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  Comments (12) Total Monday Apr. 21, 2014
Indoor Shooting Range Planned for Kalispell
Facility would be joint venture between SI Defense and Kalispell Police
SI Defense General Manager Josh Sonju shoots a blank round to test the gun's noise level in a building at 111 West Idaho. - Steele Williams/Flathead Beacon
About 15 people stood in the parking lot of a vacant building in Kalispell last week, waiting for the sound of gunfire. Eventually a shot rang out from inside the building, followed by five more – audible, though not necessarily loud. Nor was there any cause for alarm: the shots, fired by an AR-15, were blanks, and part of a demonstration to neighbors of the building on what the impacts of a planned indoor shooting range at 111 West Idaho Street would be.

The indoor shooting range would be housed in the building where a branch of First National Pawn was previously located, just west of the intersection of U.S. Highway 93 and U.S. Highway 2. And if the permitting process goes smoothly, the range could be up and running by the end of the year, according to Josh Sonju, the general manager of SI Defense, a local gun manufacturer building the facility as part of a joint venture with the Kalispell Police Department.

“I think this will be one of the premium shooting facilities in the country,” Kalispell Police Chief Roger Nasset said, while taking questions from the public gathered on the second floor of the building, where the actual shooting range would be located. “I would not be doing my due diligence if I didn’t believe it was as safe as it could be.”

The facility will be built with help from a $750,000 federal grant, through the Justice Department, providing a shooting range for police officers to train, as well as a place for local shooters to do so safely in what Sonju described as a “perfect marriage” between SI Defense and Kalispell.

An administrative conditional use permit is required to open a shooting range at that location, because it is located in a B-2 (General Business) zone, so the Kalispell Planning Department organized the shooting demonstration and notified neighbors within 150 feet of the building to address any concerns about potential noise. The application for a permit is an administrative decision, and would only go before the Planning Board or City Council, “if we can’t address comments adequately,” according to Kalispell Planning Director Tom Jentz.

The intent of the demonstration last week was to show the level of noise from gunfire prior to the approximately $100,000 in soundproofing insulation Terry Kramer, the general contractor for the project, said would be installed.

“I think you’ll be amazed how little you’re going to hear and we’ve done nothing,” Kramer said.

The facility would also include 15 lanes with a 50-yard range and 25-yard range; a ventilation and air filtration system estimated at $250,000; armor plating in the floors, ceiling and walls; a “simulation room” for law enforcement use only; a retail space and “snail trap” for decelerating spent rounds and dropping them in a bucket.

Sonju visited 10 ranges around the country to develop the design and safety procedures for an indoor shooting range in Kalispell.

“We’re taking the best of every range that we’ve been to and incorporating it into our facility,” Sonju said.

Though not everyone supports the firing range at 111 West Idaho. Bill and Diane Yarus, of Airworks Heating and Cooling Professionals, wrote a letter to the Planning Department registering their concerns that “lead and gaseous pollutants” from gunpowder would be sufficiently filtered and diluted before leaving the building.

“What air testing procedures or alarms will be used to monitor the exhaust to insure safe air quality for neighboring properties?” the Yaruses wrote. “An indoor firing range is best situated farther away from other structures and their mechanical systems.”

During the demonstration, questions also centered around the size of the guns to be fired at the range. Sonju said it would be able to accommodate rounds as large as .50 caliber, though most shooting would be from pistols.

Jan Kartheiser, who lives in the house next to the planned facility, said she is pleased the range will likely create several jobs, and will provide a benefit for those who wish to shoot safely. Nor is she worried about noise.

“I’m confident that with all the upgrades they’re going to do that it’s not going to be an issue,” Kartheiser said. “I’m very, very pleased.”
On 08-08-11, Vud commented....
There are two other 2010 appropriations requests for ranges in MT together totaling $1,655,000. As seen here… http://rehberg.house.gov/uploads/fy2010requests.pdf
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