History of the Ridgway Rifle Club
In 1927 the Ridgway Rifle and pistol Club was founded. The name was changed to the Ridgway Rifle Club in 1935.
The first outdoor range was located on the bottom of Grant Rd. In 1937 this land was taken into the borough and the citizen's started complaining about the shooting that was going on in the borough on the weekends. The club was then offered a trade: the Swiss Club Range (as it was known) at the bottom of Grant Rd., plus $800.00, for the present Rifle Club property. The sale of it took place the same year.
The members of the club started right in on putting in the outdoor range, and finished it during World War II. After the war with the young men returning home, the membership and the interest in outdoor target shooting grew rapidly.
The talk of an indoor range being built started way back in 1937, too. At the time, the only indoor shooting took place in the basement of Coultier Studies, now Davido's Pool Hall, which the club rented until a flood forced them out. They then rented space in Lootie's Bowling Alley's basement, now Aielleo's. In 1940 or 1941 they got the use of the Masonic Temple for their indoor range. The rent at the time was $10.00 a month. The talk of building their own indoor range still went on, but nothing was actually done about getting it underway until around 1950 or 1953. It was at this time that the Game Commission told the club that they could cut pulp wood off the game lands and sell it to the paper mill to raise money. The men cut the wood, loaded their trucks, transported the wood to the mill, and unloaded it for about $8.00 a cord. In the two winters of cutting and hauling they made a total of $1,500.00. They found they couldn't raise enough to start the construction of the building so the $1,500.00 was used to start their building fund. The money was not to be used for anything but building purposes, but somehow through the years, the funds disappeared.
Many activities took place during the early years of the club. In the 1940's, the club had an outstanding 30 caliber team. In 1940 and in 1941, the team won the State Match both years. At the time the Springfield Rifles and all the ammunition were furnished by the DCM (Director's Civilian Marksmanship). When they no longer supplied the equipment for the shooting, the 30 caliber team was no longer active.
In the 1950's some of the members wanted to make the Rifle Club a sportsman club. Though the idea didn't go over real well, the members did try a few things to see if it would go over later. Among the activities came stocking fish with the Game commission. After a few trips with some men stocking and some men fishing most of the time, the stocking didn't go over well. They then tried to raise ring necks, but found this wasn't for them either. After building all the pens and buying food they invested almost $800.00. The winters at this time were very severe with all the snow hampering the deer's ability to find food. The men decided there were going to do their best to help. With the help of Bruno Manno, they came up with Manno's corn bomb. They took sticks and tied an ear of corn to the end of each one. They then rented airplanes and dropped the sticks from the planes hoping they would stand up in the snow and the deer would get the corn. The efforts of the men failed however.
Later the talk kept up about making the club a sportsman club, and it was decided, being as the area had a sportsman club but no clubs just for shooting. That shooting sportsman club will remain the Ridgway Rifle Club.
In 1978, talk got serious again when it came to the Rifle Club building their indoor range and Clubhouse. Talk continued and in 1979 a building committee was set up. The winter of 1979 and 1980 was spent making plans to start building in the spring, and it was in the spring of 1980 that the dream of the Ridgway Rifle Club since way back in 1937 started to take shape. Plans and blueprints were drawn by Jon Heatherdale and approved by the building committee and club members. The building committee consisted of the following men: Jon Heatherdale, John Billick, Cal Dush, Bob Dush, Mel Hoffman, Tom Manno, Gary Olmstead, Allen Dush, Bill Bullers, and Terry Detsch.
The building was finished around September of 1980. The cost of the building was $35,747.83. Many things have taken place to help raise money to pay this, plus to keep the club functioning. The Club sold timber off its land and from the sale of timber they made $19,473.99. They also raised money through gun raffles.
The Ridgway Rifle Club established the first Silhouette range east of the Mississippi River with competitions beginning in the early 70's. It was the site for many State and Regional Championships before members of the club began to set their sights higher, looking at the National Championship.
After two years of being turned down in application to host the National Championships then president of the club Fred Kielbowick, and club members Joe (Tom) Manno (responsible for bringing the silhouette game to the east coast) and Don Crawford traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with Gary Anderson who was in charge of N.R.A. competitions at the time. After a persuasive presentation to Anderson and Opsitnic who was serving as chairman of the Silhouette committee and a conference call to other members of the Silhouette Committee, Ridgway was granted the opportunity to host the Nationals. The Ridgway Rifle Club held its first National Championship for hi power rifle silhouette the following year in 1986. Extensive expansion of the range and target stands was required for that event. Creating a National Championship High Power range was not cheap and not easy. It took a unified effort by the members of the club putting in a great deal of time and labor while calling upon all the skills, tools and equipment of the individuals who make up the club. It was an amazing accomplishment by a very diverse group of men who were drawn together by a common interest, Silhouette. The club expended all of its monetary assets during this effort in anticipation of the revenue that would be received from hosting the National Championship. (This was at a time when the host club received all monies and paid the N.R.A. a per competitor fee). Members of the club who were planning on competing in the upcoming Championship began paying their entrance fees in February so that the club could remain solvent. A great sense of pride and satisfaction was felt by the club members when the range facilities received high praise from the competitors who traveled to Ridgway to participate in that first National. Since then, Ridgway has hosted more national championships than any other independent club in the nation. Our range facilities continue to be favored by the shooting ranks with many national records being set while competing here and our reputation for having a quality competition in friendly surroundings continues to draw shooters from long distances to Ridgway. The Ridgway Rifle Club remains the only other site in the nation besides the N.R.A. range in Raton, New Mexico, that has the facilities to handle both the hi power and small bore rifle silhouette championships in one location.