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Once based in DeSoto County and now operating outside Como, Mississippi, the DeSoto Rifle and Pistol Club holds aim on its target, promoting firearms safety and education.
All ages of men, women, boys and girls are welcome into the fellowship of firearms through annual membership. Club leaders say people travel from the Mid-South region to hone a greater appreciation of shooting sports and the camaraderie that goes with it.
Jimmie Neal, director of activities on the board of directors, explained the structure of the organization.
“It used to be in DeSoto County but once the county started to grow it kind of got pushed out,” Neal said. “In 2010 the club bought 100 acres in Como and moved there. We kept the name because that’s how the non-profit designation and accounts are set up. We have members from Memphis, DeSoto County, Oxford, Grenada, Ponotoc, Greenwood and beyond. We are club owned, all the members are owners once they join."
As director of activities, Neal handles events, scheduling, matches, classes, competitions and tournaments. He became a member in 2011.
The club began in the mid-eighties on Dairy Barn Road off of Holly Springs Road. Currently the club boasts 955 members. Memberships are categorized into annual and associate. The minimum age to join is 18.
“We have honorary members who are active duty law enforcement or military,” Neal said. “The club is doing very well and we are thriving, constantly improving, growing and adding new aspects.”
The club, located off Compress Road, two and a half miles from I-55, hones a mission to keep shooting sports popular.
“Also present it in a safe way to new kids and to people that have not normally been used to firearms,” Neal explained. “We offer the Mississippi Enhanced Carry Course, which is for your concealed carry class, it’s an upgrade. We offer that once or twice a month. We max out at 12 participants, but may push it to 15.”
Interest remains high for the coveted courses, according to Neal, including women and new residents who want to remain in compliance. Training is offered periodically when instructors are available.
“We have a group out here called A Girl and a Gun. They usually meet on a Sunday, it’s all ladies,” Neal explained. “We offer the facility for them to do that.”
Matches are arranged according to member interest. Those same members are willing to train and prompt newcomers on site for safety and technical teaching.
The shared camaraderie for the love of shooting sports naturally brings a social element to club membership.
“Some members come out on certain days and cook out, have lunch and shoot together,” Neal said. “They’re often our retired guys.”
The club offers a 600-yard rifle range, 200-yard rifle range, three pistol bays, a twelve-station sporting clays course that traverses thick woods, a five-stand for shotguns, and clubhouse with classroom and kitchen.
On Saturday, Dec. 11, the club held its monthly steel challenge pistol event. Other slated events include a VaRMEnT Steel Precision Rifle Match, Tactical Carbine Match, NSCA Sporting Clays Tournament and Scoped Tactical Carbine Match (DMR/RECCE).
Neal is also the head coach for Senatobia High School’s scholastic shotgun sport. He’s been coaching it for the past four years. Magnolia Heights School in Tate County has a team as well.
“They both practice out here two to three days a week during their season,” Neal said. “It’s been fun and rewarding. We had six students qualify for the state championship in the spring. Magnolia had three students qualify. Between the two schools, there’s right at 40 kids that shoot out here for practice.”
Neal said he soon expects one police department in DeSoto County to begin using the club range as their primary. Casinos and other agencies also use the facility.
“DeSoto County sheriff’s deputies, sniper units and SWAT teams will come down here some,” Neal added.
Ammunition continues to remain a hard commodity to acquire for many with the ongoing national supply chain delays. Neal said members are not practicing shooting as much as they normally would.
“It has affected turnout for certain rifle and pistol matches,” Neal explained. “The ammo really wasn’t available three to four months ago. It’s starting slowly to become more in stock. Usually if it’s in a store, it won’t sit there for more than a day.”
Reloading components are similarly scarce. Some components that were priced $20 last year have been inflated to $40.
“They can’t get the components for reload because the manufacturers that make ammo are keeping the components for themselves. If they need it to run their general business, they’re not going to release it to the public.”
Chris Simons, of Olive Branch, is chairman of the board for the club. He highlighted his role as chairman as an opportunity to interface with people who have a passion for shooting sports.
“It’s also an opportunity to steer our committees, the board members for our future growth,” Simons said. “There’s great times and tough times, managing the financial and fiduciary responsibilities of the club. With our board, we’re all working to make this the premier shooting club in north Mississippi.”
Simons has officially served as chairman since April last year, but took over duties a little earlier to assist the previous outgoing chairman.
Simons said the club has a 1-3 year outlook for club growth along with a 5-10 year outlook. Within three years, the club envisions membership cards, access codes for an automated range gate, security cameras and other club fortifications.
“Our bigger plans…we look to bring in larger competitions, which would bring in a lot more money,” Simons said. “When you go down to a club like ours, you can have a new guy who got a shotgun for Christmas or a first hunting rifle. You’re with like-minded people with like-minded intent of mind. That is, to learn how to train with or have fun with a firearm.”
Neal said those interested in shooting sports or membership can check out their website at desotogunrange.com.
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