Tough on the range: Shooting ranges can be fun, but also hard to keep up

Fifty, 60 years ago we shot our rifles at "the gravel pit" located northwest of Jamestown. The pit itself was 200 yards in length with a wooden bench at 100 yards. It was a mess because some shooters brought old appliances and other junk for targ...

Fifty, 60 years ago we shot our rifles at "the gravel pit" located northwest of Jamestown.

The pit itself was 200 yards in length with a wooden bench at 100 yards. It was a mess because some shooters brought old appliances and other junk for targets, then walked away and left the refuse for someone else to clean up.

Whoever owned the gravel pit put a locked gate and a "keep out" sign over the entrance about the time I left Jamestown in the early 1970s.

Some years later The Pipestem shooting range was established. I confess that I shot there only once or twice with my father, probably during the late 1980s or early 1990s. As I remember, the place was a mess just as bad as the old gravel pit. And according to a recent article in the Sun, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shut it down last July after a nearby homeowner complained of bullets striking that person's house!

Currently, The United Sportsmen of North Dakota Jamestown Chapter Shooting Range Committee is beginning a search for a new range location. The group has grand plans for a new shooting range, and I wish them well. It will involve a lot of money and work but it can be done.


Which brings me to a point: In my experience, every range I ever frequented that was open to the general public turned out to be unworkable and also a pig sty. That includes the 100-yard range in Juneau, Alaska and "The Butte" at Great Falls, Mont., that was situated on land owned by the U.S. Air Force. The same problem ensued-shooters bringing junk of all kinds to serve as targets, and then leaving it all behind. The Air Force eventually shut it down.

The finest rifle range I ever fired upon was located 20 miles north of Cheyenne, Wyo. A couple benches had been built inside an abandoned school house for the 100-yard sighting range. The main range went from 200 to 600 yards, and it was exactly like the wonderful rifle ranges I fired on while in the Marine Corps, complete with "butts" where one could pull targets up and down, and phone connections between the butts and firing lines. Memberships were required and the range had a gate and combination lock.

I fired on an excellent private range along the Missouri River near Great Falls, another good range at Livingston, Montana-both required NRA memberships and a club membership with annual dues.

For about 25 years I belonged to the gun club located near Logan, some 25 miles west of Bozeman. It is called the Manhattan Wildlife Association, and the club runs a fine range with cement and sturdy wooden benches complete with awnings over the bench area to keep out blazing sun or rain. A couple bays make up the pistol ranges, which also are used for cowboy action shooting. There are two regulation trap ranges and one skeet range. The rifle range has target areas out to 450 yards.

The range includes a spacious clubhouse complete with cooking facilities, a restroom area and lots of tables and seating. Every September the club holds a family day with many different shooting events, drawings for prizes and a big picnic-everything furnished by the club.

I haven't been a member for the last few years, but last time I was it cost $40 a year and NRA membership was required. Membership has been as high as 1,700. Each member receives a card with the combination of the lock etched on it. The combination changes every year.

Again, I hope Jamestown shooters can find a location and proceed with establishing a new range. I am adamant, however, about mandatory memberships and a locked combination gate.

Recently the District Ranger of the Custer Gallatin National Forest wrote an editorial in the local paper, complaining about 5,000 pounds of junk left by shooters up in the Moser Creek area some 15 miles south of Bozeman. This sort of nonsense has been going on ever since I moved here 30 years ago.


Applying the public mentality to a possible Jamestown range, I predict that if you allow anyone off the street to come in and shoot, hooligans will make a mess of things and you will be right back to where you started.

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