Range History


About GRRC Gopher Rifle & Revolver Club – 50th Anniversary (1946-1996)

Gopher Rifle Club was formed by a group of employees from the D.W. Onan Co. This group was highly interested in target shooting and was also made up of avid hunters. This interest motivated them to form the club and build a shooting range; the Gopher Rifle & Revolver Club, Inc. was incorporated August 15, 1946.

Research shows that the beginning of the construction of the Johnsville Range was started in the late 1940’s. This range was located in Johnsville (Andover) on land leased from Anoka county and what is now Bunker Lake Park, Bunker Prairie Park and Coon Rapids Golf Course complex. Over the ensuing years, the facilities built were the Hi-power range at 100, 200 & 300 yards with 14 firing points and 500 yards with five firing points. Pistol, Smallbore, Benchrest and Shotgun ranges were built later.

In 1952, Gopher Range was shared by two other clubs: North Star Rifle Club and Anoka Rifle Club. These clubs shared the costs of range upkeep, equipment and improvements and helped Gopher in developing a fine shooting facility.

The Gopher Rifle & Revolver Club is organized as a non-profit Corporation and is associated with the National Rifle Association, Minnesota Rifle and Revolver Assn. and various other shooting, hunting and conservation groups.

The Hi-power targets were stored in an old street car donated by one of the members. As it is today with our club, most all equipment, target frames, buildings, material, etc. are all donated by club members.

The members were very active in using the range facilities. Most matches drew 40 to 50 shooters and were popular as they drew new members to get involved in competitive shooting. We had a very active shotgun trap league and usually shot in the evenings after which we would go over to the picnic area for a hamburger fry. The club had many money making shoots; this along with new membership growth helped the club become a viable organization.

Each fall prior to the deer hunting season, the three clubs held a rifle sight-in which was open to the public. Shooting was done from 100 yds. from bench rests with a coach helping the shooters with sight adjustments. Since this was a very popular event and drew hundreds of shooters over two weekends it produced annual revenues of $1500.00 to $2000.00 which helped our range expenses. Also at this event, some of the wives or girlfriends would come out and sell hot dogs, pop and coffee which also generated some dollars for the club beside being a lot of fun.

When the winter season came, members had an indoor smallbore league held at the University of Minnesota Armory smallbore range. A Twin City League was formed and drew a lot of shooters; besides being a lot of fun it was another money maker for the club.

Thru the years, Gopher Rifle & Revolver Club, Inc. met at many different locations who gave us rent free meeting rooms. Meeting were held at these locations in this order:

1946-1950: Gleason Construction Co. Warehouse

1950-1957: Pete’s Bar, N.E. Minneapolis

1957-1970: Central Bowling Alley, Central & E. Hennepin

1970 – February 1974: Guarantee State Bank, Robbinsdale

March 1974 – March 1980: Twin City Federal, Fridley

April 1980 – September 1983: Apache Plaza

October 1983-1990: Moundsview City Building

1991- PRESENT: Kraus-Hartig V.F.W. Post #6587, Spring Lake Park.

During the early years, the club had the annual Club Dinner and Awards night – some years these parties were costume attire parties which were real fun.

Entertainment at club meetings was informative and entertaining. We had films made by various club members, speakers and demonstrations on gunstock making, checkering, handloading, knife sharpening & many other informative subjects.

In the spring of 1969, the Anoka County Park Department informed the Gopher Rifle & Revolver Club, Inc. that we would have to vacate the Johnsville Range because of urban development. This was the end of the fine firearms facility which was so convenient for everyone to get to. So the search was on for a new piece of property on which to build a new range for Gopher Rifle & Revolver Club, Inc.. Many members were on the search mission for a property which would serve our needs so a committee was formed. During the summer of 1969, the property at Harris was found. On December 18th, 1970, the land, consisting of 271.33 acres, was purchased by a contract for Deed. In later years, the club purchased an additional adjacent property consisting of 55.29 acres making the total acreage now 326.62 acres.

Construction of the range began in the spring of 1971 with the Hi-power range and costing some $5500.00 for the burms, pits and backstops not including all of the hand shovel work to level the pit and firing point areas. The target frame foundations were set on steel beams in the summer and were ready for use by August. The firing points were increased from 14 to 20 and the firing lines were set at 600 and 1,000 yards. In the summer of 1972 the smallbore (now blackpowder), bench rest (now multipurpose) and shotgun ranges were built. In the following years many other improvements have been done to make Gopher Rifle & Revolver Club, Inc. one of the finest. Here are some of the improvements done at the range over the years:

1971 – Hipower range, firing points, pits, semi-trailer for target storage

1972 – Smallbore, Bench-rest, Shotgun ranges built

1974 – Pistol range built

1976 – 100, 200 & 300 yard lines installed on K.D. range

1976 – Red shed built

1976 – Island house built

1988 – Blackpowder range built

1988 – Multipurpose range built

1989 – Equipment building built

1972 – 1995 -10,000 trees planted, 200+ bird houses constructed

1995 – Shooting point covers installed on the M.P. range

1996 – Palma range enters planning stage

1997 – Archery range enters planning stage

I can’t recall all of the dates and the many improvements that have been made at the Harris Range since its inception. We have all enjoyed this club and the range facilities. It is a typical American attitude that club members have had over these years that has done so much to keep the Gopher Rifle & Revolver Club, Inc. such a great club. Let’s all work to keep this club tradition for the next fifty years.

This history was written by Richard Wolfe and is as accurate as the available records and his memory allow.