There are plenty of feel-good success stories around the Rim Country, but probably none more remarkable than The Tonto Rim Sports Club’s growth from a small, undeveloped firearm shooting range to a state-of-the-art facility, complete with six shooting bays, a 300-yard long rifle range, a field archery range that can be outfitted with high-dollar, 3D targets and a rapidly growing membership.
In 2010 the improvements continued when TRSC received an $11,500 donation from the Zane Grey Committee’s Friends of NRA that was used for drainage projects to curtail flooding problems.
While the improvements were made at TRSC, members — including spokesman Charlie Thompson — were eager to show off the facility.
So they opted to host an inaugural open house and outdoor expo they hoped would introduce the public to what was available at the facility. 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.
With the range now in tiptop shape and growing in popularity, the annual outdoor expos continue to offer a unique opportunity for a firsthand 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 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday, April 28 during the Seventh Annual Open House and Outdoor Expo.
The festivities are open to the public, free of charge. 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 including, for the first time this year, a long range .50 caliber gun that is used by both NATO and non-NATO forces.
Members will also be available to provide information about the club itself and its activities. Local vendors will be on site. Susie Q BBQ will cater food and drinks.
Payson SWAT, Payson Fire Department and the Gila County Search and Rescue team will also attend.
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.
Thompson stresses there are many reasons to attend. At the expo, Thompson says, both children and adults can learn the safe handling of firearms.
Everyone who attends will also have an 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.
In the early years, the range was known mostly as a site for the safe use of firearms. But in 2008 it took on another dimension when retired California law enforcement officer Les Conner talked members into hosting a first-ever 3-D archery shoot. It was an instant success.
The dramatic spurt in popularity was 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 three years ago to purchase the 14 new 3-D targets.
Just months 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.
The Tonto Rim Sports Club was founded in 1979 with the express 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 produces a monthly newsletter and hosts a number of organized monthly competitions. Membership 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.