The sun favored the Summit Range Association’s Rimfire Challenge, held for the first time Saturday morning. Shooters of all ages gathered at the Summit County range in Keystone to try their eyes and trigger fingers against the black-and-white rings on the target paper. Some came with their own guns and years of experience; others borrowed firearms from friends, family or the volunteer range safety officers to try for the first time.
At the very beginning of the contest, head safety officer Brad Deats explained the rules and the safety conditions at the range, reiterating the large signs posted all around the area. Deats particularly focused on the young shooters, in the 14-years-and-under category.
“One of the goals of our whole range program is to teach kids, when they’re little, safe, fun use of the range so it stays clean and stays welcome to all the people coming here,” said assistant county manager Thad Noll, who is active with the Summit Range Association (SRA).
Teaching new shooters, young and old, the basics of gun safety and really ingraining it into their habits, will keep the range — and the forests during hunting season — safe, he added.
“The more gun safety you can teach, the better off you are,” agreed SRA volunteer Jim McNaul.
First-time shooters also had the advantage of advice and tips from the various experts on hand, including competitors and SRA range safety officers. Each competitor was given five practice shots, then allowed five shots at each of the four targets on his or her sheet. Sheets were then brought in and scored by SRA volunteers. The center ring counts as 10 points, then nine, then eight, descending in value to the largest outside ring. Scores from all four targets are added up to create the total score, with center bull’s-eye shots counting as extras and tie-breakers.
“I feel like I did great,” said 11-year-old Aron Susic with a grin as he waited for his target sheet to be scored.
Aron came out with his father, Ahmet, a sergeant at the Frisco police department, and brothers Adam and Alex. Ahmet Susic admitted his boys hadn’t been on the shooting range very much, but he is eager to teach them gun safety and awareness.
Sunlight glinted off the brass casings on the ground as the morning wore on, more competitors arrived and more paper targets were put up. In the end, around 30 people competed, with 36 targets sold. Proceeds from the targets and refreshments went to the SRA for the cost of the competition and upkeep of the range.
At the end of the competition, Cameron Kalaf stood out as the champion of the 14-and-under group, cheering as he picked up his trophy. In second and third place came Aron and Adam Susic, followed by Graham Kalaf in fourth. In addition to trophies, the boys also won target stands, which were donated by Ken Kalaf, owner of Tuffsteel in Dillon.
“It’s fun to compete with your friends. That’s the fun part,” Aron said.
The winner of the adult competition was your reporter, Jessica Smith — it’s been a while since she’s shot at cans out in the woods, but apparently she’s still got it — followed by “Boo” Bouchard and A. Romanski.
“We had a good turnout, it worked out very smoothly,” said Brian Denison, president of the SRA. “This is our first one; it won’t be the last.”
Following the awards ceremony, Denison, Noll and Colorado Parks and Wildlife district wildlife manager Sean Shepherd and area wildlife manager Lyle Sidener made an announcement. The SRA will be receiving a $100,000 grant from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife to make improvements to the public shooting range.
Cheers, claps and whistles broke out at the announcement.
“Seeing the volume of use and all the people that turned out today and to have this news to share is a great opportunity,” Sidener said.
“This wouldn’t have happened without the Summit Range Association,” Shepherd added. “It’s a reflection on you and we can’t thank you guys enough.”
Over the winter, the SRA and county government will discuss the best way to use the grant money to improve the range, Noll said, with such possibilities as pouring concrete and adding overhead coverage, bathrooms and trap houses, for example. The additions will likely come about next summer.
“We have a nice range now, but we are going to be first class when it finishes,” Denison said.
For more information about the Summit Range Association, visit www.summitrange.org.