Places to Shoot

It is basically impossible to maintain a healthy shooting culture without having places to shoot. Even if we change the laws in places like New York City, because they’ve been so utterly successful at destroying their gun culture, Bloomberg likely won’t ever have to worry about icky gun people in his city. There’s almost nowhere to buy a gun, and almost no places left to shoot. This is a city that once contained NRA’s primary shooting facility! Can you imagine that today? Actually, you don’t have to. This is where NRA’s range in New York City was:

Think there’s any chance of getting that facility back as a shooting range? Not a chance. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be possible to make new places to shoot in the Five Boroughs, but it’ll take generations, and a court willing to take the Second Amendment seriously.

It’s far easier not to lose those places to shoot in the first place. Generally speaking, I’m not going to air my club’s dirty laundry in a public forum. But I’ve spoken about some things either seeking advice or pointing out things that might be useful for people in the same position. I see a few comments here and there like this:

“Sorry, but, your club sounds like a Fudd club.  Are black rifles banned too?  Only 1 shot every two seconds?”

Now, my club it’s actually not a Fudd Club. It’s Gun Culture 1.5, to use that analogy. No issues with black rifles there: but we do have some rules that are… outdated. I am not likely as far behind as some other people would be in participating in an effort to bring Gun Culture 2.0 to a Gun Culture 1.0 club. But anyone struggling to help in such an endeavor has my respect: we owe it to future generations of shooters to try to preserve places to shoot.

I will fully acknowledge that some clubs and ranges are hopeless, and will die with their current leadership. I’m not suggesting every effort will always pay off, just that the effort is worth our collective time even if our individual effort fails. I can almost guarantee you that if you were to join a “Fudd Club” of sufficient size, you’re going to find allies in any effort to un-Fudd it. If you suddenly find yourself trying to take a Gun Culture 1.0 club into Gun Culture 2.0, I offer some advice:

  • Don’t be an asshole. No one likes someone who comes in with a personal agenda and has all the grace of a bull in a china shop. Those people are quickly flagged as trouble, because most of the time they are, no matter what they are selling.
  • Try some of the old shooting sports. I shot Silhouette for several years. I even shot air gun silhouette. It greatly improved certain aspects of my shooting. It’s also a great way to get to know people, which is key to changing anything. You’ll find friends in unexpected places. As I’ve introduced some more modern shooting sports, I’m finding a lot of unexpected crossover from shotgunners.
  • Be willing to help out. I was willing to help out when asked, or even when I wasn’t asked. Before I knew it, I received the ultimate punishment a club can administer to a member: I was given an officer’s position.
  • Don’t expect or push to change things overnight. I have been an officer for almost a decade at this point, and I’m just now starting to have enough influence to change some things. A lot of what got me to the point was circumstantial. It’s good to have an instinct for when an organization is ready for change, and when you’ll get resistance. When you get to those “ready for change” moments, go for it.
  • Talk to people. In deliberative bodies, if you bring an issue up and lose, that will be dead for a while. No one likes rehashing old shit that got shot down. So if you’re going to bring up an issue, be sure you have the votes. Have an idea which people are strong and weak yeas or nays. Think about compromise positions. Think about what you can do to firm up your weak votes.
  • Build systems and culture, not cults of personality. If you don’t bring other people along with what you want to do, even if you succeed in making changes, they likely won’t outlast you. People who are successful at building a legacy build systems and cultures. Culture is important, and it’s deliberate. It doesn’t just happen. It’s like a garden. You have to tend it.

I’ve heard stories of clubs that change through outright revolution. I recall a story told to me a while ago about a club in Pennsylvania who had a cadre of members that wanted to put on a machine gun shoot. The leadership said no. Next election, they replaced the leadership. That club now has an annual machine gun shoot. If you have the votes and the people willing to step up to affect that kind of thing, it’s an option. I am a reasonably good administrator. I’m a poor revolutionary. I’ve always wondered how the people who used the outright revolution managed it. I have to work within the confines of my own strengths and weaknesses, which I guess is a good final bit of advice. I’m always curious to hear stories in the comments from anyone who’s got one.

38 thoughts on “Places to Shoot”

  1. OTOH, don’t count out people who are on the mat, either. There’s what appears like it’s going to be a target have range opening not much more than 5 miles away from me, in Union NJ on US 22.

    To next to no protest that I’ve seen. (All the pixels I’ve seen smoking are due to a police range in the area.)

  2. Sebastian for the #Fakenews win of the week:

    “Now, my club it’s actually not a Fudd Club. It’s Gun Culture 1.5, to use that analogy.”

    You were just last week or 2 weeks back bemoaning people drawing from the holster.

    c’mon. Embrace your inner FUDD :-)

    1. I don’t think there’s any club in the area that allows unrestricted draw from holster. Even LPRGC limits it to recognized competitors in those sports, and LPRGC runs a lot of GC 2.0 matches.

      1. Really? I didn’t know ranges restricted drawing from holsters!

        All of the ranges I’ve belonged to – two in Lancaster County (including a FUDDer one) and one in Chester County, allowed drawing from the holster.

      2. “unrestricted draw from holster.”

        That’s not a real thing. You might as well say “I don’t think people can be responsible with holsters” which maybe is the popular FUDD opinion in your area, but it’s nonsense. Everyone signs an indemnity form and you stop restricting safety equipment.

        1. The issue is I can’t say drawing from holster doesn’t introduce extra risk. If I were the owner of the club, or the dictator, I’d allow it. But clubs in the area tend to restrict it because they are large, and we don’t know everyone.

          The law of averages says if enough people practice the draw, eventually someone is going to shoot themselves or someone else. That’s the issue. A lot of clubs want to minimize that risk. I think it’s very risk adverse, but it’s understandable. And when you see how much a lot of people’s gun handling sucks, you get a lot more understanding.

          1. My old club in Jersey issued Board of Directors approved Draw and Fire permits. The prerequisite – safely competing in three Steel Challenge or USPSA matches at the club, or getting one of the match directors to endorse you. That’s easily achievable by anyone, and had the added benefit of introducing some members to the shooting sports.

          2. Where do you want people to learn if they aren’t allowed to draw from holster at a range?

            1. Yes. Exactly. That’s one of my main arguments. But again, not a dictator. I have to convince a 8 other people to change it.

      3. I’m not a member at LP, but I don’t believe that is an accurate summary of their policies.

        As I understand it, they basically have a set of qualifications, and a test, with the “justification” being they want to observe how safe you are as a shooter before they let you do things like draw from a holster, or shoot from downrange positions (which is particularly useful for people looking to practice for things like USPSA/IDPA in the pistol bays).

        Those that have received this endorsement are said to be “action qualified”; It’s not something that you have to be a competitive shooter to get, but that’s one of the easier avenues to take (again: they want to gauge your level of safety/proficiency in a heavily RO’d setting).

        Like a lot of the annoying rules and regulations at most of the clubs in this area, its the sort of policy that can make at least a small degree of sense when viewed with the right optics: Most of the clubs in this area are surrounded by houses, and restrictive rules are seen as a way to weed out certain types of unsafe shooters.

        Whether or not these policies actually accomplish their stated goals isn’t really relevant as far as the people pushing for the rules are concerned.

  3. I’ll apologize again for harping on this, even though it needs no apologies: This is one of the reasons why the success of the “Culture Wars” people at luring the “gun culture” away from being “single issue” has been so pernicious. Unless you buy pretty much the whole “Culture Wars” package, in many places you can’t comfortably be a member of the “gun culture.” No one can enjoy a sport at the same time they’re nursing a set of tight jaws over a comment some other shooter just made, assuming that because you’re a shooter you have to agree with them on their parallel pet issues.

    1. I might take that compliant more seriously if the people making it weren’t usually the sort of people willing to go all squishy on guns at the slightest provocation, and didn’t put their position on those “social issues” ahead of their position on gun rights.

  4. Regarding NYC and New York State as a whole, it goes to show how important State Premption Laws are, because all of the State Premption Laws on the books across the Country put a lot of restrictions on municipalities and counties with regards to zoning ordinances, meaning that they do keep hostile anti-gunners from using zoning abilities to strangle gun cultures out of existence.

    New York State has never had preemption laws with regards to firearms, and gun control has always had a home in New York State overall. It is also important to note that Albany, Buffalo, and even Rochester, all cities in NY, have equally as restrictive gun laws as NYC, and stricter than the State overall. Gun Culture in NYS is balkanized away from the greater statewide culture of NY, making gun rights nonexistent there.

    This goes to show that preserving our 2nd Amendment is way more important at the State, County, and Local Levels of Government. State-wide Offices and State Legislatures are definitely the most important, and the most important Statewide offices are the State AG’s and Statewide Judicial Branches.

    Makes me very nervous for you guys in PA, as I could easily see your Democrat AG and State Supreme Court, by bureacratic fiat, writing your State Preemption Laws off the books. I’m also nervous for Ohio (my state) should Richard Cordray win our Governor Race, and should they also win the State AG race too.

    1. This actually drives home the point that the problem is really in how seats in our bicameral state legislatures are allocated:

      Federally, the idea is that seats in The House of Representatives are allocated (roughly) proportionally to population, while seats in the Senate are allocated equally to each top-level sub-polity.

      If that model were repeated in the states, most states would have a chamber that had proportional representation based on population (i.e. one legislator per N people), and one that had equal representation based on counties (i.e. N legislator(s) per county).

      If we had that, the rural counties in states like NY and CA would have a fighting chance to stop the big cities from railroading them with bad laws.

      Except that isn’t what we have: Across the country, every state-level bicameral legislature I’m aware of has two chambers full of people elected based on proportional representation of people, which allows the big cities to run roughshod over their rural neighbors.

      1. Blame SCOTUS. I forget the name of the decision, but SCOTUS forced the states to do proportional representation in all houses in the name of “one man one vote.”

        So the states are *not permitted* to have a republican form of government modeled on the US Constitution.

      2. I’ve always hated that fact as well. They should be replicated or they should just have one house.

      3. It was Reynolds v. Simms that was the origin of the “one man, one vote” doctrine. I believe it was wrongly decided. It should have allowed for representation along traditional political boundaries, like counties. The reason we got to where we did is because some states were using unequal districting to disenfranchise blacks. The question in my mind is if you didn’t have “one man, one vote” how many states would have adopted county boundaries for choosing Senate seats knowing blacks largely packed themselves into dense urban areas.

        It’s not an easy problem. I think the court probably should have allowed states that had those systems to keep them, as long as they weren’t dickering with the borders due to racial animus. But if a state were to adopt such a system, they would have to show they had motivations that weren’t related to disenfranchising minority voters.

        1. I would propose that we should have a similar rule to counties within a State, that we have for States: that the borders cannot be changed, except by agreement with the two counties in question, and the State legislature.

          If counties can be changed willy-nilly by the State legislature, then the State Senate would be subject to gerrymandering….

          1. It’s not an easy question. We allow it in the case of the federal government because our constitution allows it and states are their own sovereigns. It’s a harder case with states and counties. The federal circumstance is unique and not so easily replicated at the state level. I think if Reynolds v. Simms had allowed for unequal representation by geography, provided it followed traditional political boundaries, there would have to be a provision that those boundaries are historical and not arbitrary. If a legislature starts making them arbitrary, then all bets are off, and you cease to fall in under the carve out.

            1. There’s a reason that organized systemic racists are my least favorite people. The constitution has had to be bent all out of shape to fight their pernicious deviltry.

  5. I’ve told this story before, but I tried to be a revolutionary. My former range, without notice, restricted “rapid fire” to no more than 2 shoots every 5 minutes (or something equally silly).

    I spent a year trying to build up the momentum to get that changed. Despite having 2000 people. I never could. Now, I’m not that charismatic, but the apathy was astounding. They even elected an officer who supported scary looking gun bans.

    I ended up leaving that range and my new range is awesome. The definition of Gun Club 2.0.

    Looking back, I really needed to figure out a way to organize people, and convince them to come. I think that’s how people succeed – they find enough pissed off people to throw out the FUDers.

    1. Oh… oh… MISTA… that’s an easy one. Just ignore “rapid fire” crap rules, but don’t be a jerk so as to bring attention to yourself. That is mostly how that happens at the FUDD 1.0 ranges I’m familiar with. ;)

      As for the old shooting sports, this is also a problem for the Fudd ranges since there are a lot of curmudgeonly personalities that tend to be a turnoff to others when trying something new. Am I the best at trying something new? No. But I don’t see my range as welcoming for things like steel shoots or even trap.

      1. Depends on the venue. In some instances rapid fire rules are actually a “don’t be a dick” rule. Some places mean to enforce it as a way of keeping out undesirables.

        I know a few curmudgeons. Most of them are actually decent human beings if you can get past that. Not all, but in my experience most. A lot of them may even shed a bit of that when they see things happening.

        A lot of them have anxieties about the decline in their favorite sports being a bellwether for the decline in shooting sports as a whole. I’ve encountered this many times. They’ll lament, for instance, how there aren’t Bullseye leagues like there used to be, and tell stories about how much bigger Bullseye was at Camp Perry back in the day, and how there used to be so many more young people around.

        But they don’t realize that ammunition prices have gone sky high because the shooting sports are actually doing pretty well, and there’s plenty of young people in it. Just not in their sports.

        Here’s another thing: old people don’t really like being around other old people exclusively. Bringing in fresh and young energy can turn a lot of those curmudgeons around. Not all, but more than you’d think.

      1. Absolutely. I don’t regret trying. Even in failure I’ve learned a lot.

    2. Just be polite & don’t hose down everything doing mag dumps. It’ll be fine.

  6. I cant relate to yall up north when it comes to shooting clubs. Here is S.C. I have 3 National Forest gun ranges within 4 miles of my house. We have a club that meets every saturday and rotate ranges. Really the only rule we have is that everyone set their guns down when the horn blows so that we can check targets. I mean, we have safety rules but as far as someone wanting to empty a mag or clip, hey its their $. We also dont tell anyone what they can shoot. In fact, if someone shows up with a rare animal, we ask questions and take turns shooting it. Then again, where I live, they sell popular rifle and pistol ammo in the grocery store and some convenience stores. The ranges are policed by DNR but, the rangers usually join in on the shooting. The ranges are open from dawn to dusk.

  7. Even the NRA range in the basement of their HQ in Fairfax had a “rapid fire” rule, at least when I used to use it (2009-2012). I would say it was rarely enforced though, and more than likely anyone getting actually getting dinged for it was acting like an ass for other reasons.

    Speaking of NYC ranges, I remember reading an article about a year ago regarding some very low-key pistol range somewhere in the basement of a building in the heart of Manhattan, obviously to be used by the very well connected who are able to get a carry permit there.

    I grew up in the Hudson Valley area and my father would take me to a range in Westchester County called Blue Mountain. Of course to even use the pistol range you needed a NY pistol permit, but I used to love shooting my 10-22 at steel plates there, and my father and I would bench-shoot his AR from time to time, though you were only allowed to load one round at a time. I’d imagine NY has only gotten worse from my time growing up there in the 90s.

    1. The ROs in the basement range at NRA HQ get uptight about the no camera rule, though. Dude nearly got thrown out in the lane next to me because he was using a camcorder (with the media door open) as a spotting scope. Of course, he tried to argue with the RO, and it is in black-and-white…

  8. Houston is in sad shape in terms of places to shoot. A lot of commercial ranges filled with yahoos and Fudds. No real clubs to join. I had it better in NJ and CA. CJRPC in Jersey and BLM land in CA.

  9. Nice part living out here there’s a lot of land. Unfortunately the BLM are a bunch of assholes. There used to be a spot we would go to but it’s been shut down because idiots started killing cattle. So they ruin it for the rest of us. Now here we have a lot of places to shoot. Both rangers and land. We also have Ben Avery which is the biggest in the country. There is a spot close to a Coppermine surrounded by a mountain I sometimes got to. Problem is it’s inaccessible when it rains for a few days/weeks. if you take your time you can get there with the regular car.

  10. Ha! I got you to quote a comment. It’s true. Your club is either a fudd club or it’s not. Like pregnancy, there’s no in between. The ring county gun clubs were never about guns. They were hunting and drinking clubs. Today’s Sunday trap shoots are rooted in PA liquor laws of the past prohibiting alcohol sales on sunday except at private clubs. It was church then trap and beers. Metallic silhouettes were started as a hunting competition to show off some skills outside of the 13 days of deer season. These weren’t gun guys who started these clubs. They were urban hunters who didn’t give a crap about gun rights so long as their shotguns and .270 were left alone. Many of those guys, and the legacy guys still around, think that handguns, unless a .38 revolver, and semi-auto rifles should all be banned since you can’t hunt with them.

    As for LPRGC, the neighbor problems that club is facing is due to fudd decisions made in the 80’s, not to buy up surrounding farmland. Today it’s a 40 acre club encroached by $400k homes that developers sold by telling prospective buyers that the club was closing. But, modern shooting guys have prevailed there and the club is hosting a lot revenue generating IPDA, Steel, and USPSA matches.

    Your club doesn’t allow holster draw because holster drawing has no place in hunting and there’s no need for it. These old men are willing to march the club into a sure death instead of doing anything that might bring in money, bring in members, and change the status quo.

    Clubs outside of the ring counties are thriving, growing in both land acquired, members added, and new facilities; I shoot with a lot of Bucks county gun guys who drive an hour to join and shoot at clubs where they do more than stand in place and bullseye shoot. These clubs and people are introducing and raising new shooters who have no interest in “bagging that buck” and instead are focused on the action sports and competition. Palmyra Sportsmen’s Association has turned out an Olympic gold medalist (Jamie Lynn Corkish) and a nation champion (Kirsten Joy Weiss). Ontelaunee has produced a S&W pro team member as well as junior national champions. New Holland keeps buying land, and pushing out its 600 yard range further and further. Where else can you shoot at targets that are half a mile a away and drive down to the target line? These clubs have thousands of members, lots of money, and are adding facilities, classes and competitions.

    So you’re either a club that’s living in 2018 and growing the shooting sports or you’re a club that’s living in 1953 and only cares about shooting trap on Sundays over beers without the women and kids. The latter being a fudd club.

    We’ll just skip over the clubs that embraced the hunger games fueled young female archery craze a few years ago. The last thing fudds want are a bunch of 14 year old girls showing up to shoot archery. It turns out that young female shooters (archery and bullseye) are really damn good. And old men with egos and hunting stories can’t be having any of that come around.

    1. As for LPRGC, the neighbor problems that club is facing is due to fudd decisions made in the 80’s, not to buy up surrounding farmland. Today it’s a 40 acre club encroached by $400k homes that developers sold by telling prospective buyers that the club was closing. But, modern shooting guys have prevailed there and the club is hosting a lot revenue generating IPDA, Steel, and USPSA matches.

      Yes. It’s been turned around. It was worth saving. We’re in an industrial area and not surrounded by suburban homes. It’s a location worth saving. And it’s not as black and white or simple as you’re making it out to be.

      Clubs outside of the ring counties are thriving, growing in both land acquired, members added, and new facilities;

      That’s great. The ring counties of PA contain about 2 million people. If you add in Chester County, which isn’t technically a ring county but is usually counted as a suburban county, it’s 2.5 million. Add that to the city’s 1.6 million. Now you’re talking 4.1 million people in a state with 12 million. And that’s not including a lot of smaller cities that are highly Democratic like Allentown and Scranton. Do you want the ring counties to have no gun vote? Because writing off all the ring county clubs as lost Fudd causes is how you get no gun vote in the ring counties in a generation. Your success outside the Philly metro area won’t matter worth a damn once the votes are there for an assault weapons ban. It will absolutely eviscerate the gun culture in this state.

      1. “And it’s not as black and white or simple as you’re making it out to be.”

        It really is. You’re trying to twist it into something more complex like being half pregnant. Clubs fall into one of two categories, growing or stagnant/contracting. What’s the average age of your club? Over 50? You’re a dying club.

        With so few clubs in the ring counties there are fewer than 25,000 club members out of those 2.5m people. The gun vote is not solely about owning a gun or being a club member, if it was, black rifles and CCW would already be banned in PA.

        1. No, it’s really more complicated than that, and if you were involved with trying to save a club you’d realize that. And yes, the average age of the club is over 50. Things can be changed. Nothing is written in stone that says you can’t turn an organization around. I’ve never been a fatalist.

Comments are closed.