Words by Gianna Hudson
Photos by Dokk Savage & Lauren Sanderson
Philanthropist, mother of four, bible teacher, Huntsville native, and owner of the only five-star indoor gun range in Alabama, Melanie Hammer Murray is the conservative feminist CEO whose “serious fun” motto aims to unite firearm fanatics with small arm virgins. Boasting of diversity and inclusion, this upscale ‘Coloradoesk’ lodge, inspired by a heroine of her own design, has created a unique space for women who have traditionally been underserved and overlooked members of the pro-gun community.
After overcoming adversity including the loss of a business partner, a home invasion, and overt sexism, Murray says, “I pulled up my boots and got to work.” The result of her labor and hardship is Bullet and Barrel, Alabama’s only five-star indoor shooting range. Melanie speaks of her staff with reverence and gratitude, tearily saying, “Thank God for putting them in my path.”
This group of highly qualified men and women have become the backbone of Bullet and Barrel allowing Murray to play the role of conductor to her metaphorical shooting range orchestra.
General Manager Louis Southard, who Murray describes as her right hand, has been with Bullet and Barrel from the beginning. “When I first stumbled on this place, they were just tilting the concrete walls. I started out as a sales associate and within two weeks I was store manager, within six months I was general manager. I was able to bring my experience managing another five-star gun facility to really help Bullet and Barrel grow.”
The staff at Bullet and Barrel are eager to help, whether you’re interested in purchasing a firearm, hosting an event, (or you have been dragged there by your editor, with no prior gun knowledge whatsoever). Melanie’s team offers a five-star, judgment-free experience for everyone who walks through their doors.
Long time customer Kurt Scheuerman has been a patron since the beginning. “I’ve been to a couple of other places and no place comes close to this. This place is more high-end, it’s a nicer facility. I like the people who work here, I like the way the range is set up, the range officers, and the way the lanes are set up with plates in between us so it’s safer. It’s a truly professional place,” says Sheuerman.
The facade of the building presents as a large tan warehouse. Relatively unpresuming, easily passed from the street– if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Once you walk through the doors you’re greeted with a completely different experience.
The front of the store is ordained with a boutique that plays host to cashmere sweaters, tuxedo rentals, concealed carry purses, and men’s tactile clothing, amongst other goodies. An unusual and unexpected greeting from the wonted rough and tumble gun range that has historically created a cold and unwelcoming space to those who consider firearms foreign territory.
Long time Bullet and Barrel member Tom Copeland likes that Huntsville has a five star indoor shooting range and the amenities it offers. “It’s a five star indoor range, the only one in Alabama as far as I know. It’s just a great place, I’d recommend it to anybody. It’s like walking in a fine restaurant. You wouldn’t even know it was a gun range until you got in here.”
Indeed, Bullet and Barrel is in no way your traditional gun range. Complete with a beautiful event space, Blackstone Hall, fitted with a wall of french doors that open to a garden, the banquet room seats 96 people and offers the perfect place to host events, meetings, or an intimate gathering. Further along in the building, there are classrooms with new high-tech training opportunities like a virtual gun range.
The back of the large main room is a gun shop. Murray’s aim was for the majority of the population, who aren’t familiar with buying guns, i.e. women and novice gun purchasers, to feel safe and heard in her shop. “I like to compare the gun-buying experience here at Bullet and Barrel with an experience you’d have at the Apple Store,” says Murray.
“Every customer is given personal, undivided attention from a gun expert ensuring that the purchasing experience is one that is smooth and uniquely tailored so that it doesn’t discriminate or make the customer feel inferior for lack of gun knowledge.”
The firearms are not arranged like a typical gun dealer would arrange them, but more like something you would expect to see in a jewelry store. Smaller glass cases clustered in the center of the room with personal firearms placed on display in a friendly, approachable way.
Murray explains, “The priority in opening Bullet and Barrel was not only reach an underserved demographic of gun users and novices in Huntsville, but to also promote proper and responsible gun ownership. As soon as you walk through our doors, there is a team of friendly staff ready to assist you with renting a firearm to use in the range, as well as safety gear and bullets for purchase.”
Bullet and Barrel also has a unique “rent a buddy deal” where if you have never shot before you can call the shop ahead of time to have a trained professional help you. Murray explains, “The hope with this program, especially for women, is that our customers will find that they feel comfortable at the lane and want to pursue the sport further.”
Retrofitted with nineteen lanes, bulletproof glass, and the ever presence of range safety officers, Bullet and Barrel’s fresh air range is ultra-safe, ultra-clean, and ultra inviting. With plenty of lanes and steel plates dividing you and your neighbor, there is no feeling of claustrophobia or danger.
Both experienced and amateur shooters are accompanied by a range safety officer who can help answer questions and ensure the safety of the customers. Everyone who shoots at Bullet and Barrel watches an informative video on gun safety and lane procedures and must have eye and ear protection secured before entering the lane.
Murray is clear about wanting her customers to have a safe and fun experience, a large part of that is understanding the rules and regulations of the range. “Nothing you see in the movies essentially is right when it comes to shooting,” says Murray. So her team ensures you can get the thrill of the sport in a correct and safe way.
Bullet and Barrel Training Manager and former Marine Jeff White is says it’s all about safety at Bullet and Barrel. “Safety, safety, safety, I’ll always say safety three times, it’s that important.”
Indeed, safety seems to be a top priority at Bullet and Barrel. A range safety officer is always present in the lanes to answer questions and police the rules of the range. Not only is the range officer on-site at all times, but with the “rent a buddy” system, Melanie has ensured you will feel comfortable and cared for as you engage in the fun and intense sport of shooting.
“They’ve got I think about 110 guns that you can rent. If you’re undecided about what gun you want to buy, rent one! Shoot it for a while, if you don’t like it rent a different one. They’ve got ammo. All you need is a few dollars and you can have fun for an hour. I don’t know anywhere else you could go and shoot for what you do down here,” says Copeland.
Murray explains, “I think it’s important that people avoid situations in which a gun might be needed entirely. The goal is to never have to use your firearm at all, but sometimes in life, it is what it is.” Thus, Bullet and Barrel trainers put together courses on situational awareness, fight or flight, and how to adapt to your surroundings if you are ever in a potentially scary situation.
Offered to both members and nonmembers, Bullet and Barrel’s trained staff teach a catalog of classes that include: “Handguns 101”, “Choosing the Right Handgun”, “Adaptive Training”, “Long Gun Training”, personal safety and self defense, amongst others. These classes are offered throughout the year.
How does a gun range obtain five- star status? According to the Firearm Industry Trade Association, every aspect of the range from management of facilities, cleanliness, staff, even window dressings are assessed and given a percentage score on an extensive 6-page list. This strenuous and detailed process is not for everyone, but Murray made it perfectly clear, her goal from the beginning was to get the five-star rating, securing the only five-star rating for an indoor gun range in all of Alabama.
Murray saw a void in Huntsville and answered the call. Her Bullet and Barrel shooting range has created a safe and professional environment where no matter your race, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, religion, or political stance on gun ownership matters.
Murray shares, “I really wanted to create a unique ‘GUNtry Club’ in which women especially felt welcome and safe to hang out, practice, buy guns or clothes, have fun, and explore the world of firearms without the fear of judgment or prejudice.”
In turn, she has opened the doors to an entirely new demographic of potential gun clientele and created a place where no matter if you are ex-military or a gun novice, you will feel welcome and at home.
Book a Range Time here: https://bulletandbarrel.com