Charlie Thompson's chest swelled with pride, as he pointed out the vast array of improvements that have taken place over the past year at the Jim Jones Shooting Range.
Among the additions he pointed out to Payson Roundup reporter Erin Turner and myself were six new shooting bays, a 300-yard range, area covers and a field archery range, complete with a 3-D target.
Turner and I were invited July 11 by Thompson to tour the range and practice firing .22 caliber rifles and pistols on one of the new ranges, which we both did.
I hadn't been to the TRSC range in about a year, but Erin was making her first-ever visit.
Most impressive about the tour is that the local sports club now has a facility capable of hosting almost any type of event, whether it be cowboy pistol, archery, small- and large-bore rifle and pistol, silhouette target, black powder or tactical shooting.
The range also serves as a practice site for the Payson Police Department, Arizona Game and Fish, Department of Public Safety and the Gila County Sheriff's Office. Boy Scouts even use the range on occasion.
The range, originally known as the Northern Gila County Shooting Range, began operating in 1981 under a U.S. Forest Service Special Use Permit.
The facility was renamed the "Jim Jones Shooting Range" about a decade ago, in honor of the late Gila County supervisor who helped secure the permit and design the facility.
Today, a sign with the former supervisor's name etched on it greets visitors as they approach the range.
Since the range's inception, it has been developed, maintained and operated by the TRSC, which was founded in 1979 with an expressed purpose of encouraging organized and safe shooting among Rim Country sportsmen. Members are taught safe handling and proper care of firearms and have the opportunity to improve marksmanship on the range.
The club's mission statement says, "It is a further purpose of the club to foster the development of those characteristics of honesty, good fellowship, self-discipline, team play and self-reliance. These are the essentials of good sportsmanship and the foundation of patriotism."
Membership in the TRSC is open to any U.S. citizen, and the yearly dues are $35.
Members are encouraged to join the National Rifle Association.
We reached the range from Payson, by driving 2.2 miles south of the Mazatzal Casino on the Beeline Highway. We turned left onto a gravel road and then drove 1.5 miles to the entrance.
Call Thompson at (928) 468-1521.
OVERCOMING FEAR OF GUNS
by Erin Turner, Roundup staff reporter
I have never been a fan of guns.
I was never around guns as a child and my dad is a big-time knife man.
The only opportunity I had to hold a handgun came at a friend's house when I was in high school. My enjoyment of the experience was quickly dashed, however, when in a poor attempt to be funny or tough, a friend put the gun to my forehead and yelled at me, rendering me his terrified hostage. My desire to handle guns plummeted to an all-time low.
That was, until I was shown how to handle a gun in a professional manner.
Charlie Thompson of the Tonto Rim Sports Club offered to take Max Foster and myself out to check out the upgrades at the range, including new awnings and restructured shooting areas. He brought along some of his own guns and offered me instructions on how to use them before I was on my own, face-to-face with the bulls-eye.
While I was more than nervous, the whole experience was quite liberating.
There is a certain level of pride that is obtained when that orange target gets nailed by a bullet from your own gun. My tattered target also provides further proof that I am not one to be trifled with, which is an added bonus to the whole experience.
While I strongly believe that a fear of guns is normal, I learned that a respect for them is far more important. Learning how to handle a gun may be one of the more important tasks I've ever undertaken, because I conquered my fears in the process.