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o make sure that stray bullets don’t escape from the shooting range that he has built on his farm, a short distance up Va. 811 from that highway’s intersection with U. S. 460. In fact, Hooper said that the berms around the range will stop an anti-tank weapon.
This week the Bedford County Board of Supervisors put to rest any doubt as to whether he will be able to use it. On a unanimous vote the supervisors approved a special use permit allowing the shooting range to operate. That vote came a week after the Bedford County Planning Commission unanimously recommended that a special use permit not be granted for the range.
Late last month the supervisors approved the rezoning of 21 acres of Hooper’s property that would allow for the shooting range to be constructed.
In constructing the range, Hooper dug in 30-feet below ground level so that shooters will actually fire into the earth and it’s constructed so that the range is surrounded by earth on three sides. It’s only open at the rear.
It consists of two sections, a rifle and pistol range and a tactical section with structure mock-ups. These sections are separated by a thick earthen berm. The range portion also has a barrier between the 25-yard range and the 50-range. The barrier consists of two thick oak planks with a space in between them that will be filled with gravel. Hooper said that this will stop a high-powered rifle round.
The 50-yard range will also double as a 100-yard range with shooters firing from a pavilion set to the rear. Students shooting from this point will have to aim their rifles downward.
Hooper located the range at the center of his 160-acre farm “so we are as far away as we can get from everyone.”
“I just want it to be a quality facility for training law enforcement and civilians, mainly law enforcement,” Hooper said.
Hooper said that it won’t be an informal recreational shooting facility. Everybody who uses the range will be participating in a course, or in an organized competitive shooting event. Hooper plans to host a couple of these every month, which he said will take place on Saturdays.
A former Marine infantryman, Hooper said that he started taking handgun courses after getting out of the Marine Corps in 1982. He said that he met a lot of good instructors, began assisting instructors and finally began having instructors teach courses on his farm. The first of these took place in August, 1983. Approximately 13 people took part in a course taught by John Farnam, a nationally known firearms instructor. Farnam has a Web site at www.defense-training.com.
“I was learning the techniques that they [law enforcement] are using today,” Hooper said.
During the period from 1983 to 2005, Hooper had one or two firearms courses on his farm and one or two competitive shooting matches on the farm every year. Meanwhile, he got into law enforcement in 1988, serving on a suburban Atlanta, Ga., police force for five years, coming back to the Bedford County farm to do the shooting courses and competitions on the farm. He was also in the National Guard. After leaving the Guard in 2005, he began having 12 to 15 shooting events every year.
During those years, Hooper used the natural topography of the land as a berm to stop bullets and set up targets for the shooting events, taking them down and storing them between events. He said that this is why nothing shows up in aerial photos taken six years ago.
Hooper, an NRA certified law enforcement firearms instructor, teaches these courses, along with other instructors that he brings in. He said that all these instructors have police or military special operations backgrounds.
“We’re going to give the students the best we can give them,” he said.
Hooper said that he wants the range because he sees the need for such a facility in this area.
“The reason it’s here is because our farm is here,” Hooper said.
According to Hooper, it’s not going to sound like the Fourth of July when he has courses or shooting matches.
“When you do a long range course, there are very few rounds shot,” he said. “You may do 100 rounds at most during the entire course.”
Hooper said that sound tests he did at two points in surrounding neighborhoods and at New London Academy indicate that the sound from the range is negligible at those points. He also plans steps to minimize the sound. He will plant evergreens around the range’s berms to muffle sound and request that law enforcement agencies use suppressers on their patrol rifles when they come to the range. A suppressor, also called a silencer, reduces the sound a rifle makes when it fires and Hooper said that most law enforcement agencies have them. He also said that he will have all his training courses during the time of year when leaves are on deciduous trees, which will muffle sound. However, he said that he will open the range in the winter to any law enforcement agency that wants to do training for bad weather.
The Bedford County Sheriff’s Office, which will bring its own instructors, will get free use of the range, according to Hooper.
Once the range is open, Hooper said that he will provide New London Academy’s principal a schedule of courses and events every month. He has also invited her to take one of his courses.