How To

Road Trip for Shooters: Arizona’s Desert Beckons

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shotgun shells

Ben Avery Shooting Range Facility in Phoenix, Arizona is Disneyland for sport shooting enthusiasts. It is the largest publicly operated, state-owned shooting facility in the United States and spans 1,650 acres that include rifle, archery, pistol, trap, sporting clay and skeet ranges. With 102 full-service RV spaces, Ben Avery makes the perfect spring break vacation spot for families who love camping, shooting and spending time in the desert.

Prep for the trip

We know experienced campers don’t need to be reminded what to pack for a trip to the desert, but keep in mind the dry air and what exposure to the elements does to your firearms. Before you hit the road, clean your firearms and ensure they are well lubricated and have no gas leaks. Zero percent humidity can dry out o-ring seals, which are easy and inexpensive to replace, and if not working properly can frustrate shooters when casings don’t eject properly.

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Ben Avery’s Clay Target Center rents 12 and 20 gauge shotguns and sells ammunition for about the same low prices as Wal-Mart.

Plan your time

The Arizona Game & Fish Department runs the facility, which is totally self-supported and uses no tax dollars. Expect the ranges to be busy on weekends and on sunny, breezy days. Check its calendar of events and consider booking during one of the tournaments. The facility is great about keeping ranges open to the public during busy tournaments, and your family will enjoy watching the experts compete.

If you are newer to clay shooting, at the far west end of the clay target area is a pattern-board testing range, which shooters use to check alignment of their aim. Set your aim at 16 feet or more, aim at the hole in the metal-plated board and the greasepaint traps the pattern of your spray. You’ll be able to gauge whether your aim is too high, too low, too left or too right.

The beginner-level six-station sporting clay Quail Course is the next best place to go for newer shooters and those who haven’t fired in a while. The die-hard regulars use different guns with different sights for skeet, trap and sporting clays, but for out-of-towners looking to hone their skills or try something new, try a basic 12-gauge like the popular Remington 1100 semi-automatic or Beretta Urika AL 391.

Feel free to ask the main office for a range master to meet at a range to help you get started. Flag them down if you have problems with your guns or the clay launchers.

Try something new

The Rattlesnake Sporting Clays Course has 15 stations connected by a smooth gravel footpath, and rental carts are available to make carrying weapons and ammo easier. If feeling super confident about your skills, try the bunker course, which will put your ego in check. It’s not easy!

The center has 16 lighted trap and skeet fields with voice-activated or manual releases. First-time shooters should use the manual-operated releases as newer users tend to be noisy and inadvertently let clays fly (to the friendly annoyance of your fellow shooters).

Trap and skeet cost $6 per round, sporting clays start at $10 per round, loaner guns are $10 a day and camping fees start at $25 per day (weekly and monthly rates available). The RV camping facility has full laundry services, mail (for its longer-term winter visitors), water and electric. For shopping and dining needs, the Outlets at Anthem are 10 minutes north of Ben Avery, and Desert Ridge Marketplace mall is about 20 minutes southeast. The towns of Carefree and Cave Creek provide charming boutique-style shopping and dining and are directly 15 miles east on the Carefree Highway.

Image courtesy Digital Pros

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