JOHNSTOWN - The Pine Tree Rifle Club is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
Paul Catucci of Johnstown, who has been with the club for about 12 years, said the club is going strong, with about 550 members.
"We have more members now than we have ever had," he said.
Mary Shaw of Piseco is shown after firing at a target during a demonstration at the Pine Tree Rifle Club on June 10.
The Leader-Herald/Rodney Minor
At the website for the club - www.frontiernet.net/~pinetreerifle/ - its mission statement lays out a number of goals, including: aiding people in the community with rifle and pistol shooting, archery, and clay target shooting, focusing on the proper handling of firearms and improved marksmanship; to instruct junior members in the proper handling of firearms; aid in the distribution of fish and game; and aid in reforestation and prevention of forest fires.
Catucci noted the club offers more than just a place for people to shoot weapons on the archery or rifle range.
"There is a social aspect to the club," he said, noting they routinely hold events such as chili cook-offs and chicken barbecues that are open to the public.
"If you're not shooting your gun, you can come and shoot the breeze," Catucci said.
The club annually provides scholarships for some Fulton?County youths to attend the state Department of Environmental?Conservation summer conservation camps in Pack Forest, near Warrensburg, and Camp?Colby near Saranac?Lake.
While only members get to walk in and shoot at the ranges, classes on topics such as handgun shooting and hunter safety education are open to the public.
"Education is very important to [the club]," Catucci said.
In a way, learning - at least learning about how to increase shooting accuracy - was the reason the club was started in the first place.
Fulton County Historian Peter Betz, a member of the club since 1968, noted in a recent column for The Leader-Herald that the name Pine Tree Rifle Club was chosen by the group that started the club on March 24, 1939. By December of that year, the club had a membership of 32.
The club's primary goal was to find a location to develop more long-range fire accuracy. The club also planned to compete in matches with other clubs in the Capital District.
On July 13, 1940, members opened the new clubhouse. The present clubhouse was completed in July 1953.
However, an event that would earn the club historical and international recognition happened at the 1947 Labor Day weekend shoot.
"This event was the organization of the Bench Rest Shooters Association, formed 'to promote the encouragement of more accurate rifles,'" Betz wrote.
Betz noted The Leader-Herald reported, "The sport is about precision and accuracy, allowing each person to use his ingenuity experimenting with different types of bullets and powders, striving to find the combination that will cut the size of his group to even a few thousands of an inch."
It became the club's major annual event, Betz wrote, and at times accommodated competitors from all over the U.S. and Canada.
The "descendant" of that competition, the Rimfire Benchrest League, meets in season on Mondays at the club.
Catucci said the league is the most popular activity at the club currently, drawing 50 to 60 people every time.
Diana Pasho, 81, of Gloversville has been taking part in the league for five years. Of course, she's been shooting since she was 9.
"My husband and I shot blackpowder for years," she said.
Pasho described how for the league contest, the shooter takes aim at a target with 25 smaller targets on it from 50 yards away. A perfect score occurs when a person hits the bullseye on each of the 25 small targets. It's a feat she has managed three times while also being in the master class, the most difficult of the three classes in the league.
"We had 52 shooters last week," Pasho said at the club's open house June 10. "They ranged in age from 15 to 90."
Dues for club members are $60 a year, with an extra $10 if the member wants to join the National Rifle Association through the club.
Catucci said dues have not gone up in six years, and they're lower than what many clubs charge. He attributes that to the volunteer work of the members, including the club's Board of Directors.
"I have a Board of Directors that are the hardest working people around," Catucci said. "They love this club."
For more information, visit the club's website at www.frontiernet.net/~pinetreerifle/