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Taking their best shots
Rain, snow or in the sunshine, the Port Angeles Gun Club is always on target. Since 1926, local shooters have congregated a few times a week to shoot clay birds in friendly competition.
Jerry Anguili, 80, knows a few things about shooting as the most tenured member of the club (a member since 1947). He helped save it from obscurity 50-plus years ago.
“At one point the club was looking to sell the property before I stepped in,” he said.
He spoke to other members and gained enough votes to preserve the club because he felt it was too important to see go away.
“I enjoy shooting sports and it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “When I joined the club it didn’t have any money, but little by little we built it up.”
Today, the club hosts 120 members but many are older and they are spreading the word to fresh faces so the club doesn’t face any drastic decisions as it did years ago.
Colin Clark, 31, a manager at The Home Depot, joined three years ago with no experience.
“It’s a good way to be around other guys without going to a fraternity,” Clark said. “It’s not so much about shooting as being around other-minded people. Shooting itself is Zen. You don’t think much about life when you’re out here.”
Experience ranges quite a bit on the range from Clark to Anguili, who is 13,000 birds short of hitting 250,000 in competition. He used to tour Western Northern America in shooting tournaments and was among the best.
At first it was intimidating shooting side-by-side with experienced shooters, Clark said. “When you miss 20 out of 25 shots it can be emasculating,” he said. “After a few months, I held my own. I became competitive. In six or seven years I hope my son can come out.”
Clark and others find the club to be an inclusive, helpful community. “They’re nonjudgmental and happy to embrace new guys and give out advice,” Clark said.
Club president Rex Barnes, a carpenter, joined two years ago with hunting and target shooting experience but none on the range. His stepfather was a member for years and since his children moved out he figured he’d give it a try.
“I’ve met a lot of nice guys here,” he said. “It’s a challenge to constantly improve.”
This summer, his daughter Molly, who had shot targets with him before, joined the club as well.
“It’s a good legal activity for young people and a good place to shoot the bull,” Barnes said.
As one of the few women shooters, Loanna Torey, a member for 15 years, said it’s a non-factor but not many women shoot.
“I encourage other women who haven’t made the steps to shoot,” she said. “The club is open to any new shooters. And it’s a sport. Just because the word gun is in (the club’s name) doesn’t mean it’s violent.”
Shooting always has been familiar to Torey since she went bird hunting with her father and brothers as a girl. She and her husband had labs and began bird hunting years later, prior to joining the club.
“I came out and wasn’t really skilled but it was an easy transition because they helped,” she said.
One possible deterrent for newcomers might be the recoil from the shotguns.
Torey encourages people not to be afraid of it.
“If you’re doing it right, you’re not going to feel the recoil,” she said.
The real thrill is hitting targets, she added.
“It’s nice to hit close to all 25 birds,” she said. “That’s the challenge of the hobby.”
If cost is another issue, Torey said club members can help newcomers find a gun to keep costs down.
Anguili admits shooting can be an expensive sport and he took a hiatus early on while raising a family due to costs. But he returned and taught Sequim High School’s shooting team for 16 years.The high school’s FFA shooting program continues today.
“It took me awhile to learn the game to become competitive,” he said.
Anguili still comes as much as he can to do what he’s done so well through the years.
“It’s pretty much been a big part of my life for years,” he said.