ST. GEORGE — After being closed for nearly a year due to construction being done at the Southern Utah Shooting Sports Park, the Southern Utah Practical Shooting Range reopened earlier this month. Work on the range focused on the safety and improvement of the venue. It also marked the beginning of additional changes the county plans to bring to the sports park in the future.
“The Southern Utah Practical Shooting (SUPS) range is very excited to be active again!” Glen Wong, president of the Southern Utah Practical Shooting group said in an email to St. George News. “Our last match was late March 2020 as the range was shut down for a complete makeover, reorienting the bays, raising the berm heights, and adding more bays.”
The range was shut down after reports in 2019 of bullet ricochets somehow raining down on the Stone Ridge Townhomes subdivision located on the other side of a ridge northwest of the gun range.
It was determined that the practical shooting range’s bays – which were areas surrounded by large, 12-foot-tall earthen berms on three sides – needed to be redesigned and reoriented in order to eliminate the ricochets and enhance safety.
The new berms are 25-feet high with the bays now pointing away from the ridge.
St. George News visited the rebuilt shooting range with newly hired range manager Michael Green, a former law enforcement officer and soldier who was already employed with the county as a part of its emergency services department when the range manager position became available.
“We’re focused on safety,” Green said.
While at the renovated range, Green introduced St. George News to Wong, who was preparing parts of the range for what the Practical Shooters group calls “Tuesday Night Steel.” It would be the first activity marking the group’s return to the shooting range after its closure.
Wong deferred to an official statement issued though the shooters group regarding what made practical shooting different from the regular target shooting most people may equate to gun ranges.
“Practical shooting requires a broader set of skills when compared to bench shooting or plinking,” the statement said. “Practical shooting encompasses such skills as shooting on the move, reloading on the move, load to an empty gun, and engaging moving targets. These skills being executed while under the stress of a timer and audience.”
Members of the Southern Utah Practical Shooting group include two teenage sisters, Jalise and Justine Williams, who are considered to be among the top athletes in their sport. Jalise Williams won first lady national champion in her category in the U.S. Practical Shooting Association’s national championships in 2017 and 2018, while Justine Williams is considered a “grand master,” which is the highest rank someone can achieve in the sport.
The shooting group has leased 14 bays from the county for its use, with the remaining 13 bays remaining under county management, Wong said.
“The 14 bays leased are reserved for club activities and SUPS members,” he said. “The public is welcome to shoot our matches and learn about SUPS.”
Activities run by the group include ones affiliated with the USPSA, Tuesday Night Steel, NRL22 and Steel Challenge matches.
“We will start multi-gun and black rifle in the future,” Wong said. “Lots of opportunities to run and gun.”
In an effort to promote safety and interest in the sport, the group also runs various clinics related to firearms safety, introduction to completions and handgun use.
What lies ahead for the shooting sports park?
The Southern Utah Practical Shooting Range is only one of many ranges featured at the county sports park. Other venues include an archery range, pistol and rifle range, shotgun range, black powder range and a cowboy/Western-action shooting range.
The pistol and rifle range is sanctioned by the National Rifle Association, Green said, adding that the county plans to extend that to the rest of the shooting sports park.
“The goal is to bring the park – hopefully everyone here – under NRA rules for safety purposes,” he said.
Part of Green’s position will include coordinating between the various shooting venues and the county. Each venue, while ultimately overseen by the county, is managed by related groups with their own objectives and priorities.
“We’re going to expand the park and start making it more friendly (for public use),” Green said. “Right now its still a diamond in the rough, so we want to work on that.”
Currently, someone planning to visit the shooting sports park without prior arrangements or knowledge of anyone else actually being there beforehand may drive up to the gate to the park and find it locked.
The county plans to make the park more accessible by providing a place visitors can check in so they can enter the park and access the desired venue any time they want – not just when someone may happen to be there.
“We’re going to have it opened to the public because it is a public park,” Green said. “The idea is to have it open seven days a week.”
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