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Built to last

WILLMAR -- There's something to be said for times past.

Just like the world around us, technology makes nearly everything we do easier and faster. Information once relegated to days of research, phone calls and letters rests at the tips of our fingers.

But there are some things to savor.

For those who like to shoot trap or go to a rifle range or gun club, picking up an antique and testing one's skills can be just as exciting as shouldering a modern rifle.

The Willmar Rifle and Pistol Club continues its tradition of presenting history to its members and non-members with M1 Garand shoots three times a year at the Eagle Lake Rifle Range north of Willmar.

These events have been held for decades, according to WRPC president John Larson. They are as much for those who are familiar with the rifle as for those who don't have any idea what it is.

"People see (the advertising flyers) and maybe they didn't realize there's a range that is available to them," he said. "There are members that like to come out, too. There are various age groups, like those that carried the gun in the military that like to shoot on the range."

The M1 was the main troop rifle for the United States military from 1936 through 1957, encompassing World War II and the Korean War, according to It replaced the bolt-action Springfield M1903 rifle and was replaced by the M14. But the M1 was still used in the Vietnam War.

"A lot of our shooters used the rifles in the wars," said Larry Cornell of Sunburg, a WRPC member. "A lot of guys like the feel of the rifle. It weighs about nine pounds. Trying to hold a rifle that weighs nine pounds without a sling and trying to shoot it accurately is tough."

The M1s are the real things, not replicas. The WRPC purchased the rifles through the Civilian Marksmanship Program, which also sells the rifles to collectors and others.

"It's a semi-automatic rifle, which is still quite common. It shoots a 30-ought-6 round, which is a common deer-hunting cartridge," Larson said. "Shooters don't have to bring their own ammo, we provide it for them. It's the same basic action as other hunting or target rifles.

"They're the same rifles and the membership maintains them; keeping them clean and in firing condition. We do allow people to bring their own M1s to the shoot, so they don't have to use ours."

The WRPC holds the shoots on the first Tuesday in June, July and August each year and has a good local turnout, plus grabbing some regional interest once in a while.

"We have a core of shooters that always show up and then there are a couple that will come for a shoot or two," Cornell said. "We average six to eight shooters showing up regularly. At the June shoot, we had a new guy come out and he always wanted to try it. He wants to come next time and he told a few of his friends about it, so we might have a few more shooters."

The shoots consist of three stages, expending 10 rounds each. There is a 10-minute standing stage with the rifle unsupported, a 70-second standing-to-prone stage, and the final 10-minute prone stage from approximately 600 yards.

The next M1 shoot will be Aug. 5. The WRPC, as noted above, will supply the rifles, ammunition and safety gear. Club members operate the shoot and maintain a high level of safety.