Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Buyer Remorse

Apropos of absolutely nothing at all, I have been reading some stuff about "re-holstering" (via Michael Bane Blog). While it's an eminently worthwhile discussion about "making yourself appear un-threatening to police", that was only the spur to the memory.

When I re-applied to ARPC for membership several years ago, I discovered they had a new twist to the new-member application: a mandatory meeting ["New Member Orientation"] with a club officer, where he (among other things) discussed Rules of the Range.

The thing that struck me was the rule which forbade "Drawing From The Holster". That was an ironclad rule, and was applicable on the North range ... where ARPC had been holding IPSC-type matches for several years, already.

When I heard that one, I went ballistic. So did another new member, Keith Tyler, one of the best IPSC competitors in the Columbia Cascade Section. Keith is also an LEO, and had just begun his owning training venture.

We argued that the rule was ridiculous, given that they sponsored both IPSC and Speed Steel matches on a monthly basis. These two sport strongly emphasize drawing from the holster.

"How can we possibly use the range to practice our sport, when you won't let us draw from holsters?" we both objected.

The Club Officer who was giving the class was much taken aback. This seemed reasonable, since he was the person who organized Speed Steel matches, every month.

He didn't have an answer for us. We both suggested that if we were joining the club for the purpose of having a range where we could practice, but the club rules forbade drawing from holsters, then there was not much advantage for us to justify club membership.

(The club also offers "Old West" Single Action Society, "I.C.O.R.E" (revolver competition) and the range is used by several local police departments ... ALL of which features drawing pistols from the holster.)

We worked it out that the officer would check with the Board of Directors, and in the meantime we would join the club with the understanding that if this Range Rule would be enforced, we could quit and our initiation fee would be returned.

In the end, the BOD reviewed that earlier decision and decided that it was unrealistic. They had to have new "Range Rules" signs painted and mounted, but the exercise resulted in a club which was much more responsive to the needs and competence of its members.

Since then, the club has initiated new training classes which it offers to its members. One is an "Introduction to Handguns", which is intended for the benefit of members who want to learn how to use handguns safely ... even in competitive environments.

Another new class is "Introduction to USPSA". of which I am one of the instructors.

A third class is "Firearms Handling to Certify for Concealed Carry Licenses", which I have taken and also necessarily includes drawing from a holster.

The lesson here is that ranges which wish to be an active member of the shooting community must attempt to attract members of all shooting communities, and many of these will both practice and compete drawing from the holster. Any range today which wishes to be both busy and profitable will find that they cannot attract new members without recognizing that their fears of lawsuits will keep them at the level of a "small, private club of trap-shooters".

I have nothing against trap-shooting, but if that was the only activity offered by my local club, I would not be willing to spend hundreds of dollars every year there, between membership dues and match fees; nor would I be willing to spend several hours each month volunteering to help the club fulfill its mission.

That mission should be to encourage firearms competition and to provide a safe, well-maintained venue for firearms practice.

Private clubs often sink into obscurity. Public clubs may either grow with the demands of the public it seeks to attract, or ... not.

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