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Best of the Bay Ranges

Four years ago, a potentially disastrous fire took out the firing line (and a few firearms) at the Sunnyvale Rod and Gun Club. Now, in 1998 the range is back in business and better then ever. It's a great story of club members pulling together and rebuilding literally from the ashes.

If any of you remember the old range, you remember the individual "tunnels" that you had to shoot through. That was for soundproofing purposes. Well, one day all that built-up unburned gunpowder in the soundproofing insulation caught fire. It burned so fast that the shooter at the firing point that caught fire didn't even have time to grab his firearms before the whole firing line went up in flames!

The membership then saw an opportunity rather then a problem. You see, the range was originally built 35 years ago by eight guys (one of whom happened to own a tractor). So now here was a chance to build a range that was up to modern specifications.

All that was needed was time, workers, a plan, and money! The trap shooting part of the club was able to take up the slack, keeping the club's head above water by bringing in revenue. The membership hung in there by participating in programs like "adopting a bench" to help pay some of the reconstruction costs.

One of the members, Bruce Lloyd, volunteered his time to draw up the plans. He had his work cut out for him, including lots of reading and contacting other ranges for ideas. The resulting work involved tons of cinderblock, better soundproofing insulation, and good protection from the weather.

The building of the structure was left to professional contractors, but the "fleshing out" of the "bones" was up to the members. Thanks to members like Ted Johnson and Jim Scarry, things like the shooting benches and stools began to take shape. Instead of buying these things out of a catalog, Ted and Jim put their heads together and came up with custom, one-of-a-kind items, while learning how to arc weld in the process.

As an example, since the firing points are a little too narrow for ambidextrous benches, the idea of replaceable benches was gotten from another range and improved upon. You see, most of the benches are for right-handers. if a lefty does show up, all the rangemaster has to do is put a small-wheeled dolly under the "righty" bench, lift it up and roll it away. He will then hook up a southpaw bench (it's got a white stripe to mark it) and wheel it right into place! It takes longer to explain it then to do it.

Another good example is the stools. Upon close inspection, they reveal themselves to be adjustable for height... how many ranges have THAT nice feature? Besides that, they were made for less then ten dollars apiece. Jim and Ted went around to area farmers and picked up used furrowing discs that had worn down! These were the right size for the stools, and were either free or exceedingly cheap.

Even the National Rifle Association had a hand in this. Because of all the mansions up on the hills above the range, some more soundproofing was in order. Unfortunately this meant unexpected additional costs. The NRA was approached for their special low interest loan rates for range upgrades. $56,000.00 was approved and provided to the club for a sound wall. Since that sound wall went up there have been NO noise complaints filed from the neighbors at all.

As for the actual firing points, there are 7 pistol, 10 rifle, and in a separate section to the right, 10 rimfire positions. All center fire rifle and pistol points are separated by cinderblock walls. The .22 section is not separated as such, enabling me to shower my friend with brass from my Ruger 10-22! (Of course, that is the way it usually is with any .22 semi-auto !) All the firing points are under a thick soundproofing cover, which is also great for keeping that hot south bay sun from beating down on you, as well as keeping off the rain in winter.

Range fee is $10.00 (ed.: $12 as of July, 2003) for all day shooting. The trap shooting area has 4 trap ranges. You will see these as soon as you pull into the parking lot. The trap shooters have a lot of goings-on. On July 25 there was an Amateur Trap Association shoot held there. October 3rd is National Trap Shooting Day. On December 5 is the annual "Toys for Tots" charity shoot. Last year the club raised $2500.00 for the charity, with the full participation of the U.S. Marine Corps.

For the pistol shooters, there is an event called the "Bang, Clang, and Burp Shoot-Off." This consists of nationally ranked steel plate shooters competing for prizes and being fed gourmet meals at the range ! This year's 4th annual event was sponsored by Hogue Grips, Winchester, and Briley Pistols. The guns used are known commonly as "full-race guns", usually fully custom-built .45 ACP or .38 Super semi-autos costing upwards of $2500.00 and more. The winning times to lock down all the steel plates were under 2 seconds!

This place seems to be magnetic to accuracy aficionados. Both times I was there I saw a lot of serious bench-rest shooters. When I was shooting at the rimfire section I saw a few beautiful .22 bolt-action target rifles. The first time I was there I saw a one-of-a-kind bench-rest "rifle" that consisted of a skeletonized receiver, a bull barrel, and a heavy integral bench rest. If it weren't for the trigger, I would not have recognized it for a firearm! (Is it possible to get bored putting all your bullets into one ragged hole all the time?) That might also explain why club member Tim Kurreck is the current California, U.S., AND World Smallbore Silhouette Champion.

For the rest of us "duffers," the Sunnyvale Rod and Gun Club is still a nice place to shoot. Everyone is really friendly there, and even the serious shooters there aren't too serious to share some tips and laughs. I figure if I go there enough, some of that accuracy stuff might rub off on me .... Lord knows I can sure use it!

As further encouragement to go shoot there, the club has an arrangement with some South Bay gun shops. If you buy a gun at selected shops, you will get a certificate for free range time! Check with the rangemaster for more information. The range phone number is (408) 873-8255.

The range is pretty close to the San Francisco area. From my house in San Bruno it takes me barely 30 minutes to get there. Just take 280 south to the Foothill Blvd. off ramp in Los Altos. Turn right on Foothill, and keep going until it turns into Stevens Canyon Road. Stay on this road until you see the parking lot for Stevens Creek Reservoir on your left. Immediately across on your right is the gate for the range, just look for the sign. This is only 2.8 miles from the 280 off ramp !

The range hours are 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM on the 1st and 3rd Sundays, 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM on Tuesdays (the new lighting system enables you to practically see .22 holes at 100 yards at night!), 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Fridays and Saturdays. The trap range hours are the same on the 1st and 3rd Sundays, 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM on Tuesdays, Noon to 6:00 PM on Fridays, and 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Saturdays.

As I mentioned earlier, the Sunnyvale Rod and Gun Club is a great story about club members pulling together and rising out of the ashes. At every range I've been to that is run by a club, there is plenty of proof of committed members behind the scenes who keep things running at tip-top shape. After all, there is always more to a shooting facility then just targets and benches.

How many of us have gone shooting at various ranges without a second thought about the club that runs it ? Have we ever thanked the range personnel for running a safe and fun place to shoot ? I will even go so far as to suggest that if you find a club-run range that suits you, go ahead and join up ! By getting this newsletter, you are already affiliated with an NRA local member's council. Carry that a step further by joining a shooting club and pitching in to keep the shooting sports alive in the Bay Area.

As the threats to our Second Amendment rights rise up around us, we absolutely need to band together ... shotgunners and bench-resters, black powder blasters and rimfire plinkers, combat pistoleros and paper punchers. As Benjamin Franklin said, "We must indeed all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately!"

This article appeared in the Golden Gate United National Rifle Association Members' Council GGUNRAMC News August 1998, Volume 3, Issue 7, written by Ted Schulze