Monday, August 15, 2011

Cleland's Outdoor World: Range Report

As I promised, Big Mike and I went over to Cleland's last weekend to check out the new pistol range and see if there was anything under the chicken wire that we couldn't live without.  As it turned out, the new store is very nice in many respects and could use a little work in others.  Here's the latest news.

For aesthetic reasons completely beyond my comprehension, Cleland's decided to adopt a pseudo old country store décor in place of utilitarian modern.  The floor is glass smooth sealed concrete, and the display cases for handguns use chicken wire for a partition instead of glass.  Long guns are on racks along the wall where you are allowed to pick up and look at anything that takes your eye.  This is the way long guns should be displayed, as any gun trader can tell you.  You won't sell a thing until the buyer has had a chance to pick up several similar guns and hold them a few minutes, squint down the barrel and imagine themselves putting ten shots in the bull's eye or breaking 25 out of 25 the first time out.  People tend to lose interest if they have to ask an employee to pass a long gun over the counter each time idle curiosity gets the best of their firm resolve to look but not spend.

No Glass - Country Store Gun Display
The store is divided into sections, the ambits of which are easily determined.  Somehow I'm reminded of the British sitcom, Are You Being Served? in that one department dares not trespass on the territory of another department on penalty of reprimand.  The gunsmith is in the rear, and you can actually see into his shop.  The shop is very well laid out with the metal working machines lined up in the center with plenty of room around each machine.  The Smith is available behind a dutch door, which I think is a nice touch.  In the past a sales clerk would take your ailing firearm back to this man of mystery and return shortly with news of the malfunction, amelioration and estimated financial setback.  Any questions would be relayed to the gunsmith via the same messenger.  The first time I had to deal with this system occurred some years ago when I asked a clerk if he would show me how to field strip my Ruger Mark II.  He took the gun apart, then couldn't get it back together.  When I couldn't reassemble it either (now there's a real surprise!), the clerk disappeared into the back, then reappeared a short time later and tried again to reassemble my pistol.  He failed.  He then handed the pieces back to me and tried to escape.  Not so fast, Ace.  Rather than raise a justifiable fuss, I instructed him to take my pistol back to the gunsmith and have him assemble it.  He did so, and I haven't had it apart since then.  But that was then, and now Cleland's has thankfully eliminated the middleman.  The other departments are gun sales, archery and range rental – and that is where the weak point is.

As you walk through the main entrance to Cleland's, the small counter that handles time on the handgun range is immediately to your right.  Following the right hand aisle you'll pass the archery range and then come to the handgun range.  The first problem is that the counter is poorly situated, as people checking in and out of the range will line up at the counter and block the main entrance to the store.  Anyone leaving or arriving at the store must first make their way through this crowd – and it is a crowd.   Cleland's has seven lanes and they'll accommodate a maximum of three people sharing one lane.  The wait time for a lane varies between 30 minutes to over an hour, depending on the amount of time the people ahead of you want to shoot and also depending on the time needed to process the customers leaving  the range and the next customer on the waiting list.  I would think that the time to process a group for the pistol range would be negligible, but it turned out I was wrong.

When Big Mike and I arrived at Cleland's we temporarily disrupted the line of people waiting to sign up for range time by walking in the front door and looking for the end of the line.  The single clerk at the counter, whom I will henceforth refer to as Mister Customer Service of 2011 (Mr. CS), mainly because I'm a sarcastic, curmudgeonly sort, refused to look at us.  Clearly the man could see us standing in the background, but he refused to acknowledge our presence in any way what-so-ever.  To give Mr. CS a built in excuse, he was attempting to organize and sign up a family of five from Canada who didn't know what they wanted, and he was likely frustrated by the kids dancing around excitedly and the parents lack of ability to make a decision without a full and comprehensive report from a Socialist Moonbat committee on the causes and effects of early exposure to freedom firearms along with the written and certified approval of three independent, duly licensed and Moonbat approved child psychologists.  Still, Mr. CS refused to even tell us he'd be with us in a minute.  After ten minutes or so of being completely ignored Chad Cleland arrived, greeted us and reassured us that he was going to speed things up.  Chad started checking people out who were finished shooting, returning rental guns to the wheel of misfortune, running the register as needed and returning each shooter's driver's license to its rightful owner.  Interestingly Chad didn't feel the need to keep our driver's licenses, explaining that we were familiar faces.  Mr. CS was still dealing with our friends from across the border when Chad had us sign the standard release form and put us on the waiting list.  We had 30 minutes to kill before we could start throwing lead.

Wheel of Misfortune - Do you feel lucky?
Wheel of Misfortune - Close Up and Personal

There are about 15 itemized rules and regulations for Cleland's pistol range which can be summarized as:
  1. Observe and obey the four rules of gun safety.
  2. No screwing around.
  3. You arrived here under your own power, upright and not leaking.  We expect you to leave the same way.

While we were checking in, it became obvious that Chad Cleland knew the procedure for signing people up for range time, which is no real surprise.  Mr. CS did not, and was in no mood to learn.  Somewhat reassuring to me was the fact that Mr. CS not only ignored us completely, but just as studiously ignored everyone else.  I was beginning to wonder if my mouthwash, deodorant or political preferences were failing me, but after seeing Mr. CS in action with the rest of the people who walked into Cleland's with expectations of a friendly staff, I concluded it wasn't just me.  Now I can sleep nights.

When we finally got onto the range we discovered that the Canadian Five had taken the plunge and rented a host of firearms along with two lanes.  That's fine, and I'm glad to see it.  Mr. CS was standing along with them and trying to provide a certain amount of guidance and an added safety factor.  Again, this is no problem for me – right up until Mr. CS came over to our lane and demanded, in an unfriendly tone, that we move our targets to a lower position on the backboard.  This is in direct opposition to some of the shooters in the other six lanes who have placed their targets in the same location we have.  Big Mike complied while pointing out that given our shot groups we were not likely to hit the target carrier, and furthermore there isn't any signage or rule stating just how shooters should place their targets.  About twenty minutes later a shooter next to us got two duds stuck in the cylinder of a revolver and casually walked to the rear of the room where he sat down and began screwing around with his loaded gun, trying to extract them with a cleaning rod.  This is a major faux pas which Mr. CS clearly observed, admitted to observing but did nothing to correct.  My hard spot with this is that if you're going to be a range officer, apply the rules to everyone.  If you see something that's obviously unsafe, like a man standing behind everyone else with a loaded gun, don't just stand there – do something, even if it's wrong.

Our target holder is on the far left, but the targets were mounted too high to please Mr. CS.

The good news here is that Cleland's is open and has seven lanes on the handgun range.  The bad news is that there is only seven lanes and there should be ten.  The lanes could also be a little wider, and the sales counter handling gun rental and range time should be located between the archery range and the handgun range.  The range is well lit though, which is a huge relief to me as I was thinking about the cost effectiveness of mounting a tactical flashlight on each of my handguns so I could see well enough to shoot at The Bullet Stop.  Now I can skip that trivial expense.  More good news about the range is that it's air conditioned.  Again,  the A/C and ventilation could be a little better, but I'm willing to forgive that because of the excellent lighting.  I'm willing to bet the lighting was Chad's idea.

The Bottom Right is Mine - Top Right is Mike's Work

Seven Lanes of Shooters
I'm glad to see Cleland's reopen.  The stock is a little scarce right now, but I expect that will change over the next six months or so.  The labor unions in the Toledo area are recommending that you boycott Cleland's, but judging from the crowd people are ignoring the wishes of the communist party labor union.  My only warning is to avoid Mr. CS – a middle aged man of average height and build with a beard and a sour attitude.  You'll recognize the attitude right off, so save yourself some aggravation and just ask for Chad Cleland to wait on you.  You'll have a better experience.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree - if not for Chad, Clelands would be a run-down shack. He keeps the place going and keeps the customer service top-notch, that is, when he is around. When he is not around, things suffer - and that is apparent. Chad Cleland is a class-act, top-notch performer - always has been - always will be. I speak from years of sales and business experience - Chad Cleland knows what he is doing - he knows how to deliver outstanding customer service and has the knowledge, skill, and desire to satisfy customers. I wish I could say the same for many of the others.