Simulator shooting at Myrtle Beach Indoor Shooting Range

dbryant@thesunnews.comJune 29, 2011 

The spot at the Myrtle Beach Indoor Shooting Range that used to showcase 100-plus-year-old guns now is the home of the newest shooting technology.

The moving target range lets folks fire real guns outfitted with lasers to shoot animated targets projected on large screens, with several options such as Wild West themes or bull's-eyes. If you don't have a gun, there are real ones available, as well as laser-equipped simulator pistols.

The latest addition takes over the space formerly filled with the South Carolina Civil War Museum, which moved to a larger space in the shooting range building.

Police officers have used simulated technology for training for years, but it hasn't been used by average folks on a large scale. It's so new that officials with the National Shooting Sports Foundation said they didn't know enough about it to comment for this story.

Ted Gragg, owner of the Myrtle Beach Indoor Shooting Range, said he turned to the technology out of concern about the possibility of stricter gun laws coming from new leadership in Washington after the last national election. And it's also an alternative for shooters who want to save a few bucks on bullets, with costs of ammunition skyrocketing in recent years, he said.

Prices for some ammunition doubled in 2009 and 2010, but has eased in recent months, though it's still much higher than in 2007, according to the National Rifle Association.

It costs $15 for 30 minutes of simulator shooting at the Myrtle Beach Indoor Shooting Range.

"The economy has a lot to do with it because of the cost of ammunition," Gragg said. "It's cheaper for the shooters."

Shooting ranges across the country have tried to adapt to rising ammunition costs, said Andrew Arulanandam, spokesman of the National Rifle Association.

"People are feeling the pinch of the economy, and this is just companies being innovative to address these concerns," he said.

The simulator provides a shooting experience without the recoil or the loud noise that comes with firing bullets from a gun. That makes it ideal for beginners to get a feel for shooting before moving to the real thing, Gragg said.

The shooting simulators don't impress Will Abbott, owner of Coastal Sports and Range in Murrells Inlet who doesn't plan to add them at his business. He compared it to playing tennis on a Wii, but not being able to play on a court.

"It's just not the real world," he said.

Last week at the Myrtle Beach Indoor Shooting Range, retired Army Lt. Gen. James Vaught fired a few "rounds" at "Wild West" targets moving across a large screen 12 feet away, with the glass bottles making a shattering noise as the laser he fired hit them.

"It's effectively similar to give you the sensation [of shooting bullets at a target]," Vaught said after firing the 45 mm simulator pistol.

The indoor shooting range has two screens, with computers adjusting to simulate various distances from the targets. Gragg plans to add at least two more screens and resume weekly, in-house competitions using the simulators instead of the traditional range.

Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296.

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