New ammo-free shooting range opens in Rifle

Using ammunition at a live shooting range can be costly. Timberline Sporting Goods owner Paul Kaufmann wants to provide a cheaper alternative.

Ushering in Black Friday, Kaufmann hosted an all-day demonstration of the Rifle outdoor shop’s new virtual shooting range. Equipped with laser-shot simulations, users can take aim at a giant screen and enhance their accuracy bullet-free, engaging in several respective activities and scenarios.

“You’re paying $20 an hour versus $20 a magazine,” Kaufmann said. “It’s like a handgun at the range but you’re not shooting up $50 worth of ammo.”

The digitally-controlled arsenal is made up of remote handguns, shotguns and assault rifles. Scenarios range from hunting and shooting drills to even on-screen hunter-safety courses.

If anything else, the new, state-of-the-art contraption is loaded with fun-filled simulations. Set sights on programs called Five Stand, Full Boar, Mallard Madness or Practical Shooting Charlie.

A one-hour rental costs $20 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under.

“It’s trigger time,” Kaufmann said. “These firearms, they’re based on the real deal. Weight-wise, the trigger — everything is similar.”

This three-dimensional shooting clinic also brings a unique opportunity for first-time gun buyers. When Kaufmann fields customer questions about any particular gun, he can offer a glimpse of what it’s like owning a firearm and how it works by encouraging them to test out the digital range.

“They can make more of an educated purchase than just buying something,” Kaufmann said.

For Timberline gunsmith Thomas Albright, he admits the new range has simultaneously sharpened his shot and broadened his horizons.

“I haven’t done much with shotguns, and it’s actually taught me to shoot shotguns for birds,” he said. “And same with pistols. I’ve been trying to learn to shoot with both eyes open, and I haven’t been able to do it until three days ago. With the simulator, I’ve been able to learn how to do all of that. And it’s just so much cheaper than going out burning through ammo.”

Kaufmann originally came across the idea of incorporating digital firearm simulations while exploring ways to enhance the shop’s archery lanes. In the process of devising a way to install a dark system — an indoor archery method that applies reflective arrow tips — he came across the computerized range, at nearly a third of the cost.

New amenities like this foreshadow what’s to come for the new owner of Timberline, a Rifle outdoor hub since 1982.

Kaufmann, an Oklahoma native who started taking breaks as a full-time electrician to volunteer at Timberline two years ago, took over for former Timberline owners Shelly and Steve Sanve on Sept. 1.

He graduated from Oklahoma Wesleyan University in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and Colorado State University in Fort Collins. He holds degrees in biology and chemistry, including minors in physics and genetics.

But with the new range, as well as numerous plans for Timberline over the next five years, Kaufmann agreed he’s no doubt pursuing his passions.

“So I’ve got all that, and here I am,” Kaufmann said. “And I wouldn’t trade it for nothing.”

— Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or