HARKER HEIGHTS — J.C. Schoel couldn’t shake a nagging ambition planted by his church friends.
The Harker Heights resident said he looked for an excuse to ditch his idea to build an indoor shooting range at the corner of Lookout Ridge Boulevard and Edwards Drive. Then, his pastor unexpectedly supported him and Police Chief Mike Gentry signed his application for a firearms license.
His wife, Jenny, would definitely reject the idea, he thought.
“She folded up her laptop, set it down … and I thought she was about to unload on me,” Schoel said. “And she turned and looked at me, and very matter-of-fact, said, ‘I think that is a fantastic idea.’”
After two workshops, the Harker Heights City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the use of long guns and handguns bigger than .46 caliber at indoor shooting ranges.
The amended ordinance requires shot sounds to not be “plainly audible” on surrounding properties and dictates that indoor range owners maintain a $500,000-per-occurrence insurance policy.
Schoel, who owns Andersen Schoel Office Interiors, is analyzing the cost of the planned 20,000-square-foot building, which will require extensive engineering, he said. He aims to sell firearms and offer shooting classes, and wants to overbuild the facility to mitigate wait times and allow interior expansion.
He estimated completion between October 2014 and January 2015.
Hunters might prefer outdoor ranges, but enclosed facilities have certain advantages, Schoel said.
Set back in stalls, indoor targets self-retrieve, in contrast with stationary outdoor targets that can be retrieved only after all shooters cease fire and empty magazines, he said.
Indoor shooters can set their own shot lengths.
“You have less down time, which equates to more shooters on the range, which equates to more revenue potential,” Schoel said.
To get a building permit, Schoel must submit state-of-the-art concept plans to the council and Planning and Zoning Commission, outlining how the architecture will contain all projectiles and shot noises.
“In a properly controlled environment, it’s probably as safe as any other business,” said Heights resident Jack Greenwell, who taught firearms safety for three years. “You have a lot of energy in a bullet. It’s moving forward, and it takes a lot of force to stop. You can either reflect it or absorb it.”
Most indoor ranges hang pieces of perfectly angled steel to stop bullets, he said.
Brad D. Bryan, a pistol and rifle shooter, prefers indoor ranges because of retrievable targets, he said. He hopes Schoel’s range sells guns and ammunition.
“Ventilation will be a big key,” said Bryan, a Killeen resident. “It amazes me with Killeen being a big military town and the soldiers being into guns, that there’s not an indoor range right now.”