IT'S A time of year synonymous with endings, but out Clifton way, this month signalled the start of something new: the Central Downs' region's first benchrest shooters' range.
After five years the Clifton Benchrest Shooters Union has a 65ha home range courtesy of a determined committee who worked hard to realise what for many has been a long held dream.
The Laurie Bowe Rifle Range opened the gates last week with more than 40 enthusiastic shooters turning up to check out facilities.
These will allow rimfire weapons to be used in practice and tournament events on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
CBSU president Gordon Turner described seeing the facilities open to the public as "monumental" and praised the efforts of those locals, who have worked so hard over the past decade to make the dream a reality.
"We are pretty pleased to see it finished," he admitted.
It has been a relatively expensive exercise. We wouldn't have much change from $50,000 in terms of set up costs.
The new range is on land leased from the Toowoomba Regional Council. Ironically though the property itself is located within the Southern Downs Regional Council area.
"The range is on the Warwick side of Rosenthal Boundary Rd, but I believe TRC originally bought the property as a quarry, so it's just one of those local government irregularities," Mr Turner said.
What's more important to the Clifton shooting group is a long-term lease, which offers them a secure future and allows them to contemplate eventually expanding to include disciplines like clay target shooting and archery.
"We are very appreciative of the support of Toowoomba Regional Council. They have played an important role in helping us establish the rifle range," Mr Turner said.
"As well as the lease they provided funding, which then allowed us as a club to access a Queensland Government Sport and Recreation grant."
The additional funds were raised by regular shoots organised by the Clifton club and held in rifle ranges they "rented" for a day in Brisbane.
"We have certainly done a lot of travelling to enjoy the sport in the past few years, but it enabled us to raise funds and in the course of it we attracted new members from as far away as the Gold Coast," Mr Turner said.
"It has been a relatively expensive exercise. We wouldn't have much change from $50,000 in terms of set up costs."
At the moment the club boasts 45 registered members, including a number of juniors. The public response at the range's unofficial opening suggests widespread local interest in the sport.
"Last Sunday we had another 40 people through the gates for a look and while I know not all of them will sign up, it was very encouraging to see that level of local interest," Mr Turner said.
"In fact it blew my mind."
The club is currently limited to rimfire weapons with participants able to compete or practice with open class modified .22 rimfire weapons as well as factory class or off-the-shelf .22 with no bigger than a six power scope.
"Club members don't necessarily have to have a weapons licence, but those without do have to sign specific paperwork to allow them to participate," Mr Turner said.
"We are keen to help people get started so from early next year the Queensland Shooters Union will be running weapons safety courses at the range.
"If people want to come and have a shoot, we would love to hear from them. Shooting is growing in popularity as a sport nationally."
For information about the Clifton Benchrest Shooters Union or Laurie Bowe Rifle Range, phone Gordon Turner on 0418 877 525.
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