundation) sponsored First Shots program for people who have never handled or fired a pistol.
The indoor shooting range will be available to the public to rent lanes by the hour. Target carriers will be programmed with courses to challenge even the most experienced shooters and a live video simulation system will provide more than 700 different scenarios. Memberships will be offered as well, with benefits such as free use of the range, discounts on training and merchandise, and access to a private members’ lounge. The Wilsons also plan to be a resource for law enforcement agencies and other groups, including shooting leagues.
The Timberline Firearms and Training business plan calls for hiring 12 to 15 full-time highly trained employees. “These will be jobs that don’t exist in the area today with attractive salaries and benefits packages,” said Rob.
Currently, the Wilsons are finalizing the building and range design. They are shooting for a grand opening celebration in January or February.
“We are very excited to be able to share the sport with others and to promote safe, responsible firearms ownership and use,” said Elise.
By Bonnie Stevens
Elise and Rob Wilson scope out their East Flagstaff site where they will build the Timberline Firearms and Training facility. The business is expected to bring more than a dozen new jobs to the area.