A hobby that's right on target

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A hobby that's right on target

Don't know what to do for your next date? How about picking up a .45 Magnum, gritting your teeth like Clint Eastwood and squeezing off a few rounds?

Yes, Korea does have target shooting ranges, and we don't mean those air gun places in Sinchon. One shooting enthusiast is Lee Hyeok-seung, 24, who has enjoyed handling guns since his days in the army. Mr. Lee likes to go to the shooting ranges in Seoul on the weekends. "I feel like I'm John Wayne in those old classic cowboy flicks," he said.

There are more than 10 shooting ranges in Korea, six of which are in Seoul. Most of the people who go to Seoul's ranges are foreigners, mostly Japanese tourists -- target shooting is banned in Japan. But the number of local shooters is rising, says Kim Jeong-yeon, a gun instructor at the Lotte World Shooting Range in southern Seoul's Jamsil area. Ms. Kim says her facility gets people of all types. Office workers like to bet each other over their marksmanship during their lunch break, she said, while couples come in search of something different.

The ranges have an assortment of guns to try, more than 30 on average, including Berettas, Smith & Wessons, Glocks and Colts.

By and large, the ranges have reassuring safety features. In fact, when you shoot at the ranges these days you need to be accompanied by a personal instructor, and the gun is chained to the shooting station. Those stern measures were adopted after two people in Seoul used the shooting ranges to commit suicide last year; this year another did likewise at a range in Busan. Also, shooters must be at least 20 years old, and must wear bulletproof vests, goggles and earplugs when they shoot.

One of the most popular ranges is the Seoul Shooting Club (02-542-3999) in Apgujeong-dong, south of the Han River. It is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., with six 25-meter-long shooting positions. English and Japanese services are available. Take subway line 3 to Apgujeong Station and use exit 5. Ten rounds of .35-or-smaller caliber bullets cost 20,000 won ($16), and 10 rounds of larger bullets cost 30,000 won.

Another place south of the Han is the Korea Shooting Range (02-3477-7890) in Banpo-dong, run by Jeong Ju-han, who once coached the national shooting team. The place has 19 kinds of guns, the biggest line available in the country. It has six 15-meter-long positions. Ten rounds are offered at 30,000 won for smaller calibers, and 50,000 won for .44 and .45 Magnums. And nearby is the Seocho Shooting Range (02-586-0700), which you can reach by taking subway line 7 to Naebang Station and using exit 6.

If you're a parent and want to teach gun safety to your kids, the Mokdong Shooting Range (02-2646-9993) in southwestern Seoul caters to young gunners, offering special air-shooting classes for children. The place is also Korea's biggest shooting range, with 31 positions. Running the facility is Park Jong-gil, a former shooting gold medalist.

The best place for beginners may be the Lotte World range (02-414-4013), which is inside the amusement park complex. Only five kinds of guns are available, and 10 rounds go for 20,000-25,000 won.

by Chun Su-jin

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