El Paso out of doors gun vary makes key adjustments for sustainability and progress

0
9

A rustic gun range on El Paso County’s western edge might evoke romantic notions of the Wild West, but the modern problems of rising spending required new approaches to ensure it had a future.

“If you look at it now, you can see that we’ve made a lot of improvements and we’re proud of that,” said Mike Haslacker, 65, president of El Paso Gun & Marksmanship.

The range has been in operation since 1974, but after Haslacker became president in 2018, he led the organization through some important changes for sustainability and growth opportunities. The organization (formerly known as the El Paso Gun Club) transitioned from a for-profit association to a not-for-profit association, expanding its marketing and digital outreach efforts.

Since 2018, as El Paso Gun & Marksmanship, membership has grown from 300 members to the current roster of 561.

Mike Haslacker, President of El Paso Gun & Marksmanship

“We’re not painted, we don’t wear camouflage, I don’t wear camouflage, that’s not what we’re about. We’re a rifle club,” said Haslacker, a Vietnam veteran who worked for NASA as a police officer and engineer.

The shooting range is located in the desert near the foothills of the Franklin Mountains in Anthony, Texas. Steel targets in the form of pigs and chickens are placed on the rage from 100 yards up to 1,000 yards away.

Members use the centerfire range for target practice, either taking a point-blank shot at a box with a yellow bullseye on it, or even shooting at a steel goat sitting on a hill.

Other bays include the rimfire range for rifle and pistol, which is one notch lower than centerfire, and the lower pistol bay for close-range shooting.

The range itself was difficult to sustain at $3,000 a month to cover expenses such as rent, insurance, taxes and supplies for the range. Spending on targets and signs skyrocketed as the pandemic hit.

“Since COVID, the material is just horrible. Steel is up almost fifty percent,” Haslacker said.

A set of steel chicken targets placed on the perimeter of the area

Despite these setbacks, Haslacker insisted on maintaining the range to which he has belonged for the past 14 years. His experience as an engineer and growing up on a cattle ranch in Chaparral gave him the welding and mechanical skills to maintain the range. After a brief shutdown during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Haslacker and volunteers worked on virus safety protocols.

“We did everything we could here, we worked around the clock. We disinfected, we did everything we could to minimize because we have a lot of members who are older and I’m speaking, 70, 80, 90 and so we did our best,” Haslacker said.

As it was an outdoor recreation where people could social distance from each other, the range was deemed essential to stay open during the pandemic.

“During the pandemic when I was trying to get away from home and be outside for a few minutes, this is the perfect place, this was the perfect place, it still is,” said Keith Askins, who found out about the outreach his neighbor.

Haslacker said members of the range come from a variety of backgrounds. Many are Fort Bliss soldiers looking for a training ground. Others are law enforcement groups and hobbyists.

“I have three cardiac surgeons that are in Providence, here on Transmountain, and they come down at lunchtime and they’ll do 20-30 pistol shots and then they leave,” Haslacker said.

Haslacker took the opportunity of the reopening and welcomed newcomers to implement new policies, starting with membership.

Applicants must be at least 21 years of age and undergo an individual interview with Haslacker and a background check by the range’s legal department. If there are indications of legal difficulties, an applicant will be refused membership.

If approved, members pay an annual fee of $100. Members aged 23 and over can visit the area alone. For security reasons, members between the ages of 21 and 22 must have a sponsor, e.g. B. Have a parent or legal guardian at the shooting range.

Membership also includes unlimited access to License-to-Train courses taught by Haslacker and other range trainers. A guest who visits the range can also attend one of these courses on a trial basis and then decide whether they want to apply for membership or not.

“I recommend it to anyone who wants to own a gun because they also promote safety here and you know how to use a gun and you know how to use a gun properly,” said member Delma Scott, 63. “I think , which is important for anyone who wants to own a gun. This is a great place to learn.”

Once approved, a member will be assigned an ID card that must be worn at all times. The organization monitors who enters and exits the area for security reasons.

Everyone is expected to follow the range’s rules and guidelines – including alcohol, drugs, or glass targets or anything else that can splinter. Membership will be revoked immediately for policy violations.

Members may reserve individual shooting windows on a first come, first serve basis.

While safety on the shooting range is a priority, everyone still needs to watch out for snakes, Haslaker said.

“I’ve removed about 12 snakes from this large building in the last two weeks,” he said, referring to his hilltop office.

In addition to members, the offer is also used by law enforcement groups for training. Haslaker said high school clubs and the El Paso Sheriff’s Office SWAT team plan to train there as well.

The organization hosts a series of charity shootouts at the range where participants pay an entry fee. Donations went to groups like Toys for Tots, Operation Santa, Rescue Mission of El Paso, and the US Marine Corps.

“It’s relaxed, the best thing is the friendship, the camaraderie that you get with the people here. There’s a lot of respect between members, believe it or not,” said member Jose Sanchez, 59.

Haslacker was recently re-elected and will begin his next term in December. He is already working on further improvements.

“This will be my fifth year as President and I’m excited to see how this year unfolds. I have many plans for this place, many plans,” he said.