Huddersfield University lecturer and sports historian Peter Davies is made welcome at Mirfield Rifle Club
HEAD out of Huddersfield on Leeds Road. Take a right turn at the Colne Bridge traffic lights and then wend your way down Bog Green Lane.
Turn left on to Paul Lane and on your right you discover the premises of Mirfield Rifle Club.
The club started life here on March 22, 1979.
Members helped to build the social club and the indoor range that is now used regularly by local shooting enthusiasts.
It actually took them 10 years to build these headquarters.
Before then they had shot at the Air Training Cadet range on Fitzwilliam Street – until the ring road came.
The indoor range is 25 yards long and is designed for .22 calibre rifles and pistols. The outdoor range is 100 metres long, ideal for full-bore rifles and .22 rifles.
This was officially opened on July 11,1984.
Black powder pistol shooting also goes on at the Paul Lane venue.
The premises include a gunshop.
It is open to all members and sells rifles, muzzle-loaded pistols, bullets, ammunition and cartridges.
Shooting enthusiasts can also buy special clothing and accessories.
The social club is licensed and incorporates a bar and lounge area.
Club chairman Brian Whiting is keen to defend his sport.
He says: “To my way of thinking there is little difference between shooting and a sport like darts.
“You can have an accident with a gun just like a dart can end up in someone’s eye.
“It’s the same with driving a car. There are far more accidents involving motor vehicles than there are with guns and pistols.”
The club’s members are mainly people from Huddersfield, Mirfield and Dewsbury.
But the club has also had members and guests from outside the area.
They are also predominantly male, but the club does boast two women shooters.
Normally the club is open Monday to Thursday from 7.30pm, Friday from 1pm, Saturday from 12.30pm and Sunday from 12.30pm.
The sport of shooting has its origins in the 19th century. Rifle ranges were built across the US as concern grew about the quality of marksmanship during the country’s civil war.
The US’s National Rifle Association was formed in 1871 and the aim was to encourage rifle shooting on a ‘scientific’ basis.
Soon shooting and rifle practice became engrained and institutionalised in American life.
In time rifle and shooting clubs started to emerge in Britain.
The first volunteer regiments had appeared in the Napoleonic era and the first national shooting range was built at Wimbledon in London.
Today the sport’s national headquarters is at Bisley in Surrey.
The founder of the modern Olympics, the French educationalist Baron Pierre de Coubertin, was a shooting enthusiast.
He was a noted pistol champion and ensured that shooting had a major billing in the first modern Games, in Athens in 1896.
Five shooting events were scheduled – and the sport’s Olympic profile has been high ever since.
At the 2004 games there were three shooting disciplines: rifle, pistol and shotgun.
This incorporated 10 men's and 7 women's events and 51 medals were awarded.
Over the last three decades the Paul Lane site has undergone significant expansion, with the club gradually adding extra facilities.
“We’re quite isolated here so the noise won’t bother that many people at all,” says Mr Whiting.
The indoor and outdoor ranges are also used by other clubs.
The Paul Lane Rifle and Pistol Club uses them on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights and on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
In addition, the Colne Valley Rifle Club comes for practice sessions on Sunday mornings.
And the Vintage Gun Club and the Sheffield Branch of the British Deer Society also rent the facilities on a monthly basis.
In the aftermath of the Dunblane massacre in March, 1996, severe restrictions were placed on the ownership of handguns.
And there is regular monitoring of rifle clubs, with official inspections and all clubs having to have the correct safety certificates.
The police are also involved in this process.
Mr Whiting argues against a wide and full-scale ban on guns and pistols.
He said: “Our club, and others like it, have legitimate objectives.
“We have a formal constitution, for example. And we are also involved in small arms training for probationary members.
“We also keep guns and shooting legal and above board. The old saying is: ‘When guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns.’”
Shooting is a sport that has also generated a significant array of local, national and international competitions.
Mirfield Rifle Club members are particularly proud of Gemma Ellis, who has represented British Schools with distinction in tournaments in Jersey and South Africa.
She learned her skills at Paul Lane and has a bright future in the sport.
The club also won an international award recently in the .22 bench-rest rifle discipline.