Road Trip for Shooters: Arizona's Desert Beckons [VIDEO]
by Matthew Hecht
Ben Avery Shooting Range Facility in Phoenix, Ariz., is Disneyland for sport shooting enthusiasts. It is the largest publicly
operated, state-owned shooting facility in the United States and spans 1,650 acres that include rifle, archery, pistol, trap, sporting clay and
skeet ranges. With 102 full-service RV spaces, Ben Avery makes the perfect
spring break vacation spot for families who love camping, shooting and spending time in the desert.
Prep for the Trip
We know experienced campers don't need to be reminded what to pack for a trip to the desert, but keep in mind the dry air and
what exposure to the elements does to your firearms. Before you hit the road, clean your firearms and ensure they are well lubricated and have
no gas leaks. Zero percent humidity can dry out o-ring seals, which are easy and
inexpensive to replace, and if not working properly can frustrate shooters when casings don't eject properly.
Ben Avery's Clay Target Center rents 12- and 20-gauge shotguns and sells ammunition for about the same low prices as Wal-Mart.
Plan Your Time
The Arizona Game & Fish Department runs the
facility, which is totally self-supported and uses no tax dollars. Expect the ranges to be busy on weekends and on sunny, breezy days. Check
its calendar of events and consider booking during one of the tournaments. The facility is great about keeping ranges open to the public during
busy tournaments, and your family will enjoy watching the experts compete.
If you are newer to clay shooting, at the far west end of the clay target area is a pattern-board testing range, which shooters
use to check alignment of their aim. Set your aim at 16 feet or more, aim at the hole in the metal-plated board and the greasepaint traps the
pattern of your spray. You'll be able to gauge whether your aim is too high, too low, too left or too right.
The beginner-level six-station sporting clay
Quail Course is the next best place to go for newer shooters and those who haven't fired in a while. The die-hard regulars use different guns
with different sights for skeet, trap and sporting clays, but for out-of-towners looking to hone their skills or try something new, try a basic
12-gauge like the popular Remington 1100 semi-automatic or Beretta Urika AL 391.
Feel free to ask the main office for a range master to meet at a range to help you get started. Flag them down if you have
problems with your guns or the clay launchers.
Try Something New
The Rattlesnake Sporting Clays Course has 15 stations connected by a smooth gravel footpath, and rental carts are available
to make carrying weapons and ammo easier. If feeling super confident about your skills, try the bunker course, which will put your ego in
check. It's not easy!
The center has 16 lighted trap and skeet fields with voice-activated or manual releases. First-time shooters should use the
manual-operated releases as newer users tend to be noisy and inadvertently let clays fly (to the friendly annoyance of your fellow shooters).
Trap and skeet cost $6 per round, sporting clays start at $10 per round, loaner guns are $10 a day and camping fees start at $25
per day (weekly and monthly rates available). The RV camping facility has full laundry services, mail (for its longer-term winter visitors),
water and electric. For shopping and dining needs, the Outlets at Anthem
are 10 minutes north of Ben Avery, and Desert Ridge Marketplace mall is about 20 minutes southeast. The towns of Carefree and Cave Creek
provide charming boutique-style shopping and dining and are directly 15 miles east on the Carefree Highway.
Matthew Hecht A born outdoorsman, Matt shares his adventures with readers on a variety of blogs.