What do you look for in a Gun Club?


February 25, 2011, 03:08 PM
I'm going to visit a local private gun club this afternoon. What features do you look for in a club? Is there anything you avoid? I guess I am more interested in being accepted by the current members (i'm 26 and still getting treated like i'm an 18 year old punk) but that's another storyall together. I don't have anyone in my family with land or memberships to private clubs so I really don't have any experience with them.

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February 25, 2011, 03:34 PM
There are many things which can be important in picking a shooting club, or could ruin your experience there if they aren't a good fit. Unfortunately, some of them are very unlikely to be things you can get a feel for on a first visit on a Friday afternoon. But I'd say the most basic one you can easily discern on a first visit is what the range rules and restrictions are.

If you carry a defensive sidearm, or want to do realistic practical shooting drills, and/or practice for IDPA or USPSA or other practical shooting competition, you need to watch that you don't end up with a club which will want to restrict your shooting to "square-range," slow fire, plinking or bullseye type stuff -- or not allow you to work with a holster.

If you collect, shoot, and/or compete with autoloading carbines (ARs, AKs, etc.), you don't want to be hampered by range rules that only allow single-loading or a few rounds in the mag at a time.

Even more simple than this, though, is is the club set up for the kind of shooting you want to do? If you're a handgunner and this club seems mostly devoted to Sporting Clays, Skeet, and Trap, that could be a problem. The facilities might not serve you well, but you'll also generally be the odd man out who's needs the club doesn't try to meet. If you want to shoot CMP Highpower, what's the rifle range like? If it's one earth pit with a picnic table for a firing line, that's not a good sign.

Ask what groups meet at or use the facility. Is there a local IDPA club that shoots there? USPSA? SASS (Cowboy Action)? A bullseye league? High-power or smallbore team? How often to they hold events/matches? How often do they hold regular practice sessions? How many shooters attend these events? That will give you a good idea of the club's culture and how many opportunities you'll have to participate in worthwhile activities. (Or how often you'll have to avoid the range if you're a stick in the mud you would rather shoot alone.)

February 25, 2011, 03:38 PM
Range Rules as well as treatment of people who don't fit the standard gun owner's mold, for obvious reasons.

Sam outlined some pretty good stuff on looking at range rules.
As for the treatment, well, you just gotta feel this one out. Maybe take a look at whether there's any other shooters like you there at the high times? It's generally speaking a pretty good indicator if you find any one specific demographic utterly missing from the firing line.

February 25, 2011, 05:34 PM
Sam1911 nailed it.

One other concern that I have encountered is access times. Some ranges have different, and better, times of access for members with higher club status. This need to acquire club status has always rubbed me the wrong way. It turns into a situation where some are "in", and others are not.... mostly based on popularity and politics.

The club I belong to has a gate code that ALL members get so you can come and go at will during the approved hours. In our case that is 7 am to dusk for rifle and handgun, and clays under the lights until 10pm.

I would ask if there are "senior members" or "key holders" at any clubs that you are considering so that you can make an informed decision.

Good luck!


February 25, 2011, 06:23 PM
I look for a congenial atmosphere, courtesy and civility. There's a club not far from where I live that I gave up on years ago after I encountered rudeness
from a member there. If new prospective members are not welcome, or encounter frostiness or disdain, it's not the place for me.

February 25, 2011, 10:48 PM
An obvious feature is location. You will probably shoot more at a club a few minutes away than one which has substantial travel time.

You don't need to limit yourself to one club, since dues are probably not a major fraction of the amount the average THR shooter spends on guns/ammo/etc in a year.

February 25, 2011, 10:51 PM
Allows full-auto fire.

February 26, 2011, 06:43 PM
Also, I tend to look at target distances. Since I'm really not a long range shooter I'm not so much worried about the long, but rather short distance. A target minimum of 50 meters gets me nothing when I want to practice speed.
I'd figure with electronic locks, though, any range should be capable of at least 0800-1600 opening times, so ideally it shouldn't be an issue, right?

February 26, 2011, 06:47 PM
1 - The bathroom
2 - Coffee Maker
3 - Emergency Exit

Chris Rhines
February 26, 2011, 10:46 PM
Sam nailed most of it.

First things first, the club must be safe, both in the sense of physical features and, for lack of a better term, a "culture of safety."

Next, the club has to be equipped for the kind of shooting that you want to do. For me, that means shooting bays rather than a conventional firing line. It also means that there can not be any silly rules against 'rapid fire,' drawing from the holster, shooting while moving, etc.

Location, price, and intangibles all come after that.


February 27, 2011, 02:00 AM
In addition to all of the above, I like a well designed ventilation system. Nothing worse than feeling all gassy and toxic.

February 27, 2011, 06:29 AM
I would say look for bullet holes where there shouldn't be any. In the culture sense, the better clubs I have seen will make it a point to have work days to fix things like target frames etc that just get accidentally shot in the course of normal use to keep things nice for everyone and take pride in the club. On the safety side I've been to ranges with bullet holes in places nowhere near the direction of "down range". Those are the places I tend to avoid because 1) no one has bothered to fix it and 2) There are some obvious safety violations that are going on.

February 27, 2011, 10:15 AM
Our Beloit Rifle Club, Beloit, WI., stresses SAFETY FIRST all the time to our 700+ members. We have a pretty complete NRA professional range including indoor which can accommodate a wide variety of events such as, Archery, 100yd High power, 50 Yard, plinking area. CMP, Trap, Metallic Silhouette, Pistol Range, Black Powder, and SASS in the back lot with 19 stations. We have a variety of groups that compete and have fun. We are lucky to have such a facility in our area. Entry/Access is via 2 electric gates. We always promote new members and always greet non members in a welcoming way. We sponsor youth day open to the public which we furnish all the equipment and ammo, County 4H youth day, Military use our facility time to time, October/November Public Sight-in days, some state competitions, .....etc. Membership annual renewal is $65.00 with 8 work hours. New members, $180.00 first year. Even with 700 members, there are only 150 that use the facility on a weekly/monthly regular basis. Members must wear their membership button badges when on the premise. I have been caught by our grounds keeper! Look up your nearest club and see what it has to offer and times they have events that might interest you. Then pay them a visit that evening as the gates should be open. Some have websites. If you have the name of the person[s] running the event, ask to meet him/her when you visit. We have many members from out of state of which we have one on our board. People come from as far as IA to compete once a month in some of our sanctioned competitons and are not members. We welcome non members to participate in any weekly event as gates are open at those times. There is always a mentor to help you at our club. Even though I am not a Black Powder fellow, I volunteer to help out in some of their regional events which I find are really fun people to be around, just like our SASS group. Joining a club is putting into it to make it a better place for everyone.
I joined a rifle/pistol club because I wanted to compete and have access to other competitions I might enjoy. Sometimes I hang out at their Wednesday night pistol league and a couple of them are always encouraging me to shoot with them. I might surprise them this year and try my turret scoped .22 pistol which does not meet their requirements, but can shoot with them just the same. I can invision them saying......."What is that contraption?" I will have to get the distances dialed in on my scope a head of time. This is what I mean, you can have fun with a different group of guys and make friends. I might just enjoy their Wednesday eve thing which would be practice for me for Silhouette Metallic .22 pistol.

February 27, 2011, 10:15 AM
Proximity to my residence, accessibility (key access 24/7 or only open weekends?), price (prefer annual fee versus $10/day kinda thing), distances (definitely want more than 200 yards, prefer 600+ for rifle, carbine bays from contact to 100, pistol should be contact to 50)

No restrictions on holster work, magazine limits, firing speed, etc. (I shoot USPSA and do pistol and carbine practice...double taps and rapid fire are part of this)

Basically, I want to be left alone. I don't want people up in my business, I don't want range officers watching over my every move. I want just an open bay that I can do as I please whether it's pistol, carbine or whatever.

I usually bring everything I need from water, to targets, to portable shade. All I want is a backstop.

EDIT: I didn't mention safety, but I assumed that it is a safety minded facility.

February 27, 2011, 11:01 AM
Pretty much as Sam describes.

Things they must allow, even if some "test" is required beforehand;

Rapid fire, drawing from holstered, access without needing someone else (key, padlock, etc), 7 day a week access.

My range for example allows drawing from a holster and shooting on the move if you have a current IDPA or USPSA classification (or a badge of course) or if you demonstrate to a club officer in person that you can do it safely.

So many ranges don't allow those activities at all.

February 27, 2011, 02:57 PM
I would look for these items.


1. Any type firearm and magazine allowed, specifically including full auto.

2.Any type of safe target allowed, including silhouette and "realistic" L.E. types

3. Shooting from holster allowed. (done safely)

4. Range or ranges well suited to your preferred type of shooting
(example: my club has a "plinking range" where you can shoot soda cans, balloons, etc-clean up when finished enforced)

5. Club must have an FFL and afford members the opportunity to buy guns, ammo, and components in bulk at dealer cost.

6. Dues paying members have right to vote in (or out) directors.

February 27, 2011, 03:07 PM
5. Club must have an FFL and afford members the opportunity to buy guns, ammo, and components in bulk at dealer cost.Wow, that's a cool one, if your club can swing it, but it takes a lot of dedication and an extremely competent person in charge of such things to keep individuals and the club itself out of serious trouble.

I've been involved in conversations where clubs have discussed this, but never seen or been to a club that actually decided to go that route.

When it is sometimes difficult for the (unpaid, volunteer) club BOD, president, etc. to reliably get the grass cut, match schedule conflicts resolved, the snow plowed in a timely fashion, etc. -- and understandably so -- dealing with a FFL's bound book, ATF compliance checks, immaculate record-keeping, and so forth is a HUGE step to take.

February 27, 2011, 03:11 PM
So, GIJOEL, you were going for your visit on Friday. What did you find there?

February 27, 2011, 03:21 PM
I like my range. There's 50, 100, 150 and 200-yard ranges, with four benches for 50 and 2 for each of the rest, a trap field on the rifle range (kind of a pain, but it's a small club) and a dedicated skeet field. Oh, since it's a Rod and Gun Club, we have a stocked trout pond, too. Not that I fish, but it sure is pretty :).

No range officers, "senior" keyholders, or anything like that. No worries about fully auto (illegal in NY for almost a century), pistols (We love pistols here), big mags (It's NY again, but nobody cares about pre-bans)

We have 2 real rules:
1) Don't even look through a scope when someone is in front of the firing line. Safety first.
2) Don't put beer in the Pepsi machine :).

February 27, 2011, 04:35 PM
I checked out a club in Richfield, WI. They are open from 8am till dusk 7 days a week with caretakers that live on site. They have a 7? to 50 yard range, 100-200 yards range, trap, skeet, running deer range, and a 100 yard auxiliary range. I walked into the clubhouse to find about a dozen very nice people setting up for there wild game fundraiser dinner. I got to talk to the president of the club and a few other members. While they don't allow "human targets" they do allow holsters on the firing line and have an AR-15 league and 3 gun matches using 8x8 steel from 25-200 yards. They do a bunch of other stuff too, stocked pond, tones of archery, nature trails. I think I'm going to join on Tuesday, the place is really nice, while I would like a more tactical atmosphere, I understand that other people who come to the club (boy scouts, archery shooters) might not understand, and besides I have visited clubs with a more tactical "feel" and it seems to go with a rather militant attitude that I don't like being around.

February 27, 2011, 05:29 PM
Sounds like a nice place (except for the no human targets).

February 27, 2011, 06:40 PM
Well that sounds like a place you could work with. The no "human" targets thing is silly, of course, and I'd want to make sure that doesn't include USPSA or IDPA type silhouettes, but otherwise, it sounds like it meets your needs. Good to hear!

Now you can start to evaluate the other important qualities that you can only learn in the long term. Attitudes on tolerance for other styles of shooting (and styles of people, too), safety practices and enforcement, openness, outreach and community involvement, and so forth.

Good luck at your new "home!"

February 27, 2011, 07:06 PM
http://www.oneontasportsmensclub.net/ :)

February 27, 2011, 07:14 PM
Look for one outdoors with no supervision like my gun club. One time yearly fee and they give all members the combination to the gate. Covered, big and nice with both rifle and pistol ranges. Go and come as you please they just expect you to clean up after yourself.

Reading these other posts I feel sooo lucky.

February 27, 2011, 07:19 PM
I would settle for just about any club. Where I live there is only one club and its membership is closed.

The city PD here offered to let civilians use their new range but only on one day a month each month. Plus lots of other restrictions as well. And if the weather is bad that day too bad. I have not heard if anyone has signed up for this or not.

I have to go way out into the boonies to shoot and it is not convenient. No bathrooms :eek:

February 28, 2011, 07:15 AM
To paraphrase Groucho Marx, I wouldn't join any club that would have me as a member. That goes for gun clubs too.

February 28, 2011, 07:49 AM
This shouldn't even be an issue, but I went to a club once with a friend who was a member and some people there were drinking beer. They were trying to be sneaky about it. There were 4 or 5 of them and some would shoot awhile, then sit in their car and knock back a beer or two while the others were shooting, then they'd switch places. Didn't stay long and never went there again.

February 28, 2011, 09:01 AM
Sadly, I only have Four options for ranges in my area:

1.) Farm Land - Don't know any farmers, not sure I'd want too shoot there anyway.

2.) Bullet Hole Store - 7-35 yards, not enough range for rifle shooting (although they do allow it with soft points), indoors, 10$/hour range fee.

3.) SW Iowa Sportsman Club - Trap, Skeet, Action Shotgun, 0-50 yard "Pistol range" and 100 and 200 yard lines, 40$ annual membership fee, 3$ range fee for the day, "Supervised" range, shooting positions that are NOT covered (yet), and politics to boot.

4.) Eastern Nebraska Gun Club - 120$ annual fee, 120$ first time registration fee, non-supervised range, 0-600 yard rifle in 100 yard increments, 0-50 yard pistol, "Cowboy" range, Trap/Skeet range, pay and get the code to the gate. Not sure about the politics, but I hear it's nice.

3&4 are the same distance from my house (about 45 minute drive). 3 is where I currently shoot. As much as I would LOVE to shoot at ENGC, I can't swing the 240$ for the first time registration, and right now I have zero use for 600 yard shooting (I'm barely comfortable with my 100 yard shooting!!!) I just wish SWISC had less politics. It's owned and chaired by trap and skeet shooters who have zero desire to have a rifle or pistol range despite having held NRA matches before. They desire a small "good ole boy" club and absolutely frown upon everything "tactical." Almost every rifle/pistol RSO I've met has made a point that until the owners see a need for the Rifle/Pistol ranges, it will remain relatively bleak. Last I checked, Trap/Skeet was a shooting sport, as was rifle and pistol, and that is the REAL tragedy of SWISC. There is also this issue about, you can shoot 3 times, then you are forced to become a member, then after 3 more times shooting as a member you have to join a team to help run the ranges. Not a huge deal as 20 hours annually (4 weekends) is NOTHING, but it's really annoying when the only thing you do there is Rifle/Pistol and they have zero desire to support that side of their range. They have the opportunity to make one HECK of a nice range for a 100-200 yard Rifle Range.

They have some interesting rules, but for the most part, it's pain free. I can swing 3$ + gas for 5 hours of shooting on Sunday, but 240$ is painful to save for and painful to spend if I have no use for the facilities offered. I would be ENTHUSIASTIC about spending that kind of money after a new barrel is put on the 700 and I get comfortable at 200 yards.

February 28, 2011, 10:58 AM

The FFL isn't that big of a hassle.

You need one person, preferably retired, who opens the clubhouse 2 or 3 times per week in the evening for 2-3 hours.

First, incorporate under state law as a non-profit corporation. (About $100 for an attorney to do it if you prefer.)

He/she can then order merchandise directly from wholesalers. If you prefer not to deal with "Brady" don't order guns, just ammo, components, and accessories.

Ex. I buy primers and powder in bulk through the club at about 60 percent if local gun shop prices. I buy FMJ bullets (Remington and Winchester) for practice in "bulk packs" of 2,000 Again, about 60 opercent of local prices.

Unless you have very tight local restrictions, it's not all that difficult. It just takes a person or two that is willing to put in a little time to help grow the shooting sports.

March 1, 2011, 07:41 PM
Shameless BTT! :evil:

This thread is just too good, and informative, to just let it die. (At least IMHO):p

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