There are certain calls that give police officers the feeling that the stuff is going to hit the fan. While en route to the scene, officers should be planning for multiple possibilities, with the knowledge that their skills are adequate. This is not the time to look back and wonder if they have trained enough with their weapon. Using a firearm proficiently is a skill that diminishes in the absence of continual training—you use it or lose it. However, people often say that it is like riding a bike—you never really forget. To an extent this is true. One doesn’t necessarily forget how to shoot, but one can become less efficient, which leads to a lack of confidence. On the street in a deadly force encounter, this could mean the difference between life and death.

With growing populations and expanding neighborhoods across the U.S., the space for building law enforcement shooting ranges diminishes. This is especially true for outdoor ranges, where noise becomes a serious issue for nearby citizens. But the Colonial Shooting Academy (CSA) in Richmond, Virginia, brings fresh hope to the dilemma of firearms training for law enforcement officers. The CSA recently opened in April 2012, in the urban sprawl of the Richmond metro area. The CSA is currently the largest indoor shooting range in the United States. They have a 60,000-square-foot building for training both law enforcement personnel and responsible civilian shooters.

Not Just A Range

During our meeting, CSA General Manager Ed Coleman made it apparent that he wanted to create a place that would meet the requirements of all law enforcement agencies, a place where small rural to large urban departments could come and train. Consequently, the physical layout of the facility is designed to meet everyone’s needs. Near the CSA’s entrance is a large retail area that includes both firearms and tactical gear. This is a one-stop shop for a police officer looking for on- and off-duty gear. For the officer right out of academy, this is the perfect place to find a quality off-duty firearm. What separates this place from other gun stores is that the customer has the opportunity to try out any gun they are interested in buying. For the most part, rookie officers do not have the money to go through several off-duty guns, so being able to try one before buying one enables them to make an informed choice.

Choice of Ranges

Past the retail area is the two main shooting ranges, which are available to law enforcement and the public. The first is a 25-yard range capable of serving as a departmental qualification range. This range has a MANCOM target system with programmable distances and time exposures; a master control for group qualifications (which can also be set for individuals practicing for their quals); and adjustable lighting for the entire range, for each specific target and for shooting in low-light and total-dark conditions. Note that white light, a flashing strobe light, or a flashing red or blue strobe light can be put on each target for simulating engagements on the streets. For larger departments, there is an additional seven-lane range upstairs that has all the same features as the 25-yard range. These ranges are available to law enforcement 24 hours a day, seven days a week—a huge plus for officers working a variety of shifts. An officer who works midnights can qualify on a midnight shift rather than being forced to come in during the day when their body is in shut-down mode and poorly functioning. Every range at CSA is rated up to and beyond .30-caliber ammunition. And CSA does not force its customers to buy their ammo—outside ammo can be used.

Getting Down to Business

The downstairs basement area is for law enforcement training only. This entire area is totally secure and even has a drive-in bay where undercover officers can covertly enter the building to train. The general public has no access to this area at any time. Coleman made it clear that law enforcement needs a dedicated area to learn and improve their specific skills.

Near the garage area there is a large room that is dedicated to physical training. The equipment in this area is set up for groups to work out as a team before continuing on to other activities. Here, training scenarios that put extreme stress on operators can be employed, to simulate actual missions. There is cardio equipment, spinning bikes and weight equipment.

The tactical range is adjacent to the physical training room, for ease of access during exercises. This is an open-area range that allows for more tactical shooting drills. The targets can be programmed to turn at different times for different durations of time and can be controlled remotely. Here, operators can practice transitions from target to target splits, as well as target discrimination training with shoot and no-shoot targets. There is also a Running Man Target system set up for shooting at a moving target (this isn’t the 18th century, when gunfights were often between two stationary parties). Shooting on the move at moving targets is important to practicing real-world shooting, and at this state-of-the-art tactical range, the possibilities are endless. But CSA’s absolute game changer is their 1,800-square-foot shoot house.

The Shoot House

The CSA shoot house is located next to the tactical range. It is rated for up to .30-caliber rifles and can be configured with sliding walls to create an absolute nightmare when it comes to training scenarios. The shoot house has master-controlled lighting and power to each room. And instead of a catwalk above, there is a video camera system that will make a recording of the training, which can then be downloaded onto a thumb drive and given to the team for debriefing and review. For added realism, the shoot house has an entrance designed for both mechanical and explosive breaching, so that a team can set up a complete mock mission from start to finish.

What It’s About

A rule that every officer lives by is to go home at the end of each shift. The only way to make sure of this is to train in realistic environments on a continual basis. With state-of-the-art features, the CSA offers a training facility for law enforcement officers, where they can better prepare for challenges on the street. When that “Oh stuff!” moment happens, officers will be better prepared and will make the appropriate decisions—and shots. For more information, please visit or call 804-266-2666.