The Whittecar Rifle Range, a non-profit public shooting range, located on Riverview Road northeast of Hamilton, has, with some ingenuity in design, squeezed in a brand new shooting range. The new rimfire range serves only air rifle and .22 caliber rifle shooters. The aim, according to director Dan Ashmore, was to extend their services to a special segment of the public – the ones just learning to shoot a rifle – that really need a special place.
“I think that 99% of everybody shooting probably started with an air rifle or a .22,” said longtime board member Jeff Jetter. But a young kid just learning to shoot an air rifle or a .22 can find it pretty disturbing if the guy right next to him is shooting off a musket, or some high caliber rifle. He said the Boy Scouts, 4-H and Hunters Education groups are very interested in using the new range.
He said having a dedicated rimfire range was not a new idea. He said the need for it was recognized several years ago.
“Funding was a real challenge,” he said simply. Persistence paid off, however, and recently, with some grants from the National Rifle Association and matching grants from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and money from other donors, the new shooting range was finally installed.
It took a lot of figuring and an ingenious design to squeeze the range into the grounds currently occupied by a 300 yard range, a 200 yard range, two covered pistol sheds, five open bays, parking and more. By placing a series of very large laminated beams across the top of the concrete block walls lining the range, the chance of errant shots going wild into another range were capped. Despite all the development over the years, every range on the grounds operates independently of the others. Any of the ranges can have someone out changing targets while the people in the other ranges continue to shoot.
Jetter, who joined the board in 1997, also built the first concrete benches used in the shooting match sessions. He said it drew shooters from Missoula where there were only some rickety wooden benches and fueled the growth of Whittecar. Now they have nine benches on the 200-yard range and 12 benches on the 300-yard range.
Handgun training sessions are available at the range. Women’s classes are being taught by Jim McCormick and Lee Riffle. Director Dan Ashmore teaches both men and women classes. Other trainers in the area also use the facility.
More information about the rifle range may be found on the internet at www.whittecarrange.com or on their Facebook page.