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Firing range to be updated

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By The Staff

Jenny Hartley

jhartley@thelancasternews.com

A recent federal grant hit the bullseye for the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office.

The $89,435 grant, from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs, will allow the sheriff’s office to do state-of-the-art renovations at the existing firing range, at the Lancaster city limits. The range is shared by the Lancaster Police Department.

The grant does not require a match from Lancaster County.

Lancaster County Sheriff-elect Barry Faile said the sheriff’s office is in discussions right now with the city about renovating the old range. County officials had previously talked about building a new range on Lynwood Drive.

It would be cost effective to renovate instead of build a new range, because the land is already cleared, it has electricity and the yardages for shooting are already marked, said sheriff’s office training Sgt. Jeff Hilton.

There are six stationary targets at the range now. With the renovations, there will be 12 targets which turn 360 degrees in both directions. This could simulate a target, or suspect, and a civilian – a situation in which an officer would have to make a life or death decision.

The targets can be turned in two-tenths of a second. Behind the targets are dual track runners, on which a stationary target may be placed and moved from side to side, creating distractions and training the officer in decision-making, Hilton said.

The “photo-realistic” targets will look like real people. Some will pose a threat, being pictured holding a knife or gun, while another could be a civilian holding a cell phone, for example. This will teach officers to identify threats before firing, Hilton said.

“This is important for officers,” he said. “They’re faced with split-second decisions and the only way to make them accurately and correctly is to provide that kind of realistic training.”

The course will be computerized and controlled by a laptop computer.

A new 20-foot berm will be built behind the targets, and there will also be a knee wall, which will help prevent ricochets. A Lancaster Police Department officer was injured in 2006 from a ricochet at the firing range.

Action Target, a Utah company, is slated to do the work.

The equipment is being manufactured now, and work on the range should take about a month, Hilton said.

When complete, Lancaster’s range will be the most modern in the area.

Hilton and Faile say they are thankful to U.S. Congressman John Spratt, who made sure the funds were earmarked for Lancaster.

“It’s a win-win situation for both agencies,” Hilton said.

Officers receive firearms training and then have to qualify again with their weapons during a year, often training day or night.

The training requires four hours of classroom work, and Faile said he’d eventually like to see a classroom built at the range.

Contact senior reporter Jenny Hartley at 283-1151