Legendary “Gonzo” journalist, gun lover, and former Sugarloaf resident Hunter S. Thompson would have certainly approved of recent developments in the Lower Keys.
Just a couple weeks ago, the Big Coppitt Gun Club (BCGC) opened to the delight of island dwelling firearm fanatics who were in desperate need of a legitimate location to sight-in their sidearms.
On Tuesday afternoon in the lobby of the BCGC, a Key West resident and gun collector admitted, “I used to take my boat at least three miles (into the Gulf) and bring a box of dry coconuts with me, toss them into the water and…bloogh!,” he says while in a firing stance, clutching a hand full of air.
The lobby is a secure place where shooters sign in and don safety gear before passing through two locking metal door that lead to the range. The brand new, 2,500 sq ft building located at MM10.5 (Gulf) was built using tilt wall construction and features six shooting stalls, air conditioning and an air replacement system that eliminates lingering gunpowder smoke.
But the place still smells of…freedom.
Perched behind the lobby’s counter is a demure teacher, Kristen Condella, whose husband’s family opened the range to complement their Key West gun store, the Reel Deal. She fires off the range’s pricing like a master marksman snapping rounds into a 9 mm clip.
“$10 for a daily membership, $20 monthly, $200 annually, and we are featuring a Lifetime membership for only $450,” she says, adding that only a few introductory Lifetime memberships are still available.
And membership has its privileges. Discounts on ammo, firearms, lane rental, and accessories.
Lifetime members also receive free ear and eye protection and two paper targets per visit that are available in variety of flavors like the silhouette of a human, bottles, or the traditional pistol and rifle targets with hash marks and scoring rings for sighting in everything from .22 caliber target pistols to 30.06 rifles.
“We have a physical shooting area of 20 yards from the back of the traps to the shooting stalls,” said Sean Condella, one of the range’s co-owners. The fourth generation Conch’s affinity for firepower began nearly 20 years ago when he and some childhood friends enrolled in the Key West Explorers. The program, sponsored by the Key West Police Department, gave youngsters the opportunity to learn about law enforcement – and to qualify on the pistol range. “First year I got marksman and then every year after that I qualified at the highest level,” said Condella, who is staunch advocate for firearm safety having recently converted his wife to an enthusiast. “With proper training and safety, I think everyone should be able to protect themselves,” he said. “So take ‘em to range, put a .22 in their hands, and let them shoot!”
Big Coppitt Gun Club employs Tom Sawyer (left) Jordan Sands with recently killed target. Pictured with a Smith & Wesson M&P .22 cal. The rifle is basically an AR-15 replica that shoots smaller rounds. The M&P is rental ready along with an assortment of handguns in popular calibers.
The Big Coppitt Gun Club is located at 32 Palmetto Dr. and U.S. 1 at MM10.5. To unleash your inner-Dirty Harry, call 304.396.7388 or shoot over to www.bigcoppittgunclub.com.
What to know before you show
• No armor-penetrating or steel core rounds
• No incendiary or mollie coatings
• No reloads
• No felons (background check required)
• No firearms with velocity greater than 3200 feet per second
• No alcohol or drugs
• No rapid fire, double tap only
Concealed weapons classes now available!
Basic marksman classes now available!
Adult and young Adult Safety Classes coming soon!
The Constitution of the United States, 2nd Amendment:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.