SMALL BUSINESS
06/12/2013 12:09 pm ET | Updated Jun 12, 2013

Helicopter Target Practice Stirs Controversy In Texas

A Texas shooting range is teaming up with a helicopter company to offer gun enthusiasts a new thrill that at least one local resident calls terrifying, ABC affiliate WFAA reports. Visitors to the Big Boar Tactical shooting range near Dallas, Texas, can now partake in airborne target practice, courtesy of helicopter company GoCopter.

The new offering, Helicopter Sniper Adventure, has been introduced at a time when the gun industry is under increased public and legislative scrutiny, after tragic shootings like Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo.

It also comes at a time when shooting ranges are increasingly looking for ways to offer customers unique entertainment experiences.

The Range at Lake Norman in North Carolina, for example, offers monthly ladies' nights. And Stone Hart’s Gun Club & Indoor Range in South Florida is aiming to create a favorable environment for families with in-depth firearms instruction, according to Action Target.

These new marketing strategies could be a response to the shooting range industry’s sluggish growth over the past several years. According to IBIS World –- a market research company -– the industry’s revenues have increased at just 0.8% annually since 2007.

GoCopter approached Big Boar Tactical with the idea for a new twist on target practice earlier this year, Dan Claassen of GoCopter told The Huffington Post. "For us, it's always been about the helicopter; it's very exciting to get airborne," Claassen said. "Those who use firearms on a regular basis will tell you the same story ... So we put those two loves together to make an extreme adventure."

According to its website, Helicopter Sniper Adventure charges customers $795 each to join a "platoon" for a six-hour experience that includes safety training, airborne target practice, lunch and an awards ceremony. The clients, Claassen told The Huffington Post, are primarily recreational shooters who are "looking for a new kind of experience." So far, the response from customers has been very positive, he said.

But the venture into helicopter target shooting has stirred controversy in the surrounding neighborhood, WFAA reports. "The first time they were hovering right over our two acres shooting at whatever," local resident Michael Lauer told WFAA. "You really didn't know ... were they shooting at me?"

The helicopter operators and the shooting range assured WFAA that the airborne target practice poses no danger to nearby communities. The helicopters do not leave the premises of the range, they said, and the shooters are always pointing their guns towards the ground at targets that are fortified with mounds of dirt.

Responding to questions from The Huffington Post, Claassen added that, "each participant is shadowed by a certified range safety officer that's on board the helicopter right next to them during this event. And the reason for that is that added level of safety."

Lauer, however, is not convinced. He's especially concerned about ricocheting bullets. "You just know, some day, one of them is going to hit the house or do something," he told WFAA.

Local officials and the Federal Aviation Administration told WFAA that helicopter target practice is in fact legal. Nevertheless, some residents indicated they were prepared to take the issue to court, WFAA reported.

Claassen is not deterred. "What we are doing is legal," he told The Huffington Post. "The complaint has come from one person ... This is done at a certified firing range. Gunfire happens there all the time whether we are there are not."

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