After having early ranges in the 1920s and 1930s near Osceola and in the late 1930s to 1950s near the Pensacola Airport, in 1955 the Club moved to land in Cantonment donated by the St. Regis Paper Company. In the late 1970s, the Club bought land 4 miles north of Cantonment for a permanent home. Originally 40 acres, we later grew to 80 acres and in 2015 we added 60 more acres.
Quite a collection of photos from our club history has surfaced. The following links will take you to a gallery with over 50 photos dating from the 1940s to the 1980s. As new photos are obtained, they will be included.
For those viewing on a phone or other small devices:
The sign on our Club’s range gate says that we were established in 1945. Our Club’s official NRA Charter says 1944. After doing research with long-time member Charlie Webster, we found information about our organization which seems to date it much older, dating back at least to the 1930s and informally meeting since the mid-1920s.
Many people today see the actual range facility as “The Club”. However, the informal origins of Pensacola Rifle and Pistol Club was as a small group of men who would get together to eat, talk, trade guns and then shoot at a “small, ill-equipped range near the Osceola Golf Course”. (source: Pensacola News Journal, Sunday August 31, 1958)
The wooded area where the range was located at Osceola was subdivided for housing construction and in 1937 our range facility had to move. Rumors of having a range at the old city landfill (which we now call Cordova Mall) are close, but aerial photos and drawings have surfaced to show where the range was located in the 1940s with plans for additional growth. Do you recognize this location?
If you answered that the photo looks a lot like Pensacola State College, then you are correct! The city of Pensacola and the Baars Estate decided to use this parcel and the one below what we now call College Blvd to move Pensacola Junior College to a much larger, permanent location. Airport Blvd did not exist yet so College Blvd was the road directly into the airport terminal.
In 1957, PJC opened and by that time our Club had already been forced to abandon the “airport range property”. The development plans photo are part of Dr. Nathan Arenson’s collection displaying his influence and vision that can be felt through much of our growing years. He was our club president from 1950-1957 and could be considered one of the “founding fathers” of our Club being the face in front of the public even gathering support from the City of Pensacola.
When Pensacola Junior College was to be moved from downtown Pensacola to it's current main campus near the Pensacola Airport, work became underway to move the Club Range to another location.
In 1955, St. Regis Paper Company (now International Paper) came through to donate land and then proceeded to clear it and put in amenities on Muscogee Road, a quarter mile east from US 29 on the north side of Beck's Lake Road. The City of Pensacola donated $3,000 to help build the range along with $2,000 from club funds (remember - 1950's dollars). A Kiwanis Club donated the money for water service at the range. It is estimated that the range would have taken $10,000-12,000 had not so many supplies, machinery, labor hours and the land been donated.
The new range had been called, "not the biggest in Florida, but it was the finest". It opened with 40 firing points on the pistol line with electrically controlled turning targets for the pistol matches. In 1957, the Florida State Pistol Championships were held there and a 100 yard rifle line had been built with an emphasis on Youth shooting.
In 1964, up to 40 competitors for the Fiesta Pistol Match had to be turned away, so for the 1965 match an additional pistol range was built to increase capacity to 250 competitors. All 50 yard firing was shot on the new range with all 25 yard shooting on the current range.
By 1966, the Fiesta Match drew a capcity crowd including police, military teams Army (USAMTU), USMC, USN, USAF and their reserve units. Civilians came from as far as Alaska, Hawaii, the Panama Canal Zone and Europe! Capacity crowds continue for several years.
After several years of competition shoots, reloading workshops and outings with venison BBQ - which of course included fun shoots for all types of firearms and bows, St. Regis decided they wanted the property back in the late 1970s. The Club would have to move yet again!
When St. Regis Paper Company required their donated property back and with the club growing, it became apparent that we had to find a permanent home. The club proceeded to purchase 40 acres of it's own around 1979, just 4 miles north of the Cantonment range.
When the land was purchased, the brush was so dense that the turn south onto the easement purchased from St. Regis had to be cleared by hand to allow access. Then large pieces of sandstone had to be moved away from the road. A fire break was then cut and the property fenced.
The US Navy Seabees at the time needed a civic project to use as a training exercise so they came to the range with their heavy equipment and built our current backstops for the 50 yard pistol range and 100 yard rifle range.
When the 200 yard range and shotgun area was being prepared for development, our elelvation survey was going to be done by member and surveyor Clarence Murden, who passed on before it could be finished. Another member who at the time had "some surveying" experience volunteered for the task which is why that range looks like it is "up hill". However, that mistake turned into perfection for water drainage from the forest across the grass of the range into the holding pond.
Our next project was a general purpose short range that became known as the "Plinking Range". It has become our most popular far allowing can and plastic bottles to be shot like a shooting gallery.
The turning target mechanism that is on the Bullseye range today came from the Beck's Lake Road range and is still running today for weekly pistol matches, practice and the Fiesta Match. While Conventional Pistol matches have lost their following in recent years, the Fiesta Match still draws competitors from several states acting as a warm up for military teams heading for Interservice pistol matches.
The 40 acres square directly to our north became available from International Paper Company for purchase which we took advantage of to add to our buffer area. That entire section remains forest land to this day.
With extra buffer space, we built a new rifle range which extends target positions from 100 - 300 yards. This new range also opens up range time when the other rifle range is holding a match.
We hold competitions every month for adults and juniors, host the Fiesta Pistol Match and the Duffner JROTC Air Rifle Match. Or if a member just wants to come out and enjoy a day of shooting and visting with other members, we have that too!
In May 2015, we closed on an additional 59.37 acres to give us not just an additional buffer area, but also future opportunities for new range options. This brings our facility to nearly 140 acres. The diagram below shows the original south 40 acres, the north 40 acres and the newly acquired land.
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