A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SIERRA DESERT GUN CLUB
The history of the club actually starts with two other gun clubs. They were the China Lake Rifle and Pistol Club and the Ridgecrest Gun Club. The China Lake Rifle and Pistol Club was formed in about 1948 and had active shooting programs in high power rifle and smallbore gallery rifle. The membership in the CLR&PC stood at about 30 in the early 1960′s. The Ridgecrest Gun Club was formed in 1954 and had active shooting programs in high power rifle and conventional NRA pistol. The membership in the RGC also was about 30. In 1963 a number of members found themselves as officers in both clubs and a merger of the clubs was proposed to the memberships. The members of both clubs approved the merger and the new club was organized. A contest was conducted to name the new club and the Sierra Desert Gun Club name was ultimately selected. Legal proceedings were started to incorporate the club to provide the officers and members the necessary legal protection in liability matters. In 1964 the club was granted status as a California Non-profit corporation. The club immediately affiliated with the U.S. Army Civilian Marksmanship Program (DCM).
The high power rifle and the pistol practice and matches were held on the RGC range on South Gateway Blvd. (now a housing development) southeast of Ridgecrest. Problems with the BLM and vandals made it imperative to find a new place to shoot. An agreement with the Commander of the Naval Ordnance Test Station (now NAWS) , made it possible for the club to reactivate the high power rifle range which the U.S. Marines left in a state of complete disrepair when they departed China Lake in 1962. Club members put in many hours of labor to repair the target raising mechanisms and the firing lines before the first match could be conducted. Over the next 30 years the club hosted many NRA Sanctioned matches using the National Match course of fire. The club also constructed (with SeaBee help) a high power rifle silhouette range adjacent to the main range. Club members provided a major portion of the upkeep of the range and it was used by many military and police organizations for training.
The club had no home of its own, so meetings were held in various locations such as the recreation rooms of dormitories, private homes and the SeaBee Reserves building on station. It became apparent that in order for the club to grow, a permanent home was needed… At that time many organizations on station were provided buildings by the Naval Weapons Center, but the club membership felt that it should not expect the NWC to provide additional range facilities for their smallbore rifle and conventional pistol programs. In late 1969 the SDGC Board of Directors decided to proceed with plans for a club house and range facility and proposed that it be built on the Naval Weapons Center adjacent to the China Lake Police pistol range. Plans for the project were approved by the club membership in February 1969. Approval was granted by the Navy in April 1969. Funding efforts started immediately, and construction was begun in October 1969.
The club successfully conducted many shooting programs in this facility until 1992. These included smallbore gallery, prone and position practice and matches up to 100 meters, conventional pistol matches at 25 yards and 50 yards, smallbore rifle silhouette matches, The Junior Marksmanship Program, the annual 12 week Basic Rifle Marksmanship School and Hunter Education Classes.
In 1992 this all came to an end when the NWC built a new aircraft hanger within the safety zone down range from the club’s facility. At about the same time the NWC also closed the high power rifle range. This left the SDGC with no facilities and no compensation for the tens of thousands of dollars invested in the facility. During the next 12 years some of the club members continued to conduct the Hunter Education Classes at various locations in Ridgecrest. During this time a small nucleus of members continued to look for ways to re-establish the club’s shooting programs. When they learned about Tom Wiknich’s efforts to build a new range for the community they contacted him and the result was a chance for a new home.
The SDGC has already made major progress on its new range, with a concrete firing line 180 feet long with a substantial wood sun shade full length now complete. Target anchors have been installed for Smallbore rifle targets at 50 feet, 50 yards and 100 yards. Pistol targets are available at 25 yards and 50 yards. The pistol targets at 25 yards are turned by an air cylinder that is controlled by an electric timer. Target stands have been installed for up to 20 firing points. Six concrete bench rests have been installed for sighting-in and bench rest matches. A mobile home is set up for use as a classroom and materials storage.
The club is currently holding matches twice per month with the range open on alternate Saturday for practice.
The annual Basic Rifle Marksmanship School that was cancelled in 1992 due to the loss of the range on the Navy base has been resumed.
The range will be open each Saturday morning, with a certified Range Master in attendance. Range Master training classes will be held as needed so that individual members can enjoy shooting on the range at other times.