When it Comes to Firearms, Safety is Essential
“There’s a misperception in our industry that in order to be safe, you can’t have fun, but I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive.”
Tracy Fornwalt, co-owner with Nate Morrison of Morr Indoor Range in Willow Street, focused primarily on the mastering the safety concerns of gun use when she joined her cousin’s expanding business in 2015.
“Through that process, I took my first class and I purchased my first firearm,” she said. “I realized I had a fear of firearms, and once I got through that education, it became empowering. And I really got focused on sharing that experience with other women.”
A Lancaster County native who spent more than two decades in the food and beverage industry, including roles as plant manager for Kellogg’s and Coca-Cola, Fornwalt had moved 11 times in 17 years. She decided to move back home just as her cousin, Nate Morrison, was realizing the firearms business he started in 2010 had outgrown its initial location.
Using her consulting expertise, Fornwalt helped Morrison evaluate his options and then “realized we could have a great partnership,” she said. Morr Indoor Range expanded from its first location to its new location in Willow Street in 2017.
Morrison’s complementary strengths — his knowledge of the technical components, ammunition, and products — allowed Fornwalt to focus on the range’s potential business development and home in on her own training. In the last few years, she has taken about 30 firearms classes and achieved multiple certifications.
The range now offers a 90-minute gun-safety course for beginners called “First Shots.” Students spend part of the class time learning how to safely handle and store a gun, as well as the parts of a revolver and a semiautomatic firearm. Students then head out to the range one-on-one with the instructor to take their first shots.
The course has proven popular with women, many of whom want to learn to handle a gun for self-defense. Fornwalt said some women come to the class alone, but usually they come in pairs or groups of friends.
“Part of personal protection is practice,” Fornwalt said. “If you want to be good at it in a stressful self-defense situation, you want to practice regularly.”
Fornwalt also sees a lot of couples taking the course together, especially if the wife or girlfriend of the pair is the novice shooter. She added that even more experienced gun owners generally learn a new trick or two during the course.
“What we hear a lot from men in particular is that they would much rather their wife be taught by us,” Fornwalt laughed. “It keeps some of the conflict [at bay].”
Couples come for Morr’s date-night packages, too, where they still practice their skills but enjoy a little fun and friendly competition.
“And it creates common terminology for the couple then, so they’re using the same terms and words and phrases,” she continued. “So when they go to shoot together, they’re starting from that same common basis.”
Fornwalt described Morr’s teaching process as “very methodical.” The first gun-safety essential emphasized is to keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction.
“Never point a firearm at something you aren’t willing to destroy,” Fornwalt said.
She also encourages students to know not only their target, but also what’s beyond, remembering that a bullet can travel 1-5 miles past its target, depending on the caliber and the type of firearm.
Commonsense advice — “but not always common practice,” Fornwalt said — is to keep your firearm unloaded when it’s not in use and to always double check and assume a gun is loaded when you pick it up.
The last bit of essential advice? Keep your finger off that trigger.
“It’s not a natural instinct [when holding a gun],” Fornwalt explained. “You go to make a fist, and people will subconsciously put that finger on the trigger. As you’re learning, you want to get into that good habit right away.”
Fornwalt and Morrison intend to add a variety of additional courses in the coming months.
“You follow these basics so even if something unintended does happen, you have those other safe practices in place to make sure you’re mitigating your risk when you’re handling a firearm.” BW