How (and Why) to Find a Gun Club When You Move to a New Area

How (and Why) to Find a Gun Club When You Move to a New Area

If you've ever moved to a new area, you know that finding a group of like-minded people can be a tricky thing. Sometimes you luck into friends from work, the neighborhood, or church. Sometimes you get recruited to a kickball league or community softball team. I have found it much more reliable to find friends at the local gun club. #notkidding

Why I Believe in Finding a Gun Club

I've lived in five places since I turned 18, and in each location the most dependably fun community I got plugged into was that of sport shooters. At a gun club I could reliably meet up with people who shared my interests in competitive air rifle and smallbore rifle. We could push each other in practice and travel together to matches. Lots of laughs, great coaching, and irreplaceable experiences have been shared with my fellow shooters thanks to the interactions that started at my local gun club.

In Northern Virginia, I had friends from the smallbore and air rifle community associated with the Acorns Junior Rifle Club, Izaak Walton League and Nova Sharpshooters.

Shooting at the Izaak Walton League on a Thursday night in Northern Virginia

Shooting at the Izaak Walton League on a Thursday night in Northern Virginia

When I moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts for college I was part of the MIT Rifle team, and made some amazing friends in my teammates and coaches. 

Some of my favorite people in college (and since!) were on the MIT Rifle team

Some of my favorite people in college (and since!) were on the MIT Rifle team

In the UK, where I did an internship between my sophomore and junior years in a mechanical engineering bachelor's degree, I joined the Rugeley Rifle Club and practiced among friends (and the occasional world class shooter) weekly.

Friends and world champion shooter Thomas Farnik at the Rugeley Rifle Club in the UK circa 2008

Friends and world champion shooter Thomas Farnik at the Rugeley Rifle Club in the UK circa 2008

Cincinnati's Fairfield Sportsmen's Association and Butler County Sportsmen's Club are where I met most of my first friends in the area, after shooting a prone match the second weekend after I moved to town.

Coaching young adults at Fairfield Sportsmen's Association near Cincinnati, Ohio was a joy and privilege

Coaching young adults at Fairfield Sportsmen's Association near Cincinnati, Ohio was a joy and privilege

And you better believe that before I moved to New Hampshire, I scoured the Internet to find out what local clubs offered indoor ranges so I could keep shooting through the winter.

A ladies-only Intro to IDPA class helped me get to know people at Pioneer Sportsmen's Club in New Hampshire

A ladies-only Intro to IDPA class helped me get to know people at Pioneer Sportsmen's Club in New Hampshire

How to Find a Gun Club in a New Area

It's all well and good to believe that finding a local sportsmen's club is a great way to meet people and further your shooting skills, but how do you find one? And in areas where you have many clubs to choose from, how do you find the right fit?

I have gone about this a couple different ways.

  • Personal Invitation - The summer that I lived in the UK, one of my coworkers invited me to practice with him, and that's how I found Rugeley. 
  • NSSF.com Search - I used this to find Butler County Sportsmen's Club in Cincinnati. Literally, I typed in my future zip code to wheretoshoot.org, scrolled through the options based on my shooting sports interests, and emailed a few "generalmail@clubaddress.com" contacts until I found a person who replied and confirmed that smallbore shooting was an option. 
  • Previous Competition - It turns out that folks at my current club in New Hampshire had run an air gun league while I was in college, so I knew who to contact when I moved to the area to get plugged into that same league. So far I'm the only air rifle shooter (everyone else shoots air pistol) but it is still a ton of fun to be training with people who are seeking that 10-ring just like I am.
  • Networking - I found FSA in Cincinnati through shooters I met at Butler County Sportsmen. Frequently while visiting others on vacation, I find a place to shoot by asking around. Tapping into your network for range recommendations can be a helpful way to save time and get plugged in to a club in a new place.

No matter how you find your club, finding one is a wonderful thing. At a gun club you'll meet people with whom you can swap stories, advice, and gun gear with, as well as get some trigger time. You might even find that joining a club gets you into new shooting sports that you wouldn't have tried otherwise. (Between my husband and I, we can trace our experiences in IDPA, trap, and archery back to joining a new gun club near our house.) So, what are you waiting for? Go find a place to shoot! 

I Love the Olympics

Destination Gun: Rockcastle Shooting Center

Destination Gun: Rockcastle Shooting Center