Kellner Range Combats Active Shooters with ‘Very Real’ Training

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Most employees know about workplace policies when it comes to drug, alcohol use and sexual harassment. But what should they do in the event that an active shooter walks into their workplace?

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security defines an active shooter as an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people with a firearm in a confined and populated area. The situations are often over within 10 to 15 minutes, before law enforcement arrives on the scene.

From 2000 to 2017, there were 250 active shooter incidents in the United States, the FBI reports. Most – 105 – took place in a business, followed by schools, which saw 52 incidents. In that same time, the number of recorded annual incidents has increased, from just one in 2000 to 30 last year.

No one can be completely prepared for an active shooter, but Kellner Range & Supply is helping people become more prepared by putting them in that situation through Simunition training.

Jake Kellner opened the business at 325 Industrial Drive, Columbiana, in March 2016.

“I went through the police academy training and we had firearms training, but I wanted more,” he says.

Kellner couldn’t find a place that offered the active shooter training in an environment set up like a house or office.

So he built a “shoot house” for training and opened it to police departments and the public. He also opened a full-service gun shop next to the shoot house and his business offers classes for all levels of gun experience.

The 600-square-foot gun shop sells a wide variety of guns from handguns to precision long guns, as well as ammunition, outdoor camping supplies and accessories. And Kellner Range buys, sells and trades guns and offers minor gun repairs.

The training, which Kellner Range offers in its shoot house, is different from going to a standard shooting range, Kellner says.

“With the training we offer, it gives you that extra level of training,” he says. “You can go to a range, you can shoot at a target, but it’s a whole other story when you’re going somewhere to shoot at a target that moves and shoots back.”

Rick Graft, vice president of Graft Electric in Columbiana, last year took a dozen of his employees to the shoot house. It spans 2,100 square feet and is split into two sides.

One side is set up to look like an office, which has a middle area with cubicles, desks and chairs and eight offices surrounding it that interconnect with each other through doorways.

The other side is set up as a house with a living room, dining room, bedroom and other adjoining rooms. The rooms have a TV, couch, dresser and table and chairs.

“Three of us would go in and try and clear it as the others were hiding behind desks and chairs,” Graft says of the training.

“It’s very real, very intense.”

Besides looking like a house or office, the training is realistic because of the guns that are used. The guns function exactly like a standard Glock 17, but are painted blue to denote they are Simunition training guns chambered with Simunition rounds of paint.

“They’re normally chambered with a nine-millimeter caliber, but this one has a special barrel in it so it shoots paint projectiles,” Kellner says. “They are nonlethal and nontoxic. The police and military have been training with these for years and it’s never been available to the public until about four years ago.”

Before a group can use the shoot house, Kellner makes sure they are familiar with the training guns and have basic firearm skills.

Then Kellner will either set up an active-shooter scenario or let a group go in and shoot each other for fun, depending on what the group wants to do.

Kellner Range provides all the protective gear that’s required when shooting the Simunition guns and Kellner highly suggests wearing long pants, long sleeves and gloves. Even though the Simunition guns aren’t lethal, “if you get hit on bare skin, it will draw blood,” Kellner says.

Bruce Mellott, an employee of Graft Electric, recalls training in the shoot house with his coworkers.

“It was a great training exercise,” he says. “You know you’re not going to get shot and killed, but there’s still that adrenaline factor of knowing you could possibly get shot and it hurts. It gives you a bit of a sting.”

Mellott has had his concealed-carry permit for 18 years, but says he hopes he never has to use it on a person. The training has helped him prepare for an active-shooter event by putting him in an office environment where he has a gun on him and is being shot at by a real person.

“Training enables you to react with more of an automatic response than a long, thought out one,” Mellott says. “If that situation ever happens, it must be an automatic response because if you delay, it could be your life. Training with the Simunition gives you a better flight or fight response.”

Families have come to the shoot house to practice how they would handle the situation of someone breaking into their home with a gun Kellner says. The walls inside the shoot house can be moved so that the space can better resemble someone’s actual home.

Churches have done active shooter training there as well, he adds. The shoot house was set up like a church, with a stage for the preacher to stand at and the congregation in chairs facing the stage.

Military and law enforcement officials have also trained in the shoot house.

Kellner advises anyone who has completed active-shooter training to continue training and developing muscle memory in case a real-life situation occurs.

“It’s like riding a bike. If you fall off, you’ll get back on and go again,” Kellner says. “But the more you use it, the better your skills will be and the more accurate and comfortable you’ll be. If you get into a situation, you have to be that comfortable in muscle memory. Because if it’s something you have to think about, you’re too late.”

Just as important as the physical training is the background knowledge on guns that can be learned in classes through instructors at Kellner Range.

“Education is key,” asserts Daniel Marteney, salesman and instructor at Kellner Range. “Everyone seems to think guns are the problem and guns are not the problem. It’s the lack of education that’s the problem and lack of respect for what they do as well.”

Customers have brought guns to the shop and told Marteney, “I don’t know anything about this,” he says.

He first makes sure the gun isn’t loaded and then shows the customer how to use his gun safely.

“We like to educate people and help as much as possible,” he says.

Classes – ranging from beginner’s firearms training to those for police departments – that aren’t held in the shoot house take place at Beaver Creek Sportsman’s Club in Washingtonville. The instructors are certified by the National Rifle Association or the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy.

Marteney teaches the class on firearm basics, while Kellner or instructor Bill Myers handle the more advanced courses.

Myers has 25 years of experience in law enforcement and teaches the concealed-carry classes, which includes six hours of bookwork and two hours of range time.

“We can break it down to someone who has never picked up a gun before,” Myers says. “We’ve had people from the military who have gone through the classes and indicated they learned a lot.”

With the increase in active shooter events across the country, Myers says he has seen firearms classes and training become more popular, as people want to become more educated.

“It’s not the gun that’s shooting at people. It’s the person behind the gun,” he says.

Whether you have your concealed-carry permit or not, Myers advises, “Be aware of your surroundings and know that in this day and time anything like that can happen.”

In an active shooter situation, “If you’re able to, get out of the situation and run,” he says. “If you’re not able to do that, fight back.”

Pictured: Jake Kellner, owner of Kellner Range & Supply, holds a Desert Tech SRS-A1 inside his gun shop at 325 Industrial Drive in Columbiana.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.