For handicapped gun enthusiasts in Lake County, the firing line just moved a lot closer.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) recently approved a $32,360 grant request from the Mission Valley Shooting Club for improvements to a firing range outside Ronan. The bulk of the project calls for the installation of handicap-accessible restrooms, parking spots and range house entrances—a considerable step forward for the 12-year-old club.
Tom Fieber, Mission Valley's event coordinator, says only one of the club's 200 current members is physically handicapped. Several more handicapped shooters from the area have appeared at sponsored events in the last couple years, Fieber says, but the lack of basic amenities makes regular attendance challenging for them.
"We've only had a few participate," Fieber says. "But we're hoping this will open it up so more people that do have limitations can get into the range and use it more."
Until now, the nearest handicap-accessible shooting range to Ronan was the Missoula Trap and Skeet Club.
FWP began offering range improvement grants to Montana shooting clubs in the early 1990s, using money from the agency's hunting license sales. Contributions now total roughly $315,000 annually, says FWP Shooting Range Coordinator Kurt Cunningham. The agency helped fund 16 separate projects in Montana this year.
"We license all these people to go out into the field and carry a gun and shoot," Cunningham says. "It's important to us that they're safe and accurate. Best place to do that is on a range that's set up for safety."
The Mission Valley project—which, with additional funding from community donations and club fees, totals $65,000—also calls for construction of separate ranges for archery and .22-caliber shooting. Fieber anticipates the project wrapping up by the end of November. And not a moment too soon, he adds.
"The only complaint I've heard is we've had to close down the existing rifle range when the Job Corps is working," Fieber says. "And this is a busy time of year for a rifle range because of hunting season."