Tonto Rim Sports Club members — beaming with pride — were eager in 2006 to show off the vast array of improvements that had just taken place at the Jim Jones Shooting Range.
So, they opted to host an inaugural open house and outdoor expo they hoped would introduce the public to what was available at the shooting facility located south of town. What the members didn’t know at the time is that the event would turn into such an overwhelming success, they would continue to host it annually.
Among the new facilities the public both viewed and used six years ago were six new shooting bays, a 300-yard range, and a field archery range.
Those improvements, however, weren’t the only ones that have spruced up the local range.
In 2010, TRSC received an $11,500 donation from the Zane Grey Committee’s Friends of NRA.
That money was used for drainage improvement projects to curtail the flooding problems that sometimes occurred during heavy rains.
With the range now in tiptop shape and growing in popularity, the annual outdoor expos continue to offer a unique opportunity for a first-hand look at what TRSC and the Jim Jones Shooting Range has to offer.
The next chance the public has to tour the range and check out the new facilities — while possibly learning a bit more about the club itself — is Sunday, May 6 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the 6th annual Open House and Outdoor Expo.
The festivities are open to the public, free of charge.
A myriad of activities will include demonstrations of recreation and hunting shooting in archery, cowboy, practice and tactical, black powder, small and large bore and silhouette target events.
Also, there will be opportunities to shoot a variety of firearms and bows, free of charge.
Members will also be available to provide information about the club itself. Local vendors will be on site to answer questions about their hunting and archery products and services.
Information on activities held at the shooting range will also be available.
Payson SWAT, Payson Fire Department and the Gila County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team will also attend.
Susie Q BBQ will cater food and drinks.
Former TRSC spokesman Charlie Thompson stressed since he helped host the first expo that there are many reasons to attend, including teaching children the safe handling of firearm rules, the opportunity to try and learn about different styles and calibers of firearms, see the Payson SWAT team in action, have questions answered about archery and learn about the various competitions that are held at TRSC.
To reach the range from Payson, drive 2.2 miles south of the Mazatzal Casino on the Beeline Highway. Turn left onto a gravel road and then drive 1.5 miles to the entrance. The route will be clearly marked with signs.
3-D archery added
While the Jim Jones shooting range had been known mostly as a site for the safe use of firearms, it took on another dimension in 2008 when retired California law enforcement officer Les Conner talked members into hosting a first-ever 3-D archery shoot. Like the outdoor expos, it was an instant success and is now held a twice-a-year.
The first shoot attracted bout 45 competitors but, due to cold and windy conditions, only 35 of the hardiest of archers showed up to battle for prizes, awards and bragging rights.
The recent dramatic spurt in popularity of the shoots is due in part to the addition, as a sponsor, of the Town of Payson Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department. Also, the Mogollon Sporting Association pitched in two years ago to purchase 14 new 3-D targets.
In July 2010, just after the MSA purchased the targets, “Shoot for the Rim,” the first shoot to be co-sponsored by the town, drew a record 70-plus archers.
The new 3-D targets enabled sponsors to offer, for the first time, two different, 14-target courses for the one-day event.
Immediately after the shoot, Mary McMullen, then the town’s trails and outdoor recreation coordinator, called the tournament, a “new and exciting outdoor recreation program” and emphasized the new sponsors were “eager to put this and future archery tournaments on in our community to offer more opportunities for youth in Payson to shoot their bows.”
The sports club 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.”
The club produces a monthly newsletter and hosts a number of organized monthly competitions.
Membership in the TRSC is open to any U.S. citizen, and the yearly dues are $50.
In 1981, the Northern Gila County Shooting Range began operating under a U.S. Forest Service special use permit.
Since its inception, the range has been developed, maintained and operated by TRSC.
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.
In addition to hosting public and member shooting activities, the range is used by several law enforcement agencies, including the Arizona Department of Public Safety, Payson Police Department, Gila County Sheriff’s Office, Arizona Game and Fish, U.S. Forest Service, National Guard and the FBI.