Rural Community Outreach
By Dick Willams
Late August gets busy and noisy for a week at the Silver Spur Ranch in Encampment, Wyo., where local area residents participate in an annual firearms training event jointly hosted by the ranch and out-of-state police firearms instructors. At the first Silver Spur Ranch Annual Firearms Training Event, held in 2014, handguns for self-defense dominated the agenda. After receiving feedback from participants, 2015 included some training in the use of the wildly popular MSR family of rifles and, for those interested, some long-range shooting tips and techniques. And in the wide-open spaces of Wyoming, long range truly means long range!
This community-focused event came about thanks to the efforts of a police sergeant in California, John Russo, and Dave Sturm of Spur Outfitters — the outfitting affiliate to Silver Spur Ranch. After the success of the first year, Sturm, with the help of Travis Gibson from MGM Targets, built two ranges that included the installation of steel targets from 100 to 1,200 yards.
Russo arranged for the loan of firearms and ammunition from several manufacturers, while also coordinating the travel of eight training officers. As a service to the community, guns and ammunition are provided to those attendees who want training, but don’t have their own firearms.
“We originally started this training event for the ladies on the ranch, so they could get acquainted with handguns and personal protection — many of them live in fairly remote areas. And after the first year’s success, we opened the door to the public in this valley and it’s become pretty popular with the community,” Sturm said.
MGM’s Travis Gibson explains the workings and operation of the Ruger Precision
Rifle to a 16-year-old participant. Instructors are on hand to ensure the rifle and
scope is carefully adjusted to specifically fit the individual shooter’s smaller frame.
Training sessions begin with Russo asking the attendees what they hoped to accomplish while taking the class. Following this exchange, he would introduce the basic operation and maintenance of modern defensive pistols and MSR-style rifles, while tailoring the class to the needs of the students. When it was “trigger time,” individual trainers escorted the participants and guns to the firing line for some one-on-one hands-on training. There, they would learn about handgun safety and use a rubber gun to achieve a proper grip and stance before moving on to both semi-autos and revolvers. After the attendees became more comfortable with handguns, a process usually taking a couple of hours or so, they would compete in a friendly shoot-off to determine the “Top Gun” — with prizes awarded to the winners.
Attendees who were fans of Quigley Down Under also had the option to venture atop a hill near the range to try their hand at serious long-range shooting. After instructors gathered inputs from the students on their objectives, they would review the configuration, operation and maintenance of modern long-range target rifles. Attendees also learned the science of long-range shooting, which is much more than just guesstimating “Kentucky windage.”
Not everyone nailed the 1,200-yard steel plate, but several shooters did, and there was no shortage of solid hits out to 800 yards — many of these by folks who had been a bit skeptical when they first saw how far away the targets had been placed.
A nice feature about the weeklong Spur event is individuals have the chance to return for a repeat class if they desire. Even if an attendee’s motives were just about having fun, the additional training further enhanced their skills and increased their familiarity with weapons not normally associated with the rural hunting community.
Under the close personal attention of the training staff, a pistol class moves
from the tent classroom session to the firing line. Here, attendees learn the
proper way to hold a handgun and engage targets at close range.
A Collaborative Effort
Understanding the importance of this event to the surrounding community, dealer Richard Hayes at Shively Hardware handles all the paperwork necessary for the legal handling and control of 20 firearms. At the end of the event, some of the handguns used were offered at greatly reduced prices to those who participated in the training program — and Hayes processed the required paperwork with no markup on the price of the gun. Another sign of a great community-focused event!
The third annual event will be held later this month, Aug. 13–20. As a response to feedback from those who attended last year, classes will include training for kids using .22-caliber firearms.
The importance of welcoming younger shooters is not lost on Sturm, who said, “An event like this is a great opportunity for our next generation. It helps to keep these young people involved in the sport of hunting and recreational shooting — I see nothing but positives that can come from it.”