Gun Clubs and Membership Caps

by Rick Olson

When we get to wishing a great deal for ourselves, whatever we get soon turns into mere limitation and exclusion.  —George Eliot

LFGC_SHooterYesterday, the Union Leader’s Paul Feely featured a story entitled, Busy gun clubs may have to cap membership. Scott Jenkins, President of the Chester Rod and Gun club had this to say…

It’s one thing to want to grow as fast as you can and not refuse people, but it’s another thing to show up on a Saturday and be turned away because there’s too many people here or there’s a three-hour wait.”

Jenkins is one of the practical and astute club leaders. He clearly recognizes the need and utility of a membership cap and understands it purpose. When a club gets to the point where people are waiting to use the range facilities,  capacity becomes a question directly reflecting membership numbers. And Club leadership needs to be equally astute to those “micro-burst” seasons, that is, those times of year when ranges typically fill up. An easy mistake to make is to judge that seasonal flury as a reaction, rather than an observation.

Safety is paramount to the operations of any club. The number of people a range can safely operate with has to be a foremost consideration,  On the other hand, there are some clubs that have caps for, not so explainable reasons. When I have an opportunity to ask some of those club leaders about their caps, they really cannot effectively defend them. “We want Sportsmen only. No hobby shooters…” one such club leader told me. Shortly thereafter he lamented the difficulties of keeping up with the club maintenance and  the mounting Financial limits as the bulk of the membership body, “is considerably older, you know…” YOU DON’T SAY? When I asked another club leader about his club’s cap, he simply said, “It just is…” When I further asked why, he got a bit testy.  As for rules, a number of clubs have rules that reflect tastes and preferences of a few old farts, but have little to do with safety

As President of the Londonderry Fish & Game Club, a common complaint I hear is that it is difficult to join a club. With a certain number of special sessions or “orientations, requiring a long term member sponsor, Range tests, work requirements and a host of other provisos, some clubs afford themselves the luxury of “moody, curmudgeonly member selection.” I do not begrudge them that, but looking at the big picture they aren’t exactly reaching out the hand of community stewardship in that respect either.

Some clubs have rival factions within. There are the cowboy action shooters, Three-Gun Shooters, IDPA, Sporting Clays, and Tactical shooters…all outside the purview of the once-traditional sportsman the clubs were founded for.  With that, a few egos and voices can be overbearing, As with anything else however, effective management and communication can successfully maintain a peaceful balance.

So if the club you are a member of is entertaining a membership cap, it is important for the logic of the cap to be clearly expressed to the body membership. The cap has to have utility, has to be reasonable and the need for it should be self-evident. Letting a clique of old farts decide the fate of a club based on their mood is neither useful to the club nor to those of us who support Second Amendment Rights. Traditional Sporting club members (like myself) need the non-sporting member shooters and they certainly need us. We live in a time when the range contempt cadre searches constantly for any context to cause us trouble. There is strength in numbers and clubs should not be limiting themselves.

Leave a Comment

  • allen

    I have tried to join pelham F&G for years. I can never get any reply back as to what the requirements are, ect. I used to go to the CMP/DCM shoots there (and at the canobie F&G range before that..yes, this was a long time ago) and always enjoyed it.

    I used to be a member of plaistow F&G until they doubled their dues for no particular reason, and the facilities never really suited my shooting anyways. a pistol range is ok, but I really need a range I can get my M1 garand a workout on.

  • Tim from Nashua

    Good post, Rick. Some of us who have not (yet) joined a club might think it’s like joining the YMCA, not considering that there may be barriers, either practical, or exclusionary.

    The Old Fart Shooting Clubs will eventuallyhave to change in order to keep going, but an enterprising young person(s), say a returning miltary veteran(s), could with vision and start-up capital, could give the OFSCs competition.

  • Unfilterednews

    A club can only house so many people, parking, safety, events, meals, etc. I know its maybe a lot of work, Instead of turning people away, start a F&G II or sister organization. I think in the next few years you will experience an uptick of interest. Have a new committee do the leg work with land and buildings and improvements. I don,t blame the old timers that volunteered their time to build or improve the club to not want to stand in line.

    • A Club can house so many people….You are correct…I don’t see your point. Why don’t you go back and read it again. My THESIS is a) “SOME” not all clubs have caps they cannot justify. I know of a club that caps its membership at 125. Easily, they could comfortably accomodate 500-750 and still not feel a tight pinch. Fact is, they simply do not want to…or some clique has decided it. b) dont expect every member of small club to break out their checkbook every time a roof needs repair or something needs fixing with a lowball cap.

      Nobodys “blaming” the old timers…Simply because you say, does not mean THE “Old Fart” contingent is non-existent. It is…Some of them can be a real bunch of asses. For example, When I was a 13-year-old kid at LFGC, there was one old fart who would yell and swear at the kids, merely for entertainment. 35 years later, I am the man at the top, and I can tell you, That crap no longer happens, certainly not on my watch. I’d like to see one of those farts throw me into the pond after a few beers, now.

      At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ll say it again…Club caps on membership: NECESSARY, but should be justifiable.

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