In January, the Highway Patrol drew a bead on the vision of a new shooting range and training center north of Jefferson City.
On Wednesday, they pulled the trigger as the center opened and became operational.
Ground was broken in January for the new training facility on state-owned property off Missouri 179, not far from the old Church Farm Prison. The center will serve the patrol and other state agencies.
Previously, the patrol did not have an outdoor shooting range and had to use ranges owned by state or local agencies and, in some cases, private gun clubs. Patrol officials said that resulted in scheduling difficulties and travel expenses.
The new facility accommodates rifle, shotgun and pistol training. There is a 150-yard range with 10 lanes and two 50-yard ranges. It includes: a 50-person classroom; a shoot house, which is a concrete/ballistic structure that can be used for tactical live-fire training; a bomb disposal area; and parking.
While there were many delays in opening the facility, Patrol Superintendent Eric Olson said it was worth the wait because the range provides amenities they are not used to having when they go to practice shooting.
"We have safety components, concrete structures and utilities," Olson said. "Throughout my 30-year career we've had to be pretty resourceful in our range training."
When you think of a rifle range, Olson said, you don't think of a classroom being included, but there is one in this facility, and that will allow their instructors and students every opportunity to become proficient in training and better equipping them for duty and how they respond to emergencies.
"The classroom is just as important of any component of the range," Olson said. "A classroom provides an opportunity for dialogue, testing of new skills and for every hour spent on the shooting range there is twice or three amounts of that time that's spent behind the scenes planning for success."
The range will be used by the patrol 20 weeks a year. It may also be used by other agencies receiving training at the patrol's Law Enforcement Academy in Jefferson City.
The Legislature appropriated $3.4 million for construction, but due to competitive bidding, the project cost just more than $1.9 million, state officials said.
Public Safety Director Sandra Karsten was patrol superintendent when the money was approved to build the range. She said the need for this facility was first talked about in 1985 when she was one of four women in the law enforcement academy.
"We had to use the range at the United Sportsman's Complex, and it was not convenient for women to use the bathroom there," Karsten said. "In 1990, we went to the California Shooters Club, which had a little better facilities. So walking in here today, one of the first things I did was check out the facilities, and I sincerely appreciate having this range available for training troopers and members of other area law enforcement agencies."
Karsten said those who come to this facility will be trained for activities they hope they'll never have to use, "but their training is expected by the public we serve."