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New shooting range for sheriff’s office, FBI nearing completion
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Construction workers build a concrete wall at a new FBI and Hall County gun range that is under construction along Allen Creek Road in Gainesville on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. - photo by David Barnes

Overlooking the existing Hall County Sheriff’s Office firing range, Deputy Stephen Wilbanks stood at the new range being built nearby. The new range was previously consumed in a “hardwood forest.”

Wilbanks said it has been a “tremendous undertaking” to clear and flatten the area for the new shooting range on Allen Creek Road. In September 2016, the FBI agreed to fund up to $1.7 million for the project, which will be used by both agencies.

The federal agency needs to recertify its marksmen each year, and the closest facility with a long enough rifle range is in south Georgia, according to the county.

Contractors were expected to move around 95,000 yards of earth for the entire project’s foundation.

Wilbanks said the goal is to have the range open after the beginning of 2018, barring any weather delays.

One of the main changes coming is in the target ranges. At the existing range, the targets all move at once and cannot be individually operated.

“The system that will be over here is going to be computer-controlled, where you can program in a series of fire that requires each target to move individually at different times that will remain facing the shooter for a set period of time,” Wilbanks said.

The targets will face two identical ranges of 15 lanes each, all of them with a 100-yard maximum distance.

Inside a glass-encased range tower, the range master can control the target systems on either side and be the safety officer.

The computer-controlled targets will allow agencies to shoot the more advanced firearms courses.

There is also an area for steel targets that can accommodate a handful of shooters.

“You have to exercise a little bit more caution with steel. That’s why we have the concrete barrier over here,” Wilbanks said.

Members from the Department of Juvenile Justice, Forsyth County law enforcement and other agencies commonly use the range.

“I’m sure once it’s fully open we’ll start entertaining some requests,” Wilbanks said regarding any increased interest in the advanced range.