Back in February, Marty Judnich, a personal injury and criminal defense attorney, took a gun safety course before obtaining a concealed weapon permit. He recalls having to go outside to practice shooting in inclement weather, and wondering why Missoula didn't have an indoor range.
His question soon became a mission: to open one. Last week, he submitted a proposal to build the city's first indoor shooting range, on North Avenue, which he envisions as a complement to the nearby Deep Creek and Deer Creek outdoor ranges.
"I wanted an indoor range where you're in a good, safe environment, not in a whole lot of danger, and there are people supervising you," Judnich says. "If you want instruction, you can get instruction. If you want some safety management, you can have safety management...It's a much safer environment to start learning how to use weapons."
The proposal comes as more and more Montanans are, like Judnich, buying and carrying guns. The Montana Department of Justice currently counts 26,230 concealed weapon permit holders, more than double the number of permits five years ago.
Roger Hinther, of the Hellgate Civilian Shooters Association, says he'd be "tickled to death" if an indoor range opens. His association operates a small indoor range in Bonner, but he says it's only suitable for small-caliber firearms. He sees real demand for a larger facility, like what Judnich proposes, with a bullet trap, ballistic protection, and sound absorbing technology.
So does Gary Marbut, of the Montana Shooting Sports Association. But he cautions that Montana's small population centers, combined with costly Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations, make it difficult for indoor ranges to pencil out—unless, he says, you cater to women, who tend to bring the entire family.
"Women seem to be the key," Marbut says. "And in order to attract women, you need...ambiance. You need a pro shop and a daycare center and a food court and nice colors and cleanliness."
Judnich hasn't quite gotten that far in planning the Red Star Indoor Shooting Range, as he'd call it. He says he hopes to open it this summer.