“Ready on the right, ready on the left, ready on the firing line.”
Seconds after the last command, the air fills with a series of sharp reports as about a dozen pistol shooters take their crack at the line of targets.
This scene was replayed many times over the course of the August long weekend, as the Harriston Pistol and Revolver Club (HPC) celebrated its 52nd Anniversary with their two-day championships at the club’s outdoor range. The August event consists of an 1800 Match (.22 and centre fire calibres), Standard Pistol Match (.22 calibre), Centre Fire Match (centre fire calibre), Air Pistol (.177 calibre), and Practical Pistol Course matches.
The Harriston Club’s August match is a Canadian Shooting Sports Association sanctioned event, meaning shooters can use their results to qualify for provincial and national teams. This year’s championships drew shooters from as far as Ottawa, Elliot Lake, Burlington and Sudbury, as well as the local area.
The Harriston Pistol Club was founded in 1958 by a small group of local shooting enthusiasts. Founding members included Clarence Smith, Art Davie, Charles Davie, Earl MacKenzie, Dave Mew, David Howes, and Grant MacKenzie. In 1966 the club trustees purchased a rural school house in Minto Township and established an indoor and outdoor shooting facility.
Although a small club (about 30 members) the HPC has won multiple league champion titles in both the Western Ontario Handgun League (WOHL) and the Ontario Inter County Handgun League (OICHL). The HPC holds team high-scoring records in both leagues, along with a provincial indoor team record set at the Ottawa Handgun Club some years ago.
The WOHL is comprised of clubs including Kincardine, Port Elgin, Wiarton, Owen Sound, North Grey Bruce, East Grey, Rockford, and Harriston. The Ontario Inter County Handgun League includes clubs in Listowel, Waterloo, Kitchener, Hamilton, Elmira, Wentworth and Harriston. Both leagues have adopted the ISU Standard Pistol discipline/match format that includes two slow-fire targets, two time-fire targets, and two rapid fire targets. An aggregate score is out of 600 points. Handicaps are assigned by league officials to all competitors from each club based on average scores. This system, like golf aligns each competitor with his equal from opposing clubs for competition.
“So a beginning shooter can get a point for your team as well as someone with more experience,” said HPC member Glenn Leibold.
Anyone interested in getting involved in handgun sport shooting needs to go through a registered club. A Firearms Acquisition Certificate (FAC) is needed to legally purchase a gun and the club offers mandatory safety courses for newcomers. When the other requirements have been completed, the club applies on behalf of the member for a permit which allows guns to be transported from secure storage to the firing range (No guns or ammunition are stored at the club facility itself).
Safety and security are taken very seriously, and club members note that accidents and injuries are extremely rare due to the strict safety regulations gun clubs and owners comply with.
The range itself is designed with safety as a priority. The indoor range is lined with steel baffles, while the outdoor shooting area is surrounded by thick man-made berms to absorb bullets.
Through the winter, HPC members compete indoors, either at their own range or travelling to other clubs for competitions about once a week. It’s an easy sport to get hooked on, comments Leibold.
“It’s like golf – it’s addicting and it’s very challenging.”
Leibold says successful shooting is 70 per cent about the physical components of the sport, a steady hand, good eyesight, the rest is mental.
“You really have to concentrate.”
The cost of participation is determined by the shooter himself. A basic pistol good enough for target shooting can cost around $300. However many enthusiasts elect to customize their guns with specialized grips, sighting equipment and other accessories.
The social aspect of the sport is also very important to participants. A barbecue at the end of Saturday’s shooting was the highlight of the long-weekend event in Harriston for many competitors.
“There’s quite a camaraderie in the shooting community. Some of my best friends, I’ve met shooting over the past 30 years,” states long-time HPC member Dennis Harper.
While sometimes considered a bastion of male bonding, shooting clubs are actually quite family-friendly, HPC club members point out. The Harriston club has both male and female members and training is also available for junior members.
For more information on the Harriston Pistol and Revolver Club call Dennis Harper at 519 577-7287.