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Officials preview new firing range that will cater to tourists, locals

by Grace Brown | March 27, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.
Under Sheriff Jason Lawrence prepares to fire a machine gun at the Machine Gun Grotto, 325 Olive St., on Sunday. - Photo by Grace Brown of The Sentinel-Record

Supporters of Tanya and Jason Spavins' vision for a centrally located gun range gathered on Sunday to preview their vision come to life at the new Machine Gun Grotto, 325 Olive St., connected to the Mountain Valley Armory.

"We just did a private open house for a few people around the city who have just been so encouraging to us," co-owner Tanya Spavins said.

"Under Sheriff Jason Lawrence (was) here, Congressman (U.S. Rep. Bruce) Westerman, and we invited the mayor and chief of police," she said.

"These folks were, like I said, very encouraging on this project. People who could have quite frankly stopped the project and didn't interfere, but said they saw us as an asset to the city."

The fully operational range houses multiple lanes for patrons to utilize, as well as the opportunity to rent or purchase all the equipment necessary to enjoy an afternoon at the range. What sets the Machine Gun Grotto apart is the fact they also allow patrons to rent and fire machine guns.

"I think we're the only ones in the state of Arkansas," she said. "This is an idea that came up while traveling. We travel quite a bit, and when we were in Las Vegas, we went to a shooting gallery there and they offered machine guns. We just went, 'We can do this in Hot Springs.'"

Upon their return from Las Vegas, roughly six years ago, the couple purchased commercial property at the intersection of Ouachita Avenue and Orange Street and began to build the Mountain Valley Armory.

"It's great for the tourists. We saw with our retail space people would come in and the woman would often be doing a spa day, leaving the husbands looking for something to do," she said.

In order to utilize the facilities, people are required to become members per state law. However, Spavins noted day passes are available and membership packages vary to suit a wide range of needs. Those interested in renting a bay must be 18 years old to shoot a rifle and 21 years old to shoot a pistol or rent a machine gun.

"We're set up that if you walked in off of the street, maybe you're in town from Louisiana looking for something to do, everything you need to have a good time is here. Eye protection, ear protection that you can buy or rent, obviously handguns, machine guns, the ammo for the guns you rent, and also targets," she said.

Spavins said Westerman and Lawrence both stepped in off the street to fire off a few rounds.

"We were telling (Westerman) about the machine guns and he said, 'You know, I've never shot a machine gun,' and I told him that we were going to fix that right then," she said. "They had a really good time. He was in the bay for about an hour with his assistant JD, shooting machine guns.

"Now when we do a machine gun rental, we do a one-on-one with a range safety officer. You're standing there shooting the machine gun and there is a range safety officer right next to you, instructing you on the firearm and how to handle it, etc. So you get a safety briefing before the gun is ever put into your hands."

The Machine Gun Grotto is open to the public via memberships and day passes Tuesday through Saturday starting at 10 a.m. For more information, Spavins suggested checking their Facebook page.


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