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Engage Virtual Range

Virtual shooting ranges — they are a fairly new business concept for the general public and their popularity is growing quite fast. There is only a handful in all of Ohio and luckily for our readers, two of them are right here in our backyard.

Chad Wilson is part-owner of Engage Virtual Range in Medina and Avon Lake, and feels like he has gotten into the business at the right time. Right now, gun sales are soaring all across the country and ammunition is expensive. Because of this, visiting a virtual shooting range is a great alternative to the traditional live-ammunition shooting range. A virtual shooting range simulator offers an educational, fun, safe and judgment-free environment for shooters whose skills range from those who are just picking up a gun for the first time to expert marksmen. 

"We feel this is a good place for anybody to come learn. Whether you are law enforcement or just a recreational shooter, we offer an environment that has been stripped down of all the typical things you might see and hear at a traditional range," Chad says.

When you make a reservation for a simulated session at Engage, you are automatically assigned with an instructor and given a private shooting area, or "SIM bay" to practice in. 

"We get fantastic reviews about our instructors. Most are retired law enforcement or have a military background.  They are here because they are passionate about teaching and they are here to coach and encourage. We truly operate in a "judgment-free" area that the customers really appreciate," Chad explains. 

The environment at Engage is a big selling point to customers. It is spacious, clean, quiet and relaxing. When you get into the practice area, you will find four different styles of handguns and one rifle to choose from. Terry Helton, Engage's Director of Training, was there to help me on the day of my visit and as a fairly inexperienced shooter, I can tell you that his demeanor and professionalism put me right at ease as I tried out each of the different guns.

The thing that impressed me the most was how strongly Terry emphasized the importance of handling the virtual gun the same way that you would handle a gun with live ammunition in it. 

"You can just as easily learn bad fundamentals as you can learn good fundamentals," Terry says. "And even though these guns are obviously equipped with lasers and not real bullets, you should handle it the exact same way as you would with a real gun."

Virtual guns at a virtual shooting range are weighted to feel like the real thing, but instead of bullets, there's a laser on the barrel that interacts with a large high-definition screen — much like that in a golf simulator. While there are target shooting training modes and games to shoot, there are also real-life scenarios where law enforcement and gun owners can hone their defense skills. 

For instance, there is a close-quarter combat simulation for police to practice with and also a simulation for concealed carry gun owners that simulates a car-jacking or robbery while behind the wheel of your car. These kinds of scenarios cannot be duplicated at a live gun range but at Engage Virtual Range, you can safely practice how to react a high-stress situation. 

As you might expect, a virtual range is a great way to introduce gun safety and shooting skills to women who are interested in learning how to shoot a gun. In a lot of cases, the environment at a live-ammunition range may be a bit overwhelming and intimidating for both women and men, but women, in particular, have found great comfort in the virtual range setting. 

All beginners can practice with a non-recoil pistol for warmup, going at their own pace with no pressure to be fast or deal with the recoil of a weapon. As their comfort level improves, they can move on to some paced exercises where personal scores are kept so they can see their progress as they go. It's a great way to practice and develop a comfort level with guns.

Chad says that they get all kinds of customers looking for different things to work on, but one of the elements of his business that he didn't anticipate being so popular when they opened was the number of businesses who were interested in holding corporate events at Engage. Once he recognized the possibilities of what corporate events could look like, he took it upon himself to develop content and team-building exercises for the events. He explains how there are competitions and "missions" that different departments of a corporation can compete against one another with and how much fun the businesses have with it.

When you visit Engage online — EngageVirtualRange.com — you will find other information about group events and parties as well as individual sessions and training programs. Prices for the reservations depend on various factors, so the best way to find the event and price you are looking for is to go to their website and view their detailed information about different packages. The Medina location is located at 5035 Beach Rd. 

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