Copyright 2011 Buffington Associates

The Gun Owner

You Meet The Nicest People at a Gun Club

By Dave Buffington

Lately, one of the young graphic artists who works in my office has been coming with me to the local rifle range.

He's a good shot, with great eyesight, steady hands and just the right combination of patience and intensity.

And as we were packing up to leave the other day, he said, "You know, I love coming here. Everyone is so nice."

It's true.

And it’s good. After all, every gun owner needs a place to shoot, even if you just have a gun for personal protection … in fact, especially if you have a gun for personal protection.

Because you need to practice. And practice. And practice. Otherwise, you’re going to end up like Plaxico Burris – you know, the NFL player who accidently shot himself with the gun he was carrying. He won himself a year of making license plates and lost a year of making millions on the playing field.

But no matter why you own a gun, it’s good to belong to a gun club, even if you’re lucky enough to own acres and acres of land where you can shoot on your own.


The overwhelming majority of people at all the gun clubs I've ever been to are people you’d want to hang with. Always willing to wait to let you get your targets up. Often willing to lend you whatever you forgot. Surprisingly eager to let you shoot their guns and use their ammo.


Well, there's one obvious and cynical answer: Everybody has a gun.

And yes, that does prompt a certain amount of cautious courtesy, but there's more than that. There's a shared appreciation of the challenges of the sport, both internal (choosing the right ammo, finding the best stance, overcoming the obstacles of eyesight) and external (defending what we do from those who don't and don't want to understand it). And sharing experiences can make you a better shooter than you could ever become on your own.

So, where are these gun clubs?

There are a lot of them, but they can be surprisingly hard to find. That’s sometimes because they’re often located in isolated areas, for noise and safety reasons. But sometimes, they’re low profile by choice. Why? Well, some prefer to avoid conflict with neighboring anti-gunners. Also, with gun sales skyrocketing, good clubs have no trouble recruiting new members.

So how do you find these good clubs?

First, ask at the local store where you buy your guns, ammo, et al. (That’s one of the perks you should get from your local gun shop for buying local.) Also, the NRA also offers a search tool at Just enter your ZIP code and check on the box that says “Places to Shoot.” You’ll likely be surprised at how many ranges show up. Even in an hotbed of anti-gun sentiment like San Francisco, I found nearly a dozen ranges, and I’m sure there are more that aren’t listed in the NRA database.

Some clubs require you to be a member, and while the membership fees can occasionally be golf-like, especially for high-end shotgunning clubs, most are quite reasonable. Here in central Pennsylvania, I belong to three clubs, and for all three, I pay less than $150 a year in dues … dues that give me easy, year-round access to wonderful indoor and outdoor facilities.

And more importantly, those dues will also give you year-round access to some very wonderful people.