STICKING TO THEIR GUNS
story: James Combs photo: Fred Lopez
If you hear residents of The Villages say they are going to the range, you cannot automatically assume they are looking to improve their golf swing or increase their driving distance. An increasingly growing number of Villages residents are going to the range to learn how to shoot firearms effectively and improve their marksmanship.
They are members of The Villages Straight Shooters Club, which has made quite a bang since it was formed in 2010 with 30 members whose main focus was gathering together for a fun day of shooting. Since then, the club has expanded to 240 members — including 67 women — and now aims to focus more on the educational and safety aspects of gun ownership.
Gary Easton serves as vice-president of The Villages Straight Shooters. He says many of the club’s newcomers have little or no experience with firearms. Some join the club because they feel shooting would be a fun hobby, while others purchase firearms for self-defense.
“Some feel they need a gun for protection because we’re living in strange times where people feel vulnerable,” says Gary, who served in the U.S. Army from 1967 to 1973. “And given the political atmosphere, many people are purchasing guns because they feel buying a firearm could be difficult down the road.”
Gary is one of six club members who are National Rifle Association (NRA)-certified instructors and are willing to help newcomers ease into the sport. “Many of our female members come here and are a little uncomfortable with guns,” he says. “We start them with a .22-caliber and once they are comfortable they can work their way up to a larger caliber. We also try to match each individual with the type of gun that best suits him or her.”
Club members shoot twice a month — at the Gun Shop’s indoor range in Leesburg on the first Friday and at an outdoor range in the Ocala National Forest off State Road 40 on the fourth Tuesday. Of course, there is more to gun ownership than merely hitting the bull’s-eye. On the third Wednesday of every month, club members hold seminars at Seabreeze Recreation Center and discuss the following topics: proper cleaning and maintenance of guns, gun safety tips, range safety, and choosing proper ammunition and holsters. The club also conducts an eight-hour concealed weapons permit course at RD Tactical Solutions in Ocala.
“What is unique about this club is you have women, couples, and just regular people who want to learn about guns and shooting,” Gary says. “You do not have a bunch of tough, macho types who are sometimes unpleasant to be around.”