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Home on the Range

Gun enthusiasts can still gather to build community and skillsets.

Home on the Range

The author shooting his then-new Glock 22 on one of MCSA’s handgun ranges, circa 1993. (Keith Wood photo)

We all started somewhere. My shooting journey began at the sandy bank of the C-­­23 canal in Palm City, Florida. The earth berm made for a good backstop but south Florida’s rapid development meant that the Martin County Sheriff’s Office received calls after we showed up. This reality drove us from one remote shooting location to another. All were relatively safe but none were ideal. As a young man, it could be difficult to find a place to shoot.

When I was teenager, I enrolled in the Florida’s Hunter Safety Course, which was when I learned about the Martin County Sportsmen’s Association (MCSA, mcsa.cc). That place was where I transitioned from being a plinker to becoming a real shooter.

The club was founded in 1978 by local shooters Don Lindh and Judge David Harper. Who would have thought that Judge Harper would swear me in as a member of the Bar in 2002. A fellow hunter and shooter, Harper was a friend and mentor, and I appeared daily in his courtroom.

MCSA was located near the county landfill, which was also adjacent to the now-defunct range used by local law enforcement. The private club’s dues were reasonable — and still are — and the ranges were rarely crowded. Members were given a rule briefing and a gate combo, which afforded access to three pistol ranges and a 100-­­yard rifle range. In 1992, I thought I found heaven. I spent many Saturday afternoons at MCSA, usually on the covered 50-­­yard pistol range. There, I fired thousands of rounds through my Smith & Wesson 686, Browning Hi Power and Colt Gold Cup. Slowly, I developed fundamental skills, including sight picture and trigger control, that have served me ever since. Nearly all the income from various part-­­time jobs was spent buying these firearms and ammunition to feed them.

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Nearly three decades later, MCSA’s leadership awarded Wood with a lifetime membership during a range visit.

I referenced MCSA in my August 2019 column, “My First Revolver.” After that issue appeared on newsstands, I was contacted by James Yelland, then-­­president. He invited me to visit the old range, so I did. To my surprise, I was presented with a life membership to MCSA. More than 30 years after joining the club, I now possess the honor of being member number “1.” Judge Harper, who passed away in 2009, would have been proud.

Though my dad is still a member, I hadn’t seen the ranges in many years. I arranged to visit in 2021 and, after spending some time with Yelland and his fellow board members, was given a tour. MCSA has absorbed the sheriff’s range next door, and it has increased its footprint significantly. The facility has been upgraded and is staffed by trained range officers. The members I spoke with were proud of what the club has become.

It was time to shoot, and had I brought an old friend, my vintage Gold Cup that I worked so many hours to earn. An array of steel targets now stand in opposition at the range I once frequented, so I banged away at them as fast as the front sight would allow — just like in the old days. I felt 16 again.

Like many public ranges you may have grown up with, MCSA is a special place built by special people. It is evidence for what capable members and dedicated hands can create. That lifetime membership is an honor that I will always be proud of.

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