On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Avery Niles and his planning and preparedness director Scott Cagle took aim on the Hall County firing range.
Though both are former Hall County law enforcement officials — Niles as the Hall County Correctional Institute warden and Cagle as the fire marshal — the two illustrate how the training facility has become a hub for law enforcement.
“Other agencies probably use this facility every bit as much as we do,” Sheriff’s Office Deputy Stephen Wilbanks said.
With the range malfunctioning, the Sheriff’s Office is looking to expand and repair the system with up to $1.7 million of help from the FBI.
One of the more “problematic” aspects of the range is the turning target system. The targets are on a pneumatic system connected to an air compressor, Wilbanks said.
“It leaks and sometimes it’s just not reliable,” the deputy said. “Sometimes it works and sometimes it won’t.”
The targets are exposed to the elements, which has caused targets to not turn properly.
“It’s hard to keep that condensation out of it,” said Sgt. Layne Acrey of the Sheriff’s Office training division.
The turning targets are crucial for the annual state-mandated qualifications course for law enforcement officers, where the target becoming perpendicular to the shooter shows when time is up.
“When our system’s not functioning, we actually have to have one of the firearms instructors blow a whistle to let the shooters know when their shooting window is,” Wilbanks said. “It’s not as accurate in terms of the timing.”
The Sheriff’s Office plans to move to an electronic system, with one range of 10 lanes and another with 20 lanes.
“In this new system, I can turn one target or the other,” Acrey said. “That’s going to be a big, big help.”
The separation allows groups to run one scenario for qualifications while another can set up “dynamic, real-world scenarios,” Wilbanks said.
“In this situation, we have to break down one scenario to set up another,” he said.
The expanded center will include classrooms on a section of county-owned land adjacent to the existing Allen Creek Training Center.