BELLA VISTA -- One of the area's only outdoor shooting ranges has been a popular place over the past year.
Despite many venues having to limit or close due to covid-19, the Property Owners Association's Highlands Sporting Range has been full of activity. In fact, the rifle and pistol range has seen "incredible" numbers, according to John Urquhart, the Property Owners Association's assistant superintendent of lakes, parks and fisheries.
"It been a very popular past year for our rifle and pistol range," he said. "There are a few indoor ranges in the area but not many outdoor ranges. It gave people an opportunity to get outdoors and do something when a lot of things closed down."
Urquhart also credits a rise in firearms sales to the increased popularity of the ranges, which are limited to Property Owners Association members and their guests.
"There has been quite a bit of increase in people buying firearms and that's probably due to several reasons," he said. "But I think in general people are just looking for a way to get outdoors. Just like how kayaks and bike sales also went through the roof this past year."
Gun classes were full last fall and spots in upcoming classes are filling up quickly. The next round of classes starts with a regular concealed carry class on March 7.
"We have a pretty good waiting list for our spring classes," Urquhart said. "Typically, we don't do classes in the deep, deep winter."
A basic pistol class starts March 9 and the range also hosts an Arkansas enhanced concealed carry class.
"We bring in an instructor who is certified by the state to teach our classes," Urquhart said.
The basic pistol class is designed for beginners or anyone needing a refresher course and teaches fundamental skills and the knowledge necessary for responsibly owning and operating a pistol.
Participants learn about gun safety, pistol parts and operation, and ammunition types. The basic course includes approximately eight hours of classroom time and two hours of range instruction and is split over three days. The cost of the basic class is $135 forProperty Owners Association members and $150 for guests of members and is limited to six participants.
The concealed carry class is four hours in a classroom followed immediately by a live-fire qualification at the pistol range. The course is designed for those who have experience with firearms and focuses on the laws and procedures someone needs to know to apply for a concealed carry permit for the state of Arkansas. This course also meets the requirements for anyone who needs to renew a permit with the state or transfer a permit from another state.
After completion of the concealed class, participants submit paperwork and fingerprints to the Arkansas State Police. The cost of the concealed class is $80 for Property Owners Association members and $90 for guests of members. Renewal permits are $40 for members and $45 for guests of members.
The Arkansas enhanced concealed carry class reintroduces people to the knowledge and skills necessary for owning and using a handgun for personal protection. Participants learn how to correctly and responsibly interact with law enforcement and the general public and also what to do when confronted with an active shooting situation.
Classes are broken into two sessions of three hours each for instruction and two-hour skills training on a live range. The enhanced class is $120 for Property Owners Association members and $130 for guests of members.
"Our basic class is meant for beginners or for a person who hasn't shot in a number of years," Urquhart said. "Then our regular concealed carry, there isn't a whole lot of teaching. This class would be for a person typically competent with a firearm and really teaches about the laws of Arkansas."
More information on the courses can be obtained by calling (479) 855-5067.
Gun Range Classes
• March 7: Regular concealed carry, 12:30-5 p.m.
• March 9, 11, 12: Basic pistol, 5-9 p.m.
• March 21: Regular concealed carry, 12:30-5 p.m.
• April 13, 15, 16: Basic pistol, 5-9 p.m.
• April 18: Regular concealed carry, 12:30-5 p.m.