The Pacific Rod and Gun Club is a hidden jewel nestled on the shores of Lake Merced. It’s the only skeet and trap club within 30 miles of San Francisco, but if it weren’t for the occasional pop of a shotgun, you might not notice its modest clubhouses and dark green field fencing. Outwardly it may seem like the place hasn’t changed much since its ground breaking in 1933. However, a closer look reveals a community of volunteers and members that very much reflects modern San Francisco.
That community is about to be evicted, as the Pacific Rod and Gun Club was recently served a termination notice after negotiations to renew their lease were unsuccessful. Without public support, on August 15th the club will be forced to vacate the land they have been stewards of for the past 78 years.
In a city as culturally protective as San Francisco, it’s frustrating to think that a public club as unique as the PRGC would be allowed to just disappear. Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, I was familiar with hunting, though I never embraced the sport. (The thought of waking up before dawn to sit quietly in ambush and wait for an unsuspecting critter didn’t appeal to me.) However, after discovering PRGC, pleasure-center neurons fired off in my head each time I pulled the trigger and let loose an ensuing swarm of steel pellets that connected with my clay target.
I felt real camaraderie and a sense of self-fulfillment as my game improved, often due to the friendly advice from a more experienced shooter. When I found out that the club was in danger of losing its lease, I imagined how awful it might be to see some exclusive condo development or a Claes Oldenburg garden hose sculpture take its place. This inviting congregation is worth protecting.
So I decided to investigate what kinds of people frequent the gun club and discovered a kaleidoscope of personalities, ages, and cultural backgrounds that make this facility so unique.
“It builds your confidence and keeps you focused. It’s good practice for not just shooting, but for your mentality in the outside world, too.”
“It’s an individual sport for self-accomplishment. You are really competing against yourself and that’s the most important thing to me. And when you hit a double it feels really good.”
“I’m enthusiastic about the future of the club and the amount of new members that are starting to join. There’s definitely a revival in the hunting and sporting communities as people want to learn more about where their food comes from.”
Alexander: “I like to tell people to come to the club because they would have lots of fun here and they can also eat in the BBQs and shoot with me.”
“A lot of my friends couldn’t believe that I started shooting because they thought it was a man’s sport. I told them that there were a ton of girls who shoot out here and there are even opportunities for women to get scholarships to college for Olympic skeet shooting."
“There are fewer and fewer places to go hunting in California without driving very long distances; therefore, the Pacific Rod and Gun Club is a great place to come and practice. Also, this is a great place to practice both skeet and trap shooting. If you are having problems, or need instruction, there are experts available who have enormous experience and are willing to help.”
“Eventually my girlfriend was wondering where I was going every Saturday morning, so I brought her out and now she’s a member.”
“When I tell my friends and family that we go out here and shoot, they’re really curious and they want to know what it’s all about.”
“I don’t know where else you can go where you can learn a skill like this and you also learn how to succeed in life. Because while you’re out here recreating, people are giving you pointers on life.”
“I am 10 meters away from the target and each target is about the size of a tip of an ink pen, so I really have to narrow down my movements and be really consistent with each shot, check my position and breathing.”
“I love teaching. At my age now I have something I feel I can dish out and help the new people with. I can really help neophytes and I know enough to help good shooters if they’re having a problem.”
“I actually had my 4-year-old birthday party here; that was 19 years ago. My dad actually shot at this club for 15 years before I was even born. He said to me that sports are a simulation of real life without real penalty, and I still stick to that. At the end of the day if I miss a target, nothing is lost, it's all good, I can come out and shoot the next day.”
Check out Ali’s description of her custom Perazzi MX 2000
No birds were harmed during the writing of this article.
If you’d like to shoot a few rounds of trap or skeet, time may be running out. The club is open Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. but only until August 15th. – unless you speak up and contact SF city officials to let them know that you support the club!
If you can make it out before August 15th, you will need to bring your own shotgun because PGRC doesn’t rent them. Trap and skeet fees are $10 per round (25 targets) and $10 a box for shells for nonmembers.