The 100th Anniversary of the Carson Rifle and Pistol Club

by Fred LaSor

When WWI – the “war to end all wars” – ended in 1918, many soldiers came home to take up where they had left off.  Some of those who returned to Virginia City and Carson City wanted to recreate the formal rifle and pistol competitions they had practiced during their military training, and the idea of a target shooting club was born.

A few of the veterans from Virginia City created the Carson Home Guard Rifle Club, chartered by the National Rifle Association in 1918.  The Home Guard was the predecessor of today’s National Guard.  That club was later renamed the Carson Rifle and Pistol Club, a marksmanship and training club that is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. 

As our nation remembers Armistice Day -- the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month -- that ended World War I, it is timely for us also to remember the foundation of our rifle and pistol club, which exists to this day.

Members of this club still meet regularly at the Carson City range on the road to Mound House, where they compete in a variety of matches – some using rifles and pistols of the same style that were issued to troops a hundred years ago, and some that were not even dreamed of when the club was first formed in 1918.

None of the original members are with us today, but a few of the “old-timers” who were active during the fifties and sixties, when the club was revived after a short lull, sat down recently to talk about their memories over the years.

Ken Bobbitt was president of the club from 1983 to 2006.  He started out working with the junior program, teaching high schoolers to shoot in .22 match rifles with support from the National Rifle Association, which has long been active in firearms training and safety. The Carson City Parks Department and the Board of Education also supported our effort to create a marksmanship program in the high school. 

Stan Mund and Chris Hill worked with Ken building that program and teaching high school students to shoot safely and accurately.  Fortunately, the Director of Civilian Marksmanship made target rifles and ammo available to programs like the one they were building, and some really good shooters were developed.

The range at that time was in eastern Carson, but at our urging, the Board of Education gave a $25,000 grant to develop an indoor range at the high school.  Club members maintained the range, instructed students, and conducted matches. 

A five-person high power junior rifle team was formed, eventually travelling to Camp Perry, Ohio, to compete with marksmen from all over the country in National Junior high power rifle competitions. They also took two junior shooters to compete in small bore national matches three times, some of whom went on to compete successfully during later military careers. 

Bobbit, Hill, and Mund are certified instructors in rifle, pistol, and home security.  They are particularly proud of the fact that the program was conducted safely, with zero injuries.  But the competitions were not without their difficulties, as anyone who has lived in Carson City can understand.  Ken said that sometimes the wind would blow so hard you had to shoot at your neighbor’s target in order to hit your own.  And Hill remembers when Ken’s rifle case was picked up by the wind and blown down range, scattering papers all over the shooting field.  There was even one match where the wind was toppling the steel targets, and another where the snow was falling so hard it blocked Hill’s front sight.  He managed to clean it out and finish in first place.

Our club managed a high power state championship match in 1983 at the Washoe Range, with as many as 150 shooters from Oregon, California and Nevada.  But the club eventually had to move from the east Carson location, and was able to find its current location through aerial photographs of the open lands around Carson City.

Asked how he got into shooting, Ken said his uncle was a hunter who could shoot tacks off the barn with a small bore rifle.  The uncle didn’t like the fact that Ken naturally shot left handed, so he gave Bobbit five hundred bullets and a .22 caliber rifle one day and told him to keep shooting until he could shoot right handed.  Ken went on to shot small bore matches in his junior rifle club, earning nine bars, but he admits that cars and girls eventually got in the way.  He regrets that our junior club is no longer active, and hopes new youth members and seniors to instruct them will step forward and renew that program. 

With his extensive civilian and military experience, Stan Mund is the Range Master for monthly matches.  Those matches run efficiently and safely, with a dozen or more shooters competing just about every weekend.

Although the range is owned by Carson City, it is operated under a written use agreement between us and the City Parks, Recreation and Open Space Department.  Together we have helped make improvements like extending side berms on the private bays, removing outdated and worn out target lines, and getting restrooms installed.  Future projects include the installation of new range rule signs and adding new target stands on the rifle line.

There are lots of opportunities for people who would like to get involved, even if they no longer shoot.  We need more Range Safety Officers and other help at matches, and we’re always looking for volunteer help with range improvement or our semi-annual range cleanup days.  Volunteers who could fire up the youth program would be most welcome.