Without places to shoot, shooting has no future. If everyone in our industry understood that as well as Brownells does, we’d have ranges everywhere. Brownells, the gunsmith supply mail-order firm from Montezuma, Iowa, are among the good guys in our industry, and they do more than just talk about the need to nurture the next generation of shooters. They’ve given a half-million dollar endowment to the NRA’s Youth Programs. As permanent sponsors of the NRA’s National Youth Shooting Sports Camp Program, the their gift helps fund the roughly 90 NRA youth camps across the U.S., which host 10,000 kids annually.

Closer to home, Brownells opened the Big Springs Shooting Range near Montezuma, which I had a chance to visit recently. It’s an impressive facility, with three trap fields, one skeet field and another under construction; five-stand sporting clays; pistol range, 100-, 200- and 500-yard rifle ranges plus a shooting preserve and ponds for NAVHDA and hunting retriever tests.

Big Springs is home to four different high school shotgun teams; there are league shoots, law enforcement trains there, and it’s open to the public one day a week as well. If everyone in the shooting industry stepped up the way Brownells does, our future would look a lot brighter.

* * * *

When I said four teams practice at Big Springs, I misspoke. There were four teams using the facilty at the beginning of the season. Now there are just three teams shooting there, and there’s a sad, stupid story behind that.

At practice one evening, a shooter on one of the high school trap teams was having trouble with his gun. The coach took it back to his truck to work on it, fixed it, and gave it back to the kid. He handed the boy a shell and said “Shoot this to see if the gun works.” The kid pointed the gun in what he thought was a safe direction and pulled the trigger.

Unbeknownst to the boy, the coach had given him a tracer round. The burning wad landed in a stand of dry prairie grass, and the resulting fire burned 30 acres.

Iowa High School Trap Shooting rules were quickly amended to prohibit test-firing.
The team was asked to leave Big Springs for the duration of the season. Thirty kids have nowhere to shoot thanks to their coach’s carelessness.