Experts Say: ''A Visit to an Alternate Reality''
As I write this, it is 4:00 a.m. and I am sitting at the South Bend, Indiana regional
airport, on my way home from visiting an alternate reality. I feel like Captain
Kirk, trying to makes sense out of the fact that I know I am in the United States
of America, but wondering if I had just been transported back to a time when my
parents were young, and I viewed the world out the side window of a 1966 Plymouth
This alternative reality actually exists (I’ll double check when I get home just
to make sure), in the form of the Sand Burr Gun Ranch, located just outside of Rochester,
Indiana. I was there in order to track down Massad Ayoob to film our second instructional
DVD addressing how to handle the immediate aftermath of a self-defense shooting.
When I needed to catch up with him, he was teaching a class at the Sand Burr Gun
The Sand Burr Gun Ranch is owned and operated by the Reichard family, consisting
of patriarch Dennis “D.O.” Reichard, a 34-year veteran of the Rochester, Indiana
Police Department, who is currently assigned as the department’s homicide detective.
Joining him in the operation of the range and gun store is his wife and business
partner, Cindy, along with his charming daughter Ashley. For years I have heard
of this .44 magnum shooting cop from Indiana who is a maestro with a .44 and one
of Massad Ayoob’s staff instructors for the Lethal Force Institute, so I was pleased
to spend three days with the Reichard family while I tracked down Massad to film
The Sand Burr Gun Ranch is located on 90 acres of rural Indiana woods, with the
ranges consisting of three large combination rifle and handgun ranges, along with
several specialty steel and bowling pin handgun ranges carved out of the white pine
timber that covers the remaining acreage.
A converted garage serves as a full service gun shop and gunsmithing facility and
it is crammed to the rafters with both old and new items. Because D.O. is a revolver
man, the new-gun inventory consists primarily of Smith and Wesson revolvers although
there are a few new semi-autos, in stock. D.O.’s influence is so strong, that his
entire family and most of the staff of volunteer instructors required for a smooth
and safe a 20-student LFI-1 class carried revolvers.
If you drive North on Old U.S. Highway 31 from Rochester, and look for the sign
to the Sand Burr Gun Ranch, you will drive right by the private driveway which serves
as the entrance to the range, because there is no sign on the road. I can respect
that, since my own shooting business has no sign either. People get there because
someone told them where to turn. That makes sense, as D.O. has put many of the local
bad guys away, and while there is a pretty good likelihood the locals know where
he lives, why advertise the exact location?
By now, you might be wondering why the talk of an alternate reality? It is because,
as one coming from the land of lattes and political correctness, it was refreshing
to find a place where men have not been emasculated, women could be both down to
earth and feminine, and everyone shot big bore revolvers. It’s like the clock stopped
somewhere in the early 80’s, and time passed by the Sand Burr Gun Ranch. That is
not a bad thing.
For years, D.O. supplemented his meager police salary by reloading ammunition for
the local shooters, and working on their revolvers. The remnants of this history
are illustrated in the stock of his gunshop, where new Crimson Trace Laser Grips
which retail for a couple hundred dollars, share shelf space with old stock, like
the Herrett’s wood grips for a Colt Mark III revolver, circa 1970, with an original
price tag of $8.00 still affixed. Pretty cool, to an old revolver man like myself.
But, don’t let my trip down nostalgia lane taint your thinking: D.O. is not stuck
in the 80’s. In fact, one of the neatest things I saw was a Smith and Wesson, M+P
.38 revolver with a Big Dot front sight. Recently, the folks at Sand Burr Gun Ranch
decided to expand their part-time gunsmithing and specialty gun shop into a full-time
endeavor, turning the garage into Ashley’s daytime job, with D.O. still doing the
gunsmithing in the evenings and on the weekends.
The facility also hosts different instructors, and while I was there, both Massad
Ayoob and John Farnam were teaching classes. In addition, the Reichards occasionally
teach private classes themselves.
Why the name Sand Burr Gun Ranch? Because, as D.O. relates, when he bought the place,
all he could do with it was grow pine trees and sand burrs, a small grassy annoyance
that acts like a cocklebur, only smaller. For years, he called his gunsmithing business
Reichard’s Firearms, but went to the more colorful name in 2004 when he bought the
property on which he had lived for years. The Reichards got serious about building
the gun range, and when they carved out the berms for the shooting bays, and they
felt a name change was appropriate. At about that same time, Ashley left her job
as a microbiologist and moved back home to work for her father as manager of the
gunshop, which then opened for business full-time.
As mentioned earlier, Reichard is a homicide detective, and works full-time in that
capacity for the Rochester, Indiana Police Dept. But, all good things must come
to an end, and Detective Reichard is looking beyond his days as a police officer,
and is building his next and final career. He has additional plans for the ranges
as he gets the time and energy, but for now, it is still a pretty cool place to
visit and train. The future looks bright for Sand Burr, with plans in place to start
their own line of entry and intermediate level of firearms classes, along with hosting
outside, itinerant instructors, such as Massad Ayoob and John Farnam.
I look forward to watching their growth over the coming years.
Marty Hays in Journal of the Armed Citizen’s Legal Defense Network, June 2008