HOLT, Fla., Nov. 26, 2017—Southern Tactical Range is under construction.
While it’s not yet open for business, a limited “soft” opening is just around the corner, according to range co-owner Clay Bolton.
According to Bolton, once he gets those permits, he’s pulling the trigger and opening the gates to limited shooting opportunities.
“As soon as permitting comes in, we’ll have the paintball and sporting clay areas open,” he said.
If all the permits come through by the end of the month as expected, the first of many sport ranges on the 211-acre space will open for business before the end of the year.
Opening in phases, Southern Tactical will have ranges for pistol, rifle, sporting clay, trap, skeet, paintball and archery ranges—to include crossbow—for members and the public.
Immediately following the permit process, Southern Tactical will open four paintball fields, including a wooded area with bunkers and an open-field range with inflatable bunkers.
Also opening will be the sporting clay area. Covering 50 acres, this space will have 23 covered shooting stations with wireless trap machines.
Next to open will be the 25-yard pistol range with 50 shooting stations and a 100-yard rifle range with 27 shooting stations, for both public and private membership holders, and a members-only 600-yard firing range.
Available early next year will be a 600-yard multipurpose range and a 1,000-yard rifle range for members only. Members must qualify before being allowed to use these areas.
“All shooters must qualify to shoot any distance greater than 100 yards,” Bolton said.
In addition to the long-range shooting areas, a mock city target area will be available to members only. Covering 12 acres, the four-block city made of cargo containers will provide challenging search-and-clear opportunities simulating a Middle Eastern and a downtown “middle America” environment.
Range targets will include paper, steel three-dimensional and reactive. Training classes and instruction will also be available.
A membership lodge is planned for the future.
A 15-year trauma care nurse, Bolton put his career on hold the past year to concentrate on transforming wooded acres into an “elite shooting facility,” as described on the website.
But he’s not doing this by himself. He is co-owner of the range with his older brother, Curtis Bolton, a building construction consultant.
Their father, Philip Bolton, a retired Air Force senior master sergeant also pitches in to help.
“Now I’m retired and working for my son,” said the senior Bolton with a smile, who retired from Eglin Air Force Base in 1987. He now spends his time helping to bring the new range to life.
Born and raised in Okaloosa county, Bolton and his brother grew up around firearms. All three Bolton men are National Rifle Association instructors.
For Bolton, safety and sound mitigation are his number-one priorities.
“We planned and engineered this [facility] through NRA development,” he said.
The property abuts Interstate 10 to the south. To ensure safety and to keep stray rounds from the 1,000-yard range off the interstate, earth berms protect the highway.
“We are employing 40-to-45-foot backstops with side berms tapered from that height,” he said. “NRA recommends 20-to-25 [-foot] backstops. We’ve exceeded NRA standards.”
Elevation also helps.
“There is a 20-foot altitude difference from the north to south [end of the property],” Bolton said. This rise also helps mitigate stray bullets fired toward I-10.
Recognizing the need to be good neighbors, Bolton has used sound deadening techniques at the range to limit the noise from firearm discharges.
According to him, the range design has gone “above and beyond sound mitigation.”
Additionally, there’s a 200-foot buffer of natural growth around the property to help mitigate sound, he said.
Southern Tactical Range is accepting a limited number of annual memberships with an extra six-month incentive if purchased before Nov. 30.
Active-duty and retired military, law enforcement and first responders can receive a 10-percent membership discount.
While the public is invited to enjoy portions of the range, the majority of the shooting facility is available only to members.
The goal, said Bolton, is to provide a no-wait range, where members can come in and not have to stand around waiting for range time.
The facility is designed with the possibility to host shooting competitions in the future. Rather than closing the range during competitions, Southern Tactical intends to have range space available for members at all times.
Bolton’s aim is to create a family atmosphere at Southern Tactical, a place where there’s “something for everyone,” he said.
Once permits are approved, Southern Tactical Range will be open six days a week, Tuesday through Sunday.