Home, Home on The Range – The Rifle Range That Is!

Home, Home on The Range – The Rifle Range That Is!

By Pati Egan

The first year Camp opened, boys were taught the safe use of .22 rifles at the Rifle Range. The range location has remained the same since 1959!

Home, Home on The Range – The Rifle Range That Is!  Camp Ondessonk Campers shooting .22 rifles in 1959.

Originally Riflery was only offered during Boys Camp, but offered during Girls Camp a few years later. Since Camp Ondessonk’s early programs followed the Boy Scout model of summer camps; it is not unusual that Riflery was offered at Camp.

Home, Home on The Range – The Rifle Range That Is!  Camp Ondessonk staff reviewing the accuracy of the campers.

For many years campers shot at paper targets. The instructor would go up to the targets after all were finished shooting and mark the target with a pen where the camper hit.

Home, Home on The Range – The Rifle Range That Is!  Early Range targets

In the early years of the program, campers were expected to shoot a certain score to try out for an arrowhead. This changed by the 1980s – campers just had to hit a cluster of three bullets on the target. The instructor would then place a quarter over the cluster. If the three bullets fit in the quarter, the camper was eligible to try out for the arrowhead.

Camp Ondessonk Campers on the Range receiving instruction.

Campers did receive individual instruction, but there was usually only one instructor at the range. Just like now, safety was paramount at the range. Usually, at most, seven campers would shoot at a time. Notice no safety goggles or ear protection were worn.  Camp staff and administration were just not aware of the importance of ear and eye protection at that time. 

Campers and Staff at the Range at Camp Ondessonk

The week the above photo was taken, there must have been at least one Counselor in Training. The Unit Leader was also expected to assist at the line. Whenever possible, two staff were assigned to this activity. The staff was much smaller back then, and two instructors were not always possible. 

The Rifle Range Camp Ondessonk 70s & 80s

The old rifle range was small! The shed basically contained the rifles and cleaning supplies. Just like now, no ammunition was left at the range. Campers generally shot only three bullets. Remember that most units contained a minimum of 36 campers and a maximum of 40. Since usually only six or seven campers shot at a time, most campers did not get a second turn. The campers did have riflery scheduled twice a week. Their second time to the range, minimum instruction was given and campers could shoot at least twice. All activity periods were one-hour long. Campers could try out for the arrowhead as soon as they shot the required score. As is done today; the camper had to name the parts of the rifle and bullet and repeat all of the safety rules.

These old arrowheads are (top ) First Aid and Riflery; (bottom) Woodsmanship and Sailing

The riflery arrowhead was one of the most difficult to earn. It still is! 

Location, Location, Location!!!!

The Rifle Range is far! It is across the Amantacha Bridge and up a path toward the cinder path. This location was picked for safety reasons. There is a bluff behind the targets. Scheduling Riflery has, and still is, a challenge. Back in the day, the Archery Range was near the BOQ – very close to old Daniel. The Program Director would try to have units go to Riflery, then Archery, then Handicrafts. There was no “transition time” built into the schedule. Units, unfortunately, would have to leave one area early or be late to the next activity. It was always a challenge to give all units a logical schedule. 

The range is in a safe spot with signs when you approach the Range. People during the Education & Recreation Season (the time between when Summer Camp is in session) really liked these signs for some reason. They would have to be replaced every year.

Care of Equipment

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the one instructor did not have time to thoroughly clean the guns each day. Many would break due to lack of proper maintenance. The Camp Director sent the Riflery Instructor and me to learn from a gunsmith how to properly clean and maintain the rifles. A regular schedule was set up where guns would be rotated to the Program Director to be thoroughly cleaned and repaired. Once the guns were all in good shape the Rifle Range became more popular because more campers could shoot more bullets.

Thanks to the generosity of the Lee Smith Family, the hard work of Norb Garvey and Larry Davis, and the grant writing skills of Don Koehler and Larry Davis, our campers have a beautiful, state-of-the-art shooting range. Cindy’s Range (named after the late staff member Cindy Moehlenkamp Smith) was dedicated in 2015 at Friends Weekend. It is a place where campers want to come and want to shoot. The Range Director is certified in range management and has an open ear in Larry and Don to answer any questions or concerns the director might have. Twelve campers shoot at a time, and there is plenty of staff to assist them. They now shoot at spinning targets and are quite successful!

Camp Ondessonk Rifle Range.

Camp has always been a place where the generosity of past staff keeps Camp on the cutting edge of programming. I am certain that when the current staff are older, they will keep this tradition of giving alive and well. Why do I think this?  Because that’s how Camp rolls! 

Click here to learn more about Camp Ondessonk’s Summer Camp programs and activities.


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