Shooting-range clubs, rage rooms are luxuries for city slickers who never go to do it growing up

Every few weekends in junior high and high school, I’d work out my frustrations by smashing, shooting and burning. My friends and siblings usually joined me in these weirdly innocent, unsupervised activities — normal as they seemed at the time for kids growing up in rural areas. (Those were always within a few minutes’ drive in Southwest Ohio.)

These days, it’s considered aberrant to indulge in such things — classless, dangerous relics of childhoods past, as some might see them. Pure, pointless mischief.

Unless, of course, you’re paying admission and doing it amid a selection of on-tap craft beers and $12 cocktails.

That’s how these newer, managed-chaos activities have struck me. To be sure, there’s no inherent virtue in growing up rural or having a massive fire pit in which to toss things, cackling. Kids who grow up in cities or the suburbs don’t often have access to the same wide-open spaces that my siblings and I employed for, say, bashing in an old TV until it was a spray of shards. (By contrast, country kids are terrible at graffiti and scared of alleys.)

This is less a value judgment than an observation, but I still had to laugh when I saw the Gallery Sportsman’s Club & Range open in Lakewood late last month. The walk-in and membership-based club advertises “a revolutionary new concept” mixing sports and entertainment. The 20,000 square-foot space boasts a pair of indoor shooting bays, a restaurant, a bar, “and a host of amenities to provide an exceptional experience.”

Beware the word “luxury” in marketing materials, which seems as much an invitation to the well-heeled as a warning to people without much money. One can almost picture the stereotypically cigar-champing clientele chuckling it up, scotch in hand, before squeezing off a few rounds. I can’t imagine paying for this.

It’s not much different to me than ax-throwing bars, rage rooms (where you can smash whatever you want with whatever you want) and other activities that have mutated into official, paid activities. These latter examples may aim for younger crowds but are similar in their concept: anger management whilst drinking.

I have no problem with shooting guns for sport; I loved shattering glass bottles with carbon-powered BB handguns and rifles. Learning the basics of safe shooting and gun care are essential for anyone interested in the sport (my dad definitely taught us that). My friends, siblings and I were also lucky that we didn’t hurt ourselves doing some of these idiotic things, like writing our names in gasoline on my dad’s acreage and setting them aflame. (I never said we were smart. Fortunately, our horse and pig neighbors didn’t seem to care.)

If you want to do something resembling that in Denver, you need to be 21-and-up, and understandably so. I can’t get excited about the idea of bringing my 5-year-old into a building full of tipsy ax-throwers. You also need about $30 per person, or more, to visit places like Denver Axe Throwing, Class Axe Throwing, Axe Whooping, FlannelJax — there’s zero shortage. Same with the Smash*It Breakroom or others, which tend to overlap with the ax-throwing joints.

Not all of us are so binary as I suggest. Some of us grew up in the country and now live in the city, or vice versa. Some of us alternate. And along the Front Range, these areas have blurred as development reaches its concrete claws further into prairie grass. The mountains? Burning and shooting things, sans supervision, in the high country is an invitation to wildfires, unlike in humid Ohio.

I do miss breaking stuff for its own sake. Having lived in the city of Denver for the last two decades, it’s nice to know I could do that again, when it strikes me. But the luxury aspect, where you plunk down cash and sign a waiver before even sipping the head off your craft beer, seems a bit silly. Sometimes that old TV is just begging for it.

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