Family fun by the rules of the range

Peter Holm, center, instructs his and son, Nik (cq),13, on how to use the sights on his .22 caliber rifle at the steel target range at A Place to Shoot, 051321. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Gathered together under the hot summer sun Thursday, members of the Holm family stand side by side donned in protective eye and ear wear. 

The two children, Chloe and Nick, had appropriately sized .22 caliber bolt actions, and as they fired to ping their targets, their father, Peter, gave them the proper instruction. 

Have the barrel of the gun pointed away from everyone, finger on the trigger only when to fire, keep the action open when laid down and not firing, and know where your target is down range and what’s behind it. And all of the rules are superseded by their “Golden Rule”: Treat every gun as if it was loaded.

“I have an oldest that started in 4-H,” said Peter, before gesturing back to his youngest two kids. “It’s his first time and her second time. We just started her last week.” 

When asked if they were enjoying themselves, learning the safety rules and firing the rifles at metal targets on a Thursday morning, both kids, especially Chloe, donning pink ear muffs and glasses, said they ‘re having fun. 

The sport of shooting, whether it be with rifles at paper targets, pistols at pieces of metal or shotguns pointed at flying clay targets, is a hobby that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, according to local gun experts.

And within the Santa Clarita Valley alone, there are at least two nearby options for those looking to brush up or get into shooting.

Oak Tree Gun Club  

Oak Tree Gun Club, since it has been owned for the last few decades by Betsy James and her father, has been a family-owned and run operation. She says this type of structure and atmosphere has created a property that is family-minded. 

“It is a family-owned, family-run operation and it’s generational. My dad was the second owner of the property when the previous owner passed away, then I took over the operations, and I have two children: I have a teenage son and a 9-year-old,” said James. “Most of our staff are not only professional instructors and purveyors of the sport themselves, but they also have families — so, we practice what we preach.” 

James said Oak Tree has striven to create an atmosphere that gives kids a healthy appreciation of firearms, from offering classes on gun safety, to running them through the basic form and styles of shooting, to teaching them to stay away from firearms when appropriate. 

“It’s not about shooting, it’s about appreciating safety and the sport itself,” said James. “And most kids that come out, we start typically with smaller-caliber guns or rifles, with an instructor.”

Those wishing to spectate are also allowed on the range, said James, are allowed to watch, or visit the restaurant, or simply enjoy their time alongside their family who are shooting. 

“Our sort of our claim to fame is that we provide a one-stop experience for encompassing all recreational shooting activities,” said James. “We have pistol services, handgun services, shotguns services, rifle services and we’ve added archery services. We have all of the rental, accessories and products; we provide instruction.”

“We have basically everything that you need to have a safe, fun recreational shooting experience,” she added. 

To learn more about the various services offered at Oak Tree Gun Club, visit their website at The property is located at 23121 Coltrane Ave. in Newhall. 

A Place to Shoot

Nestled away in the hills of San Francisquito Canyon is a familiar spot to many known simply as A Place To Shoot. Although they do not offer gun rentals like Oak Tree Gun Club, co-owner Tom Watt says they do offer a similar learning experience for young families looking to jump into the sport of shooting in terms of teaching safety and offering affordable prices to families. 

“The kids love it, they really do, especially when you go up to the paper target pistol range because they can shoot .22 up there,” said Watt. “And once they start seeing what they’re pulling and hitting and seeing how good they can do it, they get pretty excited over it.”

Watt said that the range also features manual clay pigeon throwers for the shotgun range that allows the kids to not only be closer to the target, but gives them better control over the throwing and shooting. 

Similar to Oak Tree, A Place to Shoot offers classes and instruction for non-beginners and beginners alike, with professional range masters helping those in need along the way. Additionally, they sell ammo to the experienced and over 9 million new registered new gun owners nationwide that wish to shoot on the range.   

A place to shoot offers a variety of ranges, including an instructional rental range, a range for members, a handgun range, a fixed firing line range, a shotgun trap range, a handgun and small-caliber rifle range, a high-power rifle range and sporting clays for shotgun users. 

These services, and others like it, Watt said, have provided 4H members, boy scouts, sportsmen and families a central hub for shooting in the Santa Clarita Valley for the last three decades. However, everyone that visits most follows the four rules: 

Keep your rifle down range

Do not load your firearm until ready to shoot

Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot

Now where your target is, and what’s around it.

“If you own your own firearm and you come out, my range people can give you spot on little critique you’re shooting to help you along the way, if you own your own firearm, and you don’t want to take the time, or the expense for a class, you know, they’re more than willing to help you out for a few minutes,” said Watt. “They’re more than willing and more than qualified to be able to help you out when you come in.” 

“Of course, they have to keep an eye on the line and take care of business as normal,” he added.

A Place to Shoot is located at 33951 San Francisquito Canyon Road, Santa Clarita. Call (661) 296-5552 for more information. 

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