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No ammo? No problem! Gun range switches to laser 'bullets'

WSET Lynchburg/Roanoke logo WSET Lynchburg/Roanoke 2/25/2021 Christina Thompson
a man standing in front of a computer © Provided by WSET Lynchburg

Nationwide, the US is experiencing an ammunition shortage.

The National Rifle Association predicts the ammunition shortage will last through the end of this year.

The NRA says during the pandemic, roughly 7 million people bought guns for the first time. Gun sales increased by 73% compared to the year before. The NRA says this put strain on ammunition supplies.

a man standing in front of a computer © Provided by WSET Lynchburg

Before the shortage, local gun range instructors said you could get a 50-round box of 9mm range ammo for $10 to $15. Now, that same box of ammo will run you between $35 to $50.

One gun range in our area is saying "no ammo, no problem."

Black Target Firearms in Appomattox is changing the way you practice shooting on a range. You can practice shooting using their laser range.

a man standing in front of a desk © Provided by WSET Lynchburg

You can either use the laser with your own firearm or with one of their laser-ammo-specific guns.

The laser slips right into the barrel. Then, you just shoot.

The range is a large indoor room with a computer and a projector. It’s essentially one big technology hub that’s all connected. After loaded in a gun, the laser works when it hits the scenario range projected. 

© Provided by WSET Lynchburg

The software picks up where the laser bullets hit each time. It’s not physically cutting through anything-- the computer system just makes it look like it is.

"It is more sophisticated, but it's kind of like a videogame for adults," says Gene Riffey, a regular at the laser range. "There's obviously a little bit of a difference, but the firearm is very similar to the one I use. I don't get the blowback or kick that I get with the real firearm."

RELATED: Gun shop owners feel effects of nationwide supply shortage

The range-supplied gun he's using is not equipped with a recoil feature.

But Black Target Firearms Instructor Gloria Krauklis says the lack of power is easily remedied by adding a kickback feature, which makes it feel more like live ammo shooting.

If you like to shoot far, the computer system can also generate a target at any distance that you’d see on a regular range.

Plus, more.

graphical user interface © Provided by WSET Lynchburg

"We have multiple scenarios. Competition, steel plates or going through different courses of competition," says Krauklis. "There are also targets you can place around the room and practice your aiming and speed and accuracy.” 

Krauklis says the idea for a laser gun range started after seeing it demonstrated at a gun show in Las Vegas.

But it took a pandemic and national ammunition shortage to finally pull the trigger.

Shooting with a laser costs $20 for a half-hour or $30 for a full hour. Once you're set up and shooting, the laser has an unlimited number of shots.

RELATED: High demand, manufacturing and legal issues cause ammo to remain in short supply

"It's very cost-effective," says Krauklis. 

Still, even with all its perks, both Kauklis and Riffey agree: laser ammo will never replace live ammunition.

"They'll never shift away from live ammo," says Krauklis. "This just allows them to continue developing skills preparing for live ammo shoot."

Black Target Firearms is located in Appomattox just off Richmond Highway. They are open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday or by appointment. 


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