For the most part, Nevada is a blue state, but it’s red shines through now and then. With the recent voter-approval of Question 1, resulting in required background checks for private gun sales, the stereotype of our Silver State as the Wild West is starting to crumble. Even before this, though, the beautiful and pristine county-operated range has done much to legitimize the sport and recreation since opening in 2010. Public shooting has never been so easy or elegant.
Layered within the subtly rolling foothills of the Sheep Mountain Range on the Vegas Valley’s northern edge, the outdoor Clark County Shooting Complex is a fully loaded Mecca for gun enthusiasts. It’s a daylong affair, so fuel up your hybrid, which will stand out in a parking lot full of trucks, before heading north on Decatur Boulevard. It takes roughly 35 minutes from downtown. Once you’re in the park, drive through the first roundabout, skip the park office and head right to the Shotgun Center. Think you need to buy a license and/or registration? You don’t. You just need to be 21 to rent. This is Nevada, baby!
Here in the pro shop you can rent a Beretta for $10 an hour or $20 for three hours and shoot trap or skeet, which costs around seven bucks for 25 birds per round. Shooting gear—eyewear and earplugs—costs extra. There’s a grill offering burgers and salads and pulled pork in case you work up a hunger and forgot to pack lunch. Check in at the customer-service desk, watch a safety video, sign a form and bring your gun and ammo to a range safety officer. There are no Yosemite Sams employed at this facility; everyone is professional and groomed and the shop is staffed with fresh-faced millennial women, so there’s no gender imbalance.
Time to shoot. If you’re doing trap/skeet, keep your unloaded shotgun open. A safety officer will show you to one of the stations and give you instructions. (Check out the water fountains, soda machines, gun racks and mesquite trees.) One shell at a time, please. The view from the sporting-clay stations (for which you’ll need a radio-frequency ID card from the shop) is even more impressive as you look out toward the Strip. But without renting a gas-powered car ($25 for three hours), it’s a really long, if deeply relaxing, stroll. Still, it’s all reasonably priced.
If you prefer to get your Katniss Everdeen on, there’s the adjacent Archery Center. Renting a bow and eight arrows costs 10 bucks and you must be 18. Or just continue driving deeper into the park where you’ll find the Rifle-Pistol Center. Semi-auto. Bolt-action. Full-bore. Whatever you want to shoot that isn’t a machine gun is here. (They’ll hang on to your ID in the shop.) And unlike the cheesy places near and behind the Strip, there’s no one really hovering over you. When you’ve convinced the safety officers that you’re competent, they’ll leave you alone.
I’m not going to lie: Even with earplugs, the concussive shots are spooky. But after an hour, it becomes like any other activity. And at the end of the day, you’ve learned a new skill—how to shoot safely, with a modicum of accuracy, for pleasure. Did I mention this place earned EPA recognition for its environmental stewardship?
The frontier might be slowly fading in Nevada, but the fun remains.
For more information on the Clark County Shooting Complex, visit clarkcountynv.gov