With support from volunteers, the Guelph Rod and Gun Club is going strong despite restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The club suspended all operations in March and reopened in May, with safety measures in place.
“We are volunteer driven, and everyone wants to help,” says Andrew Vincent, web director at the Guelph Rod and Gun Club (GRGC).
“It’s definitely been different, and we’ve had to follow government guidelines and we’ve had to figure out some very important changes for our 800 members.”
With the two indoor ranges remaining closed, the club’s seven outdoor ranges are open for use.
“We’ve had to be particular as to how to reopen and at what capacity. Because we are run by volunteers, we count on them to help everyone follow the rules and everyone does help out,” Vincent said.
“There are precautions in place, including outdoor porta potties, everyone must be socially distanced and only a few people are allowed in a certain area at one time. Our longest range is 100 yards and only six people can shoot at one time.”
The Guelph Rod and Gun Club holds numerous events throughout the year which have also been impacted because of the pandemic.
“There’s lots of recreation shooting but we also hold lots of competitive matches,” says Vincent.
“We are limited. We hold service pistol matches and now we can only have a certain few take part at a time. There’s definitely been an impact on how our events are being run.”
GRGC also hosts a number of club level, regional and national competitions.
“With our indoor and outdoor ranges, we have lots of variety and opportunities,” Vincent said.
Vincent himself is a national level competitive rifle shooter and has been a club member for over 10 years.
“Whether it’s rifles, pistols and shotguns or if you are a hunter, a collector, or a competitive shooter, we can accommodate basically everyone,” he said.
GRGC, a non-profit club, has been operating since 1958 and is located on 23 acres of land.
Facilities are designed for the safety and enjoyment of all members and guests and accommodate almost all shooting disciplines including archery, black powder, bullseye, International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC), Ontario Defensive Pistol League (ODPL), Practical Pistol Course (PPC), rifle, trap and Cowboy Action Shooting which has had an annual match since 1990.
For those who love old west history or western movies, they can act out their favorite western role and become a cowboy action shooter.
This imaginative shooting sport uses firearms from the ‘old west’. Participants assume an alias and are in full costume and shoot an array of targets with real ammunition while being timed.
Identities include characters from the civil war, military personnel, cowboys and dance hall ladies.
Families are welcome to take part and youth gain confidence quickly as they learn safe, responsible handling of firearms.
“This has been running every long weekend since the 1970’s. Everyone wears their costumes and badges. They all have their get-ups. It’s all about shooting quickly,” Vincent said.
“We are really lucky to be in Guelph and to be able to offer such a variety with lots of different disciplines.”
In terms of membership, Vincent says the club attracts a wide range of people from all sorts of backgrounds including men and women of all ages to youth and children.
“It’s such a great cross-section of people and everyone is taking part in organized shooting sports. It doesn’t matter who you are. In the end, we are all in it together,” he says.
“It’s a great hobby whether it’s competitive or just for fun.”
GRGC does not sell firearms or ammunition and does not rent or store firearms.
The club does offer family memberships at a discounted rate as well discounts for children living at the same address as a current member.
The membership year runs from Nov. 1st to Oct. 31 and membership at GRGC is capped at 800 members.
“This is the number we are comfortable with. Because we are volunteer run, there’s a lot of effort put into the upkeep of the club. Everyone has their cleanup days,” Vincent said.
And GRGC makes sure to keep the community involved.
“We have a lot of students and we have students from the University of Guelph Criminal Justice and Law Society come out for organized fun shoots,” says Vincent.
“Members from Scouts Canada also come out for their marksmanship badges. And we also have a youth program with air rifles. Whether it’s university students or kids from Scouts, it’s all safe and organized and it’s all about mentoring too.”
The club continues to host community events and fundraisers and has supported those with cancer as well as veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.
Local organizations including Shriners and Masons also have organized events at the club.
“For me, I love seeing the big cross section of people who make sure everyone is benefiting,” Vincent says.
“This is my local place. I can train here and offer support. This is where we grow talent and give back to our community.”