At the basement of one of Korea’s largest theme parks and malls, nestled between the Sizzler and an ice skating rink overflowing with people, rests the Lotte World Shooting Range, one of ten live firing ranges in South Korea (six of which are in Seoul), where Koreans and foreigners alike have the opportunity to fire a wide range of handguns.
After this weekend, this was my third time at a firing range in Asia. The first time was when I fired an AK-47 at the Cu Chi VietCong tunnels outside of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The second was a Dragunov Sniper Rifle earlier this year at the China North International Shooting Range outside of Beijing, as part of a private tour I took with friends to the Great Wall. I didn’t shoot anything in Cambodia, though I hear you can fire an RPG at a cow if you really want to.
Anyway, back to the Lotte World range. Like a lot of places I’ve been to in Asia, civilians can’t own private firearms. So, this gives those who cannot own a gun the chance to at least fire one. One website I came across said theres a niche tourism market for Japanese nationals in Korea because live fire ranges don’t exist at all on the other side of the Yellow Sea. It’s supposedly the reason Airsoft was invented in the first place.
The range, which opened in 2002, is on the bottom level of the Lotte World mall in a small little enclave. If you weren’t paying attention, you wouldn’t even know it was there. There’s enough bulletproof glass and soundproofing that its impossible to hear from the outside.
There are two price levels for the available handguns. It’s 20,000 won for ten shots on smaller caliber guns and 30,000 won for larger calibers. The site said they have eight handguns to choose from, but only four were available when we went. The available 20,000 won guns were the 9mm Glock 17 and Beretta 92fs. The 30,000 won guns were the .45 ACP Glock 21 and a .357 Colt Python Magnum.
Others I saw on the list, but didn’t see anyone shoot, were the H&K USP, Para 14-45 (both .45), and Sig Sauer P226 (9mm). After selecting your firearm and waiting your turn with a ticket just like the DMV, they set you up with a rather flimsy-looking flak jacket and set of ear protection.
All the loaded guns are locked through the triggerguard with a metal chain to the wall. But before loading in a live magazine, the instructor shows you how to handle it properly, then asks you to pull the slide back and dry fire a few times. So, after less than a minute of instruction, it’s time to put the first round in the chamber and fire away.
After ten shots, they move the target back to the front and adding up a final score, you get to take home a souvenir. I shot ten rounds of the .45 Glock 21. I managed to get 83 of 100 possible points with around three in the 10 ring. The gun had a big kick to it, but it only took a few shots to get my aim focused. However, I had a fresh casing fly out and get lodged between my arm and a rolled up sleeve, so it left a nice little burn after I did a little dance trying to get rid of it.
One thing I noticed that would never fly in the US are all the Airsoft guns and military helmets sitting in the foyer used as props for posing in photos. Odds are because most of the ranges I’ve been to also serve as pro shops and most people bring their own firearms in. But, still, it was kind of shocking at first.
Overall, it was a good time and it was the first time some of my friends had ever fired a gun before. Odds are we’ll likely do it again. And some even say they are going to try a larger caliber the next time around.
Directions to The Lotte World Shooting Range:
* Subway: Take the Seoul Subway Line No.2 (Green), and get off at Jamsil Station and go out through Exit No.4, which leads to Lotte World Adventure.
The firing range is on the Third Floor Basement next to ice rink ticket booth.
It’s open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on most days.