WATEREE RIFLE AND PISTOL RANGE
14069 Garners Ferry Road Eastover
HOURS: Tuesday - Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Meets NRA safety standards
• Bring your own paper targets, tape and hearing/eye protection
• Arrive with firearms unloaded and cased. You can't purchase ammo on site.
• 25 to 100 - yard distance for rifle targets
• 14 - rifle stations
• 12 - pistol stations
• 4 - manned DNR ranges now in South Carolina
• 2 - miles from Sumter/Richland County line on U.S. 76/378
• $0 - cost to shoot
There is a new free public range in the region for shooters to practice and hone their craft for self-protection purposes or their next hunt at Wateree Rifle and Pistol Range in Eastover.
Just two miles across the Sumter County line and over the Wateree River Bridge in Richland County, the range opened in late June and is operated by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, according to Maj. Billy Downer with the state agency.
The new shooting range is part of a larger 130-acre Wateree Range facility that includes a shotgun sports facility next door. DNR opened the shotgun facility 2.5 years ago in February 2017. There are separate entrances to the two ranges less than a quarter-mile apart on Garners Ferry Road (U.S. 378) to divide traffic up and lessen congestion, Downer said.
The free public rifle and pistol range is one of only four manned ranges - meaning a range officer is always on duty - operated by DNR in the state. The other three are in Spartanburg County, Pickens County and the Twin Ponds Range in Charleston County near Mount Pleasant in the Town of Awendaw.
The agency also operates two unmanned ranges - one in Hampton County in the Lowcountry and another in Laurens County in the Upstate.
The new public range at Wateree has 14 rifle stations with targets up to 100 yards and 12 pistol stations that allow gun enthusiasts to set targets up to 25 yards away or in.
The range was previously the privately owned Indigo Shooting Club that DNR bought a few years ago.
Downer said that's been an advantage.
"Since it was already an existing private range, when DNR purchased it we didn't have to go through all the approval processes," Downer said. "It also has all the amenities that we would like to offer."
The new rifle and pistol range was a complete renovation to the former property, he said, and brought the range up to NRA safety standards to include 20-foot back berms and 8-foot side berms for a safe shooting zone.
DNR's ranges provide safe shooting opportunities and recreational free shooting for the public, Downer said.
He said he thinks the Wateree Range will be a busy range in part due to its proximity to three nearby military installations - Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, McEntire Joint National Guard Base also in Eastover and Fort Jackson in Columbia.
Downer and Range Officer Kyle Betterly stress that shooters must bring their own paper targets and tape and arrive at the range with guns unloaded and cased.
The entrance to the new range is off Hezekiah Road on U.S. 378, and the range is open five days per week, Tuesday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
There are a total of 16 public ranges in the state, according to Downer. Six are the DNR ranges, and 10 others are either operated by the U.S. Forest Service or state Forestry Commission. Many of them are older and at times are only open on the weekends, he said.
He emphasized that Wateree is up to date and that many consider it a first-class facility.
"This is brand new," Downer said. "For the majority of folks, this range set-up will suit their pistol and rifle needs."
Privately operated ranges often charge, especially the indoor ranges, he said.
TESTIMONIALS DOWN RANGE
Friends and gun owners Chad Shiver of Irmo and Brandon Yopp of Columbia have visited Wateree a couple times and said they have enjoyed it.
Shiver said he likes that Wateree Range has supervision on hand all the time to provide safety for everyone and that the new range provides bases for people's targets.
Yopp said he likes that the rifle station stands are adjustable.
"That's not typical," Yopp said. "This is the nicest free place to shoot you can find in the Midlands."
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