GYPSUM — The Gypsum Shooting Sports Park is a fairly busy place most weekends. But users have to bundle up to practice on winter days. Local shooting instructor Mathew Bayley is trying to take the winter chill out of shooting for his students.
The range, just west of the town’s Interstate 70 interchange on the north side of the highway, is open to the public, and the rifle, shotgun and pistol ranges are shaded, but open to the elements. That makes for a cold day at the range this time of year.
On the south side of the range, though, is a small “village” of structures used by the “cowboy action” shooting club at the park. The structures are simple, but with a little work, they can be made a bit more comfortable. That’s just what Bayley has done.
Bayley, a longtime area instructor, is a board member of the Eagle Valley Rod and Gun Club, which operates the park for the town. He talked to the cowboy action folks, who agreed to let him use one of their structures for him and his students.
The heated structure isn’t big, but using a couple of propane heaters, a few rugs and a staple gun, Bayley can quickly turn it into a comfortable place to hold a class for one to four people. The north side of the building is open to a short pistol range — handguns are, by definition, short-range devices — but the heaters and rugs keep the building comfortable enough to wear just a sweater, no jackets required. There’s also a coffee maker on hand, so students can have a warm beverage while listening and learning.
On a recent sunny Saturday, Bayley met student Leslie Peterson at the range. Peterson has been a student of Bayley’s since the fall of 2012, when she gave a few lessons to a friend as a wedding present, then came along.
Peterson is one of Bayley’s star pupils — she and her friend recently placed first and fifth at a shooting competition, the only women to compete at the event.
Even after not shooting for several weeks, Peterson was immediately shredding the center of the targets set up just a few feet away from the little building, and the instructor’s pride was evident.
“It’s a little embarrassing when the student out-shoots the teacher,” he said.
Bayley’s pretty good with a pistol himself, of course — the centers of the three targets set up quickly showed a lot more holes than paper.
This was Peterson’s first time at the little heated building, and she was clearly pleased.
“It’s so warm — last year we were outside and I was freezing,” she said.
Having a bit of heat also makes it easier to listen — and these lessons are important. Peterson and most of Bayley’s students go to him to learn self-defense techniques. Those techniques are less about shooting and more about “fighting with a gun,” he said. That means most shooting in his classes are firing at targets somewhere between five and seven meters away — if your target in gunfight is farther away than that, then you’ll probably have some explaining to do when the cops arrive.
At that distance, things happen quickly. Bayley said the way to prepare for the unexpected is simple: practice, practice, practice. Everything in a class is done the same way, every time. Once a firearm is out of its case, the barrel is always pointed either straight down or toward the target. Bayley has a bag of long, red zip ties, and every unloaded gun ready for use has a zip tie running through the barrel, making it impossible to fire.
When showing a student something that requires removing the zip tie, Bayley will show an empty gun to a student or bystander and ask if both agree the gun is unloaded.
Doing the same thing, every time, extends from taking a gun from its case to finally pulling the trigger. Every self-defense situation is different, Bayley said. The best way to respond is by making consistent the process of making a firearm ready to use.
“I like his approach,” Peterson said. “It’s very practical ... and you learn a lot about muscle memory.”
To learn more about Bayley’s “On Target” training, go to www.ontargetatvail.com.