A Brief History of Beckley Gun Club: The First Twenty Years
I was recently loaned a file of the back issues of the Beckley Gun Club Bullet, our official gun club newsletter. I would like to share with you some of the most important happenings from the newsletter along with other items of interest.
In the winter of 1976 a group of shooters were enjoying their sport at the indoor range at the armory, now the Civic Center. (The range is long since closed.) This group discussed the possibility of organizing a gun club and in February 1977 they did so. They shot at the police range when weather permitted and at the armory indoor range when necessary. Club meetings were held at the ranges with shooting included in the evenings events.
Bullseye pistol was apparently the most popular activity during the first couple of years. Small bore rifle was soon added to the activities as was combat pistol. Metallic silhouette shooting was increasing in popularity and was soon added to the clubs activities.
In April of 1980 the club applied to Beaver Land Company for a lease on property at Metalton on which to construct a range. In November 1980 the lease was signed and the club could begin construction of the Metalton Range complex. By 1981 a club house was built on the range.
This range was quite popular with our members and with visitors, but it had some drawbacks which our present range let us see clearly. On the right hand side of the range was the high power rifle range. The metallic silhouette range was located on the left side and the bullseye pistol range was located near the fork in the road between the two.
The high power range had firing points for 100, 200 and 300 yards. It was necessary to climb partway up a hillside to reach the 300 yard position, but matches were conducted on a regular basis with shooters traveling from other clubs to compete.
The first range you would reach on the left hand side of the range was the bullseye pistol range. There was a cover over the firing bench with gravel underfoot. There were target positions at 25 and 50 yards. The stands mounted on mechanisms that allowed them to be pivoted from a side view to facing the shooter and back. This was used for timed fire. The target stands were moved from the 25 yard to the 50 yard positions as the match progressed.
The metallic silhouette range was prepared with rails to hold the targets in front of prepared berms at ranges of 25, 50, 75 and 100 meters. Both pistol and .22 rimfire rifle targets were available and matches of both sorts were held there including a couple of state championship matches.
There was one big drawback with this arrangement. We could not shoot silhouette and high power rifle at the same time! Bullet impact areas overlapped the target setting areas of each range. It was necessary to close one range when firing was going on at the other. This was not an ideal situation by any means and is one reason the duties of the executive officer include supervising the ranges. It was up to that officer to see to it that there was no conflict in the match schedules and hopefully in the practice shooting.
By spring 1981 the clubhouse was being built at the Metalton Range with volunteer labor and with much of the materials being donated. In April of 1981 the club hosted the state championship indoor air pistol matches held at the armory.
In 1982 club members were encouraged to participate in the DCM rifle matches at the range by an explanation of how to qualify to order an M-1 Garand in good condition from DCM. Cost of this rifle, delivered to you by U.S. Mail, was $125.00. Qualification was simple, be a member of the club, participate in a match, get your NRA scorebook. Send a copy of your scorebook along with a completed application form and proofs of residence to DCM along with your check and wait. Within a couple of weeks you would be notified as to when your rifle would be mailed to you and when to expect delivery.
There also appeared a few adds placed by members in the newsletter. One member wanted to sell a Colt Python, blue finish, for the princely sum of $400.00. The same member also listed a Colt Gold Cup in .45 for $400.00.
In August of 1982 the highest number of entrants for an event at the club was set with 192 entrants for the state silhouette championship.
In 1986 membership was changed making all memberships family memberships (as it is now).
Our 1987 budget total was for $6025. In 1987 we were again victimized by vandals. Our stat house at the silhouette range along with a couple of smaller storage buildings were burned by vandals.
In 1988 we reached a five year high in membership numbers with over 80 members on the roles.
In 1991, we were selected by the NRA as the Outstanding Gun Club of the Year. Definitely a high honor for our little club!
In 1993, we were notified we would have to vacate the property. There was still coal there to be mined and the liability issue was too great for the coal company for us to stay. Beaver Land went out of their way to help us find the property we now lease for our range. Starting in the fall of 1993, we started building our new range. All that was there to start with was the land. All improvements including target berms we added after we moved in.
Probably the biggest news article of 1996 was the firsts outhouse being constructed! This is the one between the pistol range and the shotgun fields.
In 1997 the NRA again selected us as the Outstanding Gun Club of the Year. To the best of our knowledge we are the only club to ever win this award twice!