Entrepreneur wants to build gun range in Federal Way

In a Feb. 2011 file photo, Federal Way resident Bill Pirkle fires his .44 Magnum at during the Armed Defense Training Association
In a Feb. 2011 file photo, Federal Way resident Bill Pirkle fires his .44 Magnum at during the Armed Defense Training Association's first live-fire event at Bull's Eye shooting range in Tacoma.
— image credit: Mirror file photo

With gun sales around the country at an all-time high, and with Federal Way Police Department Cmdr. Kyle Sumpter one of the final five contestants on The History Channel's shooting competition show "Top Shot," it seems as though the time is ripe for a firearm range to be built in Federal Way.

Local entrepreneur Robert Piel, who's lived in Federal Way since 1996, is cautiously optimistic that he'll be able to provide the range for local shooters.

"I hope it works out, but I can't promise anything," Piel said. "I'm ready to go. We just need a building."

Piel said he envisions a facility that would be approximately 20,000 square feet. He hopes to include three classrooms for instruction, two "shop" areas for buying and selling firearms, and an area for a metalsmith to fabricate parts.

He's hoping to have 16 lanes for firearms, which would make it one of the largest shooting ranges in the state. Piel also hopes to welcome non-firearm weapons to the facility.

"We're trying to offer some different aspects to a range that hasn't been done in the past. We're hoping to have five archery ranges for people who want to practice with their arrows. They'll have retrievable targets," he said.

The name of the proposed range has already been determined: Eco Family Range, LLC. Piel said he's gathered a mountain of permits already, including seven federal firearm licenses and 10 others from local, state and federal agencies.

The lack of a range in Federal Way has led local shooters far afield to practice their craft. For Piel, a retired police officer who served for 26 years, that lack of a range was always apparent to him.

"I spent 26 years in and out of gun ranges, and my primary concern was to make a family-friendly and safe environment to learn," said the husband and father of three daughters. "This is an opportunity to do something with my family that would be a family business and a chance to give back to the community."

Piel said the proposed range would have a state-of-the-art ventilation system. A bullet disposal system will be the same one used by the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office. The disposal system is automated and ensures that users and staff avoid exposure to any potentially harmful metals/chemicals that may come from spent shells.

He also hopes to set aside one day a month where local groups, such as Boy Scout troops or Police Explorers, can come to the range and practice. With the number of tragic stories regarding firearms lately, Piel feels a range is the best place to teach safety.

"Making people safe with (firearms) is about the best thing we can do," he said.

Along with safety, Piel said he hopes the proposed project would be a place for families to use.

One of the groups that has been advocating for a local range is the Armed Defense Training Association (ADTA) in Federal Way. Mark Knapp, an ADTA founding member and its current president, is hopeful that Piel's vision can be realized.

"We have met with Robert to discuss his plans and are very impressed with the way his plans dovetail with the vision the ADTA board has for shooting activities in Federal Way," said Knapp, who contributes a firearms-themed column to The Mirror.

In generating support for the range, another need that both Piel and Knapp have worked on trying to meet is to provide a place for Federal Way police to practice their shooting skills.

"We didn't have a range to shoot at, we used what was available, and sometimes that meant long drives," Piel said. "A lot of the officers, along with myself, always wished someone would come in and put a range in."

Knapp agreed. He hopes strong partnerships can be formed in making this idea a reality.

"We all share a commitment to facilitating more convenience regarding training for the Federal Way Police Department," Knapp said. "There will also be various opportunities for armed citizens to obtain more training and (we've) discussed a team concept that is similar to a partnership in regards to developing training opportunities."

Check it out

The ADTA is holding its regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. May 3 at Genesis Realty (32014 32nd Ave. S., Federal Way). Scheduled to speak is the aforementioned Sumpter, who will share his experiences regarding being a contestant on "Top Shot." The public is invited to the event.

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