The Meridian Optimist Junior Rifle Club was originally organized as the Explorer Scout Post 101 Junior Rifle Club in 1961. Originally, the Explorer Scouts in the area wanted to compete in the National Explorer .22 caliber Rifle Postal Match, sponsored by the National Boy Scout Council. The Post originated with eight Explorer Scouts and one Winchester Model 75 target rifle owned by one of the scouts. Ross Hadfield, a member of the United States Army Reserve was asked to be their instructor. The rifle range was constructed in the basement of the Idaho Pine Building in Meridian.
In the fall of 1963, The Pine Building was sold and the new owners took possession. Soon the new owners set restrictions as to days and times in which the Explorer Post could utilize the range. The Modern Woodsmen of America were approached for the use of their basement (now the Heritage Building). They consented, and a three point rage was constructed in that building.
In 1972, the Meridian Optimist Club wanted to sponsor the Junior Rifle Club. The Explorer Post 101 had lost their original leadership and had become quite inactive, henceforth, the name changed to the Meridian Optimist Junior Rifle Club. During the 1960’s and 1970’s, the number of youth shooting had increased where shooting was being conducted four times a week from October through April. Approximately 100 young people were using the range, but were only able to shoot every other week, because of time limitations.
In 1978, the Modern Woodsmen of American organization sold the building, and for the next three years, the Junior Rifle Club did not have a place to shoot. Some of the older shooters continued to shoot in the Idaho state matches, even though they did very little practicing at Ben Barham’s private rifle range. The Rifle Club won Idaho state matches for three consecutive years.
In 1981, Idaho Power allowed the Meridian Optimist Junior Rifle Club to use the empty transformer building on East Bower Street. An extension to the building was added for additional shooting footage. The new Optimist Club of Meridian began pledging funds, which enabled the range to be upgraded.
The Junior Rifle Club was selected to receive a 1985 Meritorious Achievement Award by the National Rifle Association of America. This award recognizes noteworthy achievements by the NRA affiliated clubs and is a tribute to the ongoing programs and service activities of our Club.
The Meridian Optimist Junior Rifle Club is affiliated with the National Rifle Association, National Guard, American Legion and Bout Scouts of America, Idaho State Rifle and Pistol Association and the Junior Officers Training Corps Program.
In 1997, the Meridian Optimist Club purchased the Idaho Power Transformer building and the Meridian Junior Rifle Club still runs five nights a week, October through April each year.Today…
After 33 years in the Idaho Power transformer building, the Junior Rifle Club is ready to expand. A committee has been formed and the process has begun. Several expansion plans are being considered, and the committee has begun the fund-raising process. Plans for the new facility include a 16 point air rifle and smallbore range, electronic scoring equipment, meeting and training room, restrooms, and office and storage areas.
Special thanks to Ross Hadfield (deceased) for 50+ years of dedicated service, Ben Barham(deceased)for dedicating 38 years, Robert Nelson for dedicating 45 years, and Ron Bailey for 26 years of dedication to the Meridian Optimist Junior Rifle Club. A special thanks also to dedicated volunteers and driving forces Gary Gillespie, Dr. Charlie Green, Lyle Tarbet, and Charlie Eckman.
The Meridian Optimist Junior Rifle Club, along with the Optimist Club, appreciates all of our volunteer instructors for the time and dedication they have put into the program. We also thank the Friends of the NRA, the American Legion, and the Midway Foundation for their generous support of our program.
For more information about the Junior Rifle Club, please contact Gail Van Patten at (208) 870-7193 or Christine Lutz at (208) 954-4072.