By Mike Powers
News-Bulletin Sports Writer
For 74 years, the sounds of “pop-pop,” the occasional “boom” and now the periodic “thwang” have been heard from Belen’s west mesa off of West Frontage Road. That is where lovers of shooting sports have applied their skills.
The Belen Shooting Sports Association Gun and Archery Range opened in 1948 and is operated by the Belen Shooting Sports Association.
“This was wide open country. There were no houses, no businesses,” said BSSA director Clifford Sanchez.
Originally, the range covered 75 acres but it has shrunk some with the encroachment of Interstate 25 and nearby businesses. But, according to Sanchez, no more.
“We are grandfathered in so we don’t plan to move,” he said. “We don’t plan to give up any more land.”
The association welcomes new members — men, women, youngsters.
“Anyone — anyone who would enjoy coming to shoot a shotgun or a handgun is welcome,” says president Jerry Wright. No experience is needed. “Last year, we had a kid whose gun was 4-inches taller than he was.”
During a recent visit, safety was highlighted numerous times. Dan Rose is the association’s secretary and chief range safety officer.
“We offer any kind of assistance that new shooters might need,” Rose said. “I have certain commands that they all learn and they follow. All of my shooters are extremely safety conscious.”
The range attracts mostly locals, but it also draws people from across New Mexico. Sanchez is a certified “live fire” instructor, which means live ammunition is used in training.
“Every course that we teach here is live fire. Most classes around the state are not,” said Sanchez. “We have kids that come here from around the state just because they want to learn live fire.”
The club offers shooting areas for pistol, rifle, trap with clay pigeons, and a new archery range. Rose says steady improvements are being made.
“We now have a 100-yard range. We’ve put up some tables to have stabilized shooting there,” Rose said. “We have also built some concrete pads so we don’t have to stand in goat heads.”
An annual BSSA membership fee is $20. A fee to use trap shooting ranges is between $4 and $6 to cover the cost of the targets.
The handgun and rifle ranges are open on Monday, and trap shooting is available Tuesday and Saturday. Arrangements can also be made to shoot at other times.
“We’re not here for a profit,” says Wright. “We are here to come and shoot and have a good time and visit. A lot of guys come just to visit.”
For more information, call Jerry Wright at 505-859-8172.
Mike Powers spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports anchor, mostly in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports, including the Valencia County prep scene.