A few years ago it was possible to see, in the basement of North Side High School, the remnants of what was once a shooting range.
It’s surprising, in today’s environment, to think that a few decades ago one of the things taught in the city’s high schools was how to shoot a gun.
Those shooting ranges are long gone, but the notion of learning how to shoot a gun hasn’t faded. In fact, several area high schools have shooting teams that use both air rifles and small-bore rifles.
The teams take part in competitions at a place called The X Count, an indoor range in an industrial park off Lima Road, and little by little, more teams are signing up.
It doesn’t take much persuasion to get schools to agree to let students form a team, although the schools themselves aren’t the sanctioning body.
Diane Rice, vice president of The X Count and who runs the 20-lane indoor shooting range, tells the story of a high school principal she approached about forming a team. When it was time to decide, the principal was in favor of it, but it wasn’t because he had known Rice and her shooting-coach husband, Gregg, for years.
The principal, doing a little investigating himself, discovered that schools with rifle teams tend to be feeder schools to the Ivy League. People on rifle teams tend to be smart and highly disciplined, which is something you need when it comes to competition shooting with precision rifles.
That’s understandable since the target used in competition isn’t a big bullseye but a tiny dot about as big as the lead in a lead pencil.
Forming rifle teams and running a range that is in use practically every night is expensive.
Accumulating an air rifle, a precision small bore rifle, sites and other pieces of equipment can cost about $15,000, so equipping a team of six or seven people can be costly.
Some foundations promote shooting sports that offer matching grants to help get new teams off the ground.
But then there’s the shooting range itself.
The X Count, which is about 5 years old, has been in its present home on Merchandise Drive for about a year, and the place needs work.
Rice says the building, constructed in the 1970s, needs work on its facade. The bathrooms need to be made handicapped accessible (there are handicapped teams that train and compete at The X Count). The place needs $80,000 worth of HVAC work. Rice wants to install additional safety walls. A loading dock needs to be filled in and a couple of overhead doors need to be removed and replaced with regular walls.
So facility, whose website is TheXCount.com and is on Facebook, has launched a fundraising drive called A Hundred Ways To Help, asking people to make one-time large gifts, small gifts, recurring gifts, to sponsor an athlete, and other donations.
How much does she need?
Half a million dollars, she says.
Clearly, competition shooting takes brains and discipline – and money, too.
Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, fax at 461-8893, or email at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.