Some want changes at Knight’s Trail range, others okay



A blizzard of emails followed my weekly print column, which exposed shortcomings among the range staff who operate the rifle and pistol ranges at Knight’s Trail Park.

According to my unofficial analysis, about two-thirds of the respondents have experienced problems at the Sarasota County facility, such as yelling and verbal abuse. The rest either don’t have a problem with the strict environment or haven’t witnessed any improprieties.

Here’s some of the best responses. Of course I’ve redacted the names.

Status Quo Okay:

I am so glad to see a regular column supporting shooting sports but I do not agree with your assessment of the range staff at Knight Trail Park.  I shoot there once a week and appreciate the range staff’s attention to control safety on the range.  I have been yelled at for crossing the red line but I learned the rules and it hasn’t happened in many years.  I was embarrassed but realize that is much better than a safety slip that might get somebody hurt.  It’s loud because they the PA is set to be heard by people who are wearing hearing protection.  I wear ear plugs and muffs.  Many of our shooters are seasoned citizens who may have lost some of their hearing ability. The rule about the red line is stated every 25 minutes so we all have to hear it – we just want to reach something on the table and forget.  That’s not acceptable.  The reminders are sent by the PA or by the range officers at the ends of the line quickly and loudly to end the violation quickly.  The reminder include a “please” and “thank you.” If a there is a place for zero tolerance it is at the shooting range.  I appreciate the attention of the range officers because they give the same attention to other safety problems like poor gun handling.  I also believe that some anti-gun people in Sarasota County would like to have some excuse for supporting the closing of the county supported shooting range – tough when it supports itself financially. I believe that if someone at the shotgun range sweeps the squad with the muzzle or loads the gun before his turn to shoot he will get yelled at. It sounds like you spoke to the recreation manager before you spoke to the range officers or finding someone like myself who strongly supports NO lightening up by the range officers.  I’m looking forward to your column next week.

Range Nazis:

Just read your article on Knights TraIl ShootIng Range. I was born and raised here 39 years and rarely do I attend the range because of the range Nazi’s they have working there. That being said I would like to share my most recent encounter there. I had not spent a day at the range in probably 20 years up til this day I speak of. It was bad back then but hoped it had gotten better. NOPE!!!!. I took my girlfriend who had just gotten her concealed permit and a new weapon to fire. I myself have a concealed permIt and have been handlIng weapons since I was 5 years old with my father. She first got yelled at when the range was cold cause she touched her clearly unloaded weapon. Ok I get that she shouldn’t have touched it but there’s no reason to yell at first, kindly instruct her that she’s not aloud to touch the weapons when the range is cold, If then the infraction continues then yelling is warranted. So on we go and again the range is cold, I went to step forward to grab the targets off the shooting table, and was promptly yelled at not to cross the line. I acknowledged the instructor and proceeded to reach for them agaIn stating that I was just grabbing targets. The instructor got twice as loud and almost in my face, warning me not to do it agaIn. I then proceeded to ask how I was supposed to get the targets. He then told me unpleasantly that I was supposed to walk around the other sIde of the bench If I needed to get anything off the table. So my problem is why was I not instructed to properly approach the otherside before getting berated by some instructor. I would fully understand and accept the yelling if I was first properly instructed but continued to take wrong actions. Range safety is very important to me as well as everyone else. Certainly do not want to be harmed or harm anyone else due to negligence. Instructor are there to instruct not belittle!!!! It will be another length of time before I think about going back just because of this. It’s ashame for I live only 5 min away and would go more often. Hopefully your article will do some good because it really is a great facilty.

California Group Think:

I very much appreciated your article on the: Column: Range staff at Knight’s Trail Park is plum loco: Tuesday, June 17, 2014:

I see quite a bit of that out here in CA at some ranges.  As a 26 year USMC Vet (with extensive US/NATO/and Soviet Block weapons instructing time, as well as a safety instructor), I also work to instruct the LEO and Feds I know. 

My opinion, when presented with some Range Personnel (who, after all, are often volunteers – part of the 501C (3) or (4) Club) is that they fall into a usual ‘Group Think’ process approach to working with the people who are using the range.  Not always good.  However, I have also received some exceptional on the spot corrections or techniques to use, for free, at great ranges with great staff.  Even after all those years of small arms, we can always benefit from contentious help at the range, if not to unlearn some bad habits that are picked up from time to time.

Like a Marine Drill Sergeant:

Read your article, agree completely.  I stopped going there in favor of using the Webb range farther south.   The one RSO acts like a Marine drill sergeant stalking around looking for trouble.  I suspect the full timers there are union and feel they cant be touched.

Also the target frames were almost useless from past wear and tear.  I spoke to Wormley about it but nothing was done at least while I was going there.

PA system corrections necessary:

I shoot at this range app once per month. Yes, I’ve also violated a few rules, especially when I was a novice. However, with such a long area to cover, the PA system is the most efficient way to correct “unsafe” conditions. If the Range Officers need to yell to insure my safety, then I’m all in.

Grumpy gun guys:

I was forwarded your article from a shooter friend of mine.  I have to smirk because I haven’t been to that range for over 4 years because of the same treatment.  It is common knowledge to all my shooting friends to never go there for the EXACT reason you stated.  I am surprised that it was not known by Mr. Wormley.  I have found, and go to,  a private place regularly.  Most people do not have that option and are forced to endure that kind of whacky treatment, or not shoot at all!   In a time when gun sales are up, it would be in the interest of EVERYONE if the personnel at the range were friendly, helpful and TAUGHT gun safety in a mature and respectful way. Unfortunately.. unless you fire them all and start over. .I don’t see that happening.  Once a grumpy gun guy. Always a grumpy gun guy.

I hope that this gets resolved. I’d rather have a place to be able to take new shooters the basics of gun safety and the enjoyment of shooting as a sport.

Like Paris Island:

That was a bull’seye article about atmosphere on the range.  You would think you were on Paris Island with a staff of over compensating D.I.s.

RSOs never yell:

I have been going to Knight’s Trail Park  for at least 15 years. I have never heard the range officers yell at anyone. They do use the loud speaker at times when somebody does not listen to the commands to step back of the line . I can’t tell you how many times they have to tell the same people to get back. This is a safety issue, and I am glad they do this.



About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.


  1. The Range Officers at Knight Trail Park only yell when they see someone doing something they shouldn’t be doing. (Refer to the last letter in the KISS principle.) It is the shooter’s responsibility to know the rules prior to using that facility. If a shooter is getting yelled at, that shooter didn’t follow the rules, or that shooter did not do his or her homework prior to picking up a firearm to learn the rules, or worse yet, that shooter has chosen not to abide by those rules. You say that you are a new shooter and don’t know the rules? Stop by the Range House and ask. Education is but a request away. If you are one of those who are getting yelled at, ask yourself why? I am a Chief Range Safety Officer with years of active service on firing lines and I have seen this whining time and time again. I don’t yell at people unless there is a strong reason. Those who get yelled at are not demonstrating the firearm “wisdom” they claim to possess. No, I don’t work for Sarasota County, nor do I work for Knight Trail Park. What I do know, is that I’ve seen plenty of you complainers on the firing line, and yes, when you screw up with a life taking instrument in your hand, I will yell at you.

  2. Richard Berthiaume on

    I must ask all of those of you who feel embarrassed to have caught the attention of a range officer at Knights trail and were pulled up on an infraction ……
    Did any of you stop…just for the moment it takes …. to read the extremely large sign of Range Rules posted as you enter? It was your responsibility to do so…and your responsibility to adhere to those rules.
    So what happened? You either shirked that responsibility to learn those posted rules or you ignored ignored them. Neither are the actions of a safe and responsible gun owner.
    And I find Mr Williams claim that his article exposed the short comings of Knights Trail staff laughable. On the contrary it shows those men…in my eyes… to be performing their jobs guarding public safety with due diligence.
    Richard Berthiaume

  3. went there 3 times got yelled at every time for dumb stuff.
    have not been back in 3 year’s.
    have had other people tell me the same thing.

  4. I was a high power rifle competitor for a number of years. I have always found the staff at this range very professional. Doing dumb stuff such as touching a gun or anything else on the table when others are down range should be corrected as quickly as possible. In the past at many of the ranges I shot at, you would be thrown off the range after a serious tongue lashing. The staff at any range can not be concerned with peoples feelings as breaches of the rules can lead to serious injury or death. I travel quite some distance to use this range as it is outdoor, well kept up and I have always found the staff to be friendly and professional.

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