- The Washington Times - Monday, February 9, 2009

The largest shooting range in the country is set to open this week in Northern Virginia with a focus on helping residents, members of the military and police officers protect themselves in schools, homes and other real-life situations.

“It is unrealistic for anyone to think you will always be engaging or defending from a fixed position, where someone is just directly in front of you,” said Scott Marquez, president of the Silver Eagle Group Training Facility and Private Club, in Ashburn. “A lot of people in this area and around the country carry a firearm for self-defense, yet have very little training.”

The sprawling, 65,000-square-foot facility includes three firing ranges, a training classroom and “scenario areas,” including a two-story home and spaces designed to look like family rooms or nightclubs with sofas and a pool table.

Mr. Marquez said he conceived the facility after years of traveling to others across the country and asking owners what changes they would make.

“It was good, because as much as I learned about how they operated and what they did - almost everyone had a story about what they would do if they had it to do all over again,” he said. “Gathering that sort of information was extremely valuable.”

As a result, the Northern Virginia facility includes raised baffling so the ceiling and targets in the ranges do not appear too low, wider lanes so shooters don’t feel “squished” against the walls of the ranges and a speaker system that allows officials to talk to every shooter at once or to an individual shooter.

The facility also offers self-defense training for groups and families, and sessions can be conducted in low-light settings or complete darkness.

“You have the right [to a gun], and you want to make sure you have the knowledge and responsibility that goes with it,” Mr. Marquez said.

The scenario rooms are divided by doors, intersections and alleys, which he said is vital to training exercises.

“If you´re not interacting with the interior and the exterior of the structure, then it´s not a realistic training experience,” Mr. Marquez said.

Officials said they can handle any size group and that the facility even includes space for scenarios inside a bus, an airplane, a sport utility vehicle or an 18-wheeler.

They also said the facility is prepared to help customers at every level of experience and offers a variety of training options.

People new to guns are taught with marking rounds, which are similar to paintballs but can be loaded into a real gun.

The facility also has a range of payment options - from day passes to the Founders Package, which includes a complimentary AR-15 style Bushmaster semi-automatic rife, valued at roughly $1,000.

“The Founders Wing is not designed like a normal country club,” Mr. Marquez said. “Most people in this area already have a country club membership. They already have the green carpet and brown chairs, so they don´t need that again. We purposely gave it a different look.”

Story Continues →