June 1, 1997

Finding Proper Shooting Facilities An Age-Old Struggle

Rich Landers Outdoors Editor
 

While Washington’s pro athletes scheme for public money to build another stadium, shooters are on their own with little chance of help from billionaires.

Finding a good, safe place to shoot target rifles and pistols has always been a struggle.

Suburban sprawl has been a major obstacle in building or maintaining outdoor ranges.

Even indoor ranges have their woes.

The indoor range in which Cheney’s Launi Meili squeezed practice rounds en route to her Olympic gold medal was closed to the public last year. Eastern Washington University hasn’t been able to afford alterations needed at Cadet Hall to meet clean air requirements.

In one decision, the Cheney Junior Rifle Team was history after decades of producing safe and talented shooters.

But thanks to the farsightedness of the Spokane Rifle Club, the Cheney kids and others throughout the region had an alternative.

“It was about 14 years in the making, but we got our indoor range finished at the right time for a lot of reasons,” said Frank Tavares, club president. “The immediate benefit to the club was an increase in women and junior shooters.”

Just weeks before the club’s first indoor range was scheduled to open in 1993, a wildfire that ripped through 680 acres of Riverside State Park burned the building down.

What took more than a decade to build with volunteer help rose again from the ashes in less than two years, thanks to an insurance settlement.

This is the second full season for the indoor range, which is booked virtually every night during winter for everything from junior shooting and women’s-only shooting to cowboy-style pistol competitions.

The club opens the range to public shooting three days a week during summer.

But the luxury of a modern indoor range is expensive.

“The specs we had to meet in this building are mind-boggling,” Tavares said, referring to rules set by the government and the National Rifle Association for safety and minimizing exposure to dust from lead bullets.

The powerful ventilation system sucks out warm air as fast as heaters can pump it during winter, he said.

The facility is costly, but the thousand or so members appear to be committed to the range for reasons that go beyond its assessed value of $425,000.

The club has a history of promoting shooting sports, safety and family involvement.

Consider this report from The Spokesman-Review, Aug. 5, 1951:

“Rifle marksmanship, formerly a man’s sport, now has a large following of the fair sex. Women have made and are making brilliant records with both rifle and pistol and several local ladies have won trophies and medals (at the Spokane Rifle Club).”

Outdoors, the club has a pistol range, rifle range and trapshooting range. The indoor facility has 14 shooting lanes to accommodate small-bore rifle and large-bore handguns.

But the club’s junior shooting program faded out in the 1980s largely because there was no indoor range.

Having an indoor facility to attract women and accommodate young shooters is critical to the future of the club, Tavares said.

“The shooting season for kids is during the school year,” he said. “That means in the winter and after classes. You have to have an indoor range.”

About the same time the club’s indoor range was built, private operators opened the Sharp Shooting Indoor Range on North Freya Way.

“We seem to complement each other,” Tavares said. “They can rent and sell guns, making it easier for casual shooters to get into the sport. But serious shooters eventually join a club because it’s less expensive.”

The Spokane Rifle Club has always had a tradition of strict safety monitoring at the ranges by trained shooters.

The recent infusion of youth shooters hasn’t changed that.

“But there is a different atmosphere,” Tavares said. “A few of the old-timers get their nose out of joint over all the changes. Mostly, they can’t get over the fact that the club has two top national shooters, and they’re both girls.”

, DataTimes MEMO: See related story under the headline: Real straight shooters

This sidebar appeared with the story: MAKING THEIR MARK Sharpshooters made their mark around Spokane long before the area produced an Olympic champion: 1887 - Spokane Rifle Club founded, shooting events held at old fairgrounds. 1913 - Members merge with other shooters to form Manito Pistol and Rifle Club, with shooting at Fort Wright military outdoor range and Spokane Armory indoor range. 1914 - Manito club purchases present club site along Spokane River between Bowl and Pitcher and Seven Mile Bridge on land later to be surrounded by Riverside State Park. 1924 - Club house built; shooters change name to Spokane Rifle Club.

See related story under the headline: Real straight shooters

This sidebar appeared with the story: MAKING THEIR MARK Sharpshooters made their mark around Spokane long before the area produced an Olympic champion: 1887 - Spokane Rifle Club founded, shooting events held at old fairgrounds. 1913 - Members merge with other shooters to form Manito Pistol and Rifle Club, with shooting at Fort Wright military outdoor range and Spokane Armory indoor range. 1914 - Manito club purchases present club site along Spokane River between Bowl and Pitcher and Seven Mile Bridge on land later to be surrounded by Riverside State Park. 1924 - Club house built; shooters change name to Spokane Rifle Club.

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