31 March 2013

Working the Range

If you've shot or observed even one match, or watched some match video on YouTube, you're probably already aware of the most visible staff: Safety/Range Officers. While they're an important part of the shooting sports, they're part of a much larger team, including a team that isn't just there for match days. In an early post, I talked a bit about the work that goes into just one one-day event, but there's so much more...and sometimes, just saying thanks isn't enough. As we head into the warmer shooting season, I want to say a few words about range maintenance and work generally. While there are range facilities and shooting organizations with paid staff, many clubs and events run on the shoulders of passionate volunteers. You may not be aware of the many skills and the amount of grunt work that allow you to enjoy the shooting sports, or what you can offer to keep your club running on a day to day basis.

Last weekend, I was delighted to participate as an instructor at A Girl & A Gun Club's National Conference, where I taught a range of competitive shooting classes both on and off the range, as well as live fire sessions on target transitions and alternate shooting positions. With over 100 women attending from across the United States (and the UK!), plus speakers, instructors, staff, and vendors for the two and a half-day event, you can imagine the logistical nightmares involved in putting together what amounted to a combined professional conference and major match. It's easy to think of and appreciate the event planning and other "big" tasks that go into pulling off this type of three-ring circus, but it's also important not to forget the smaller things like putting together swag bags or stapling up targets. And while firearms-related skills are certainly an important part of this type of event and organization, it's not just that. You don't need to be a master-level shooter to be able to help with financial management, coordinate sponsors and vendors, design programs and swag, or make emergency runs to the store...and all of those things are just as necessary.

Special events aren't the only thing that need all hands on deck, though. My home club, like many shooting clubs, is almost entirely volunteer-run. As with a regular for-profit business, ranges need administrative work like managing bank accounts, reviewing membership applications, handling legal and insurance paperwork, and coordinating scheduling - along with physical upkeep and upgrades from the mundane work of keeping the clubhouse clean and the security system running to overseeing range safety improvements and target installation. We draw on the expertise of many members' "day jobs", including donated professional time, and it's always helpful when someone lets us know that they have knowledge, skills or access to resources that help in those areas. It's not just the white collar types of skills either. We've been very thankful in the past year or so for members with heavy equipment who are able to move the massive amounts of dirt required to expand and upgrade shooting bays. Don't be fooled into thinking that special skills are needed for all that needs to be done, though. The biggest tasks we tackled at the work day we had this weekend just needed people who could wield shovels, rakes, hammers, and drills - nothing more complicated than what you might need to do around your house. For those of us who have physical limitations, there are similarly important tasks needed year-round that can be as simple as stuffing envelopes for membership renewal letters.

Shooting is a lot of fun, but there's a lot of work that's necessary to keep our events and our ranges open. If we all kick in a few hours here and there, then we all get more time to get to the making loud noises part. How many non-shooting hours have you put into your range lately? What skills can you bring to your home club?