Getting a Tactical Range Program Started at Your Club

By Anonymous

Does your range have a tactical program? Is it dominated by Fudd-type shooters with no interest in action shooting sports? I know perfectly well how frustrating it can be to see all the great action shooting sports from behind a computer screen. Perhaps you live where the nearest range to offer these programs is more than an hour away? Luckily, I eventually moved within driving distance of an excellent facility that offers a variety of shooting disciplines. I was curious to learn how my local matches got started, and I decided to ask my local match director about how he managed to get a practical rifle program started at my local club . . .

Getting Things Started

Let’s call my local match director Mark. Mark is a knowledgeable and friendly range safety officer who runs a smooth practical rifle program at my local range. Our matches are run with a safety first focus but otherwise they are a non-pressure environment. Having a match director and staff who cultivate a safe and positive shooting environment has been essential to helping our practical rifle match grow. The practical program is also a brings in good club revenue which is important for any gun club.

I asked Mark what types of challenges he encountered in setting up a tactical program at our club. I personally thought the biggest roadblock would be simply selling the idea of club sanctioned “tactical” shooting. Mark pointed out that it wasn’t the initial start-up that was difficult, but it was the program’s success that proved to be the challenge:

“There really weren’t any initial roadblocks to starting it up, but once it got rolling full speed, the high attendance, enthusiasm, revenue, and increase in club membership led some to feel threatened by the program.”

It’s surprising and sad to see that a gun club’s politics can play a role in the success or failure of a tactical program. As a shooting community we should be capable of tolerating other forms of the sport, especially the newer trends in shooting. Many club members simply can’t accept the change in momentum from target-style sports to a more active “tactical” community of shooters. In our club’s case it wasn’t the start-up but the hurt feelings that came afterward that provided an ongoing challenge.

Mark was able to overcome the roadblocks set up by other club members by showing the rest of the club community that the animosity was truly a one-way street. Mark’s commitment to safety, his staff’s excellence in handling of club property, and monetary accountability of the program’s finances are what allowed the tactical program to thrive and grow. Despite some club members combing through the program with a fine tooth comb Mark was able to build the program into a total club success.

Let’s suppose your club is more open-minded about running a tactical program; there are going to be many general questions and concerns when first starting up. Some members of your club might not understand an action shooting program or they might not respect the value that these types of events offer to the club. Many may view action shooting as unsafe or simply out of line with their idea of what shooting sports should be. Mark explained some of the concerns that came up during the program’s early stages and his strategies to get the practical rifle program off the ground:

“One of the strategies I employed was to align the program’s safety practices with the NRA by establishing a population of NRA Certified Range Safety Officers within the program.

One of the principal arguments that come at you with a program like this is that it’s unsafe; aligning our safety practices with NRA doctrine answers those concerns. Especially if it rises from someone who has no certifications with which to support his claim. We make sure all of our courses of fire are run past a board member. The NRA now has its own practical style course of fire as well, composed of two parts:  A long course to 500Y, and a short CQB course.

Another problem is misunderstanding. Certain shooting sports are more of a lifelong study, or journey in which excellence is pursued… and those are great! Practical shooting is the other side of the same coin. It’s the application of that study and excellence in a situational context. Consequently, those who only participate in one of those journeyman sports will look at a tactical rifle program as pointless; perhaps even insane. Some will never drop this attitude.”

As Mark noted, the NRA now has a program known as NRA NDM (National Defense Match) and it has a 500-yard course, and a short CQB course. Having the NRA producing literature and rules to these types of matches is astoundingly important. Having the weight of the NRA behind such shooting adds legitimacy to this growing segment of our sport. It will be easier to sell an official NRA sanctioned sport to a club then your own idea of a backyard tactical program: getting your foot in the club’s door is essential. The NDM style matches are a great way to test the waters at your local club because they need much less equipment for the average shooter: a semi-automatic rifle is all that is needed to give the course a try. To read the NDM flyer click here.

Mark’s matches attract a great deal of shooters. There is lots of small talk about gear, setups, slip-ups, and good all American Pro-2nd Amendment banter. Our shooters are composed of a variety of people from all walks of life, and we all have a good time. When members of the club witness the program in action, they get a good feel for the safety and atmosphere and they eventually dig out the AR15 to try the program for themselves.

Keep These in Mind:

Mark recommends these things for anyone wanting to start a tactical shooting program:

1 – Embrace official safety practices and certifications.

2 – Try to change hearts and minds.

3 – Account for everything.

4 – Keep it friendly, fair, and welcome new shooters cheerfully.

5 – Listen to your shooters. They are paying for it, so give them what they want.

6 – Cultivate and accept assistance.  You do not need to be a great shooter to serve on the staff.   Organizational and time-management skills are the most valuable currency.

7 – Clean up.  Leave the premises better off than you found them.  If you discover damage, disorder, or other unusual circumstances, photograph it and report it to club leadership.

Our club is fortunate to have a variety of shooting sports and I personally support every discipline even if I don’t have much interest in some of them. For some shooters it won’t be that way. When a new program pursues excellence from safety to the end-of-day range cleanup, others will take notice.

I wouldn’t belong to my club if it weren’t for its tactical shooting program and the positive environment cultivated at the matches. Despite the initial roadblocks and hurt feelings, the tactical program has been in full swing for several years now and generates lots of interest, excellent club revenue, and new memberships. Maybe it’s time to bring up tactical shooting at your next club meeting?

comments

  1. avatar Mike Crognale says:

    I find the term (from your article) “Fudd-type shooters ” insulting. To lump hunters into the stereotype of Elmer Fudd is ridiculous. What exactly do you mean by the term? Enlighten me please.

    1. avatar kg333 says:

      It doesn’t apply to hunters as a whole. “Fudds” usually refers to those shooters who don’t see a need for civilian ownership of anything other than the shotguns and bolt-action rifles they use for trap and hunting, and prefer that their clubs only sponsor activities that align with those activities.

      I know a few gun people who would happily throw handgun and MSR shooters under the legislative ban bus to make sure their trap shotguns go untouched. These are the kind of people that get called “Fudds”.

      1. avatar Joke & Dagger says:

        My gun club is full of fudds Mike. Google “fudd” yourself instead of hassling the contributor. Nice article.

      2. avatar rlc2 says:

        Good explanation, but I agree with Mike in a way-

        I think its un-helpful to slander all traditional type hunters with an insulting label, because of one idiot you might have met.

        That would be like me calling Nick or some of the younger gun enthusiasts “mall ninja’s” because he lives in the city, and likes to customize his AR, or he likes video games.

        Theres plenty of other places to do that, in other gun-sites. If we want TTAG to be bigger and more attractive to a more diverse audience we can start with respecting one another right here.

        1. avatar Accur81 says:

          Fudds are easily offended anyways. If you know a better way to describe the concept that everyone else knows and understands, feels free to share the term with us. I was taught hunter’s Ed by Fudds, and I still remember how intolerant and inflexible they were. While I don’t find offending Fudds to be desirable, the necessity to change hearts and minds in the defense of freedom is absolutely essential.

    2. avatar sagebrushracer says:

      Best example I guess I can give is one of my own I guess. One of my shirt tail relatives showed up for the most recent family reunion. He enjoys hunting Elk, water fowling, fishing and camping. I enjoy small varmint hunting and informal plinking. We had a great chat, swapping stories and the like. When I mentioned that one of my favorite rifles was a AK-74 and all the useless CA regulations on magazines and bullet button devices I have to be careful about, he supported the CA assault weapon ban and mag limits. He was pretty adamant that nobody in their right mind would need more then 3 shot shells or 5 rifle bullets or 6 pistol cartridges because thats all he ever used.

      He had no problem with restricting my 2nd amendment rights because they do not meet with his personal approval, Yet the 2nd amendment is a common link that ties all shooting disciplines together. I mentioned that if they outlawed mine, his would be next and he could not fathom that it would be ever that bad.

      I have and will continue to support pro hunting and fishing laws and will continue do so with my votes. This is our heritage, and our rights are being slowly eroded one by one, even if I do not fish or hunt I understand the slippery slope we are faced with.

      End of story, I support his outdoor activities even if he does not support mine. Kind of leaves me with a knife in the back feeling and a bad taste in my mouth. That is a Fudd.

      1. avatar Accur81 says:

        Keep working on it, sir. If the police use 15 and 30 round magazines for self defense, there is no reason why other respinsible civilians should not have access to the same. When I’m on duty, I use standard capacity (more than 10 rounds) magazines, and I don’t switch to 7 or 10 round mags when I go home.

        The facts are that many criminals require multiple shots from a handgun to stop the threat. Some (50 cent is a famous example) have survived multiple gun shot wounds. A man is entitle to his own opinion, but not his own facts. The facts are that the real experts in firearms do not want to run out of ammo in the middle of a gunfight. The other disturbing set of facts is that many gun grabbers are looking at complete civilian disarmament as the end goal. Standard bolt action rifles and double barrel shotguns will soon be on the prohibited list once evil AR’s and the like have been vilified.

    3. avatar Mike CROGNALE says:

      Ihave been schooled. Thanks to all. I understand it now.

  2. avatar IdahoPete says:

    Dan – good advice! I would add the following, based on personal experience with starting a new (.22 silhouette) program:

    Assuming you are a member of a volunteer-run club, (not a private, for-profit range) then VOLUNTEER! Get to know the people who do the volunteer work at the club, help at range work days, go to the meetings, and then do NOT ask “why doesn’t the club have a tactical program?” Instead, VOLUNTEER to run a tactical program. Most clubs will be happy to have someone who is willing to do the work to establish the program – that is how all of the other kinds of shooting programs got started. One or two people who were really interested in that kind of shooting did the research, talked to the club board/officers, and showed enough enthusiasm that the club let them run with it.

    Be aware of the other kinds of shooting programs going on, so you don’t interfere with their schedule or expect to shoot the sh** out of their targets/target stands for your tactical program.

    And I cannot say this enough: do NOT expect “the club” (i.e., other club members) to run your program for you – you want it, you volunteer to set it up and run it. Take personal responsibility for the time commitment and effort it takes to run a shooting program.

    1. avatar rlc2 says:

      Great article and Really Good Advice.

  3. avatar Paul53 says:

    Fudd shooter here if that’s what you think of me. Wont tell you what that makes me think of you. Kind of an enigma. My mobility is limited by muscular dystrophy. Tactical stuff is beyond my abilities, but my health makes me a higher target for the low lifes. I shoot target only, but a lot. The range I use is on an Army base and has no tactical stuff. Paradoxically, there are ranges outside the military reservation that DO have tactical training! This base has several simulated Afghani villages and we can see the troops and choppers attacking them. I’m 60, did everything I wanted when I was younger, so no regrets. The MD set in in just the last 5 years. I carry because I’m determined to die a natural death, not by some druggie. Keep up the great web site, but bring back the hot babes, please.

    1. avatar kg333 says:

      “Fudd” generally refers to those who want to suppress anything other than trap & skeet and hunting activities; I’m not sure of Mr. Zimmerman’s use of the term here. If you carry, you already fall outside that category IMO.

      1. avatar Dan Zimmerman says:

        Mr. Zimmerman didn’t use the term. As the byline indicates, this post was written by a contributor who prefers to remain anonymous.

        1. avatar Joke & Dagger says:

          You are not a fudd, Paul. Fudd is a mindset, not a physical limitation. Good luck with your battle.

        2. avatar kg333 says:

          Ah, so it is, my apologies; I missed the byline.

  4. avatar Brad Tucker says:

    I ran into the same wall when I introduced Steel Challenge to my club two years ago. All the old rifle shooters were against bringing in something new, but thanks to our board and others who were interested in something new, we made it the second most successful match we put on last year.

    The rifle bunch at our club is slowly losing people because they are not willing to adapt and welcome new people in to shoot with them, they would rather have the same eight people shoot every match. They went so far as to tell one person to not even bother showing up to shoot unless they had a dedicated bench rest rifle.

    I made the decision early on in planning our SC matches to include as many people as possible, even if they didn’t have a gun that was optimal, if they wanted to shoot it go right ahead. I even bring some extra guns incase someone shows up without something to shoot. We have been extremely happy with how it’s turned out, we had eight kids brand new to any shooting sport show up two months ago and got them hooked.

    As long as you are dedicated to being safe and are willing to accommodate people who have never done any kind of shooting sport, you can be successful in introducing something new.

  5. avatar Ardent says:

    Good advice and insights all around. I had to cringe at the mention of club politics and the bitter memories of the last club I belong to, and the one before that. I’d be the first to say that if you keep having issues with interpersonal relationships you might take a look at yourself, but in these instances there were a great many dissatisfied members and now years later one club is defunct and the other operates as a shadow of what it once was, catering to the same 25 people or so who formed the original clique that ruined it for the other members and the general public. What I saw was a great amount of gun/equipment snobbery, skill level snobbery and a pervasive refusal of some to accept that others may have different goals or interests Re shooting sports. I believe these were the primary issues that lead to the eventual death of the clubs. I’ve never attempted to start a program within a gun club (though I have several operating on my own private range now). However I do have some advice; even if others won’t, try to understand what each person is about and recognize the legitimacy of their interest. Odds are their is more common ground than differences if only everyone can get past the superficial aspects of modern versus traditional and etc.

  6. avatar Lothaen says:

    “Run what you brung” is an awesome method of conducting such events. The NRA NDM style matches are exactly that premise. Run what you have (even including a .22) in a semi-automatic competition.

    I hope the NDM style matches push forward into something outside the test they are and into a very commonly practiced practical rifle type program. I hope it spreads across the USA to add even more legitimacy to our preferred style of rifles.

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