2013-02-22 / Front Page

Club takes aim at firearm safety

Scarborough Fish and Game offers variety of shooting disciplines
By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

For more than 60 years, gun enthusiasts have been coming to Scarborough to enjoy the sport of shooting.

The Scarborough Fish and Game Association was started in 1947 on land near Scarborough Marsh before moving to its current location at 70 Holmes Road. It was officially incorporated in 1958.

Fred Wiegleb, president of Scarborough Fish and Game Association, said one of the draws at the Scarborough Fish and Game Association is the amount of shooting disciplines offered.

“I have been involved with the range for 10 years,” said Wiegleb, who has been shooting for more than 50 years. “I think it is the best range in New England, if not the northeast because of all the disciplines we offer.”

The association has dedicated space for sporting clays, 50 and 100 yard bull’s eye pistol shooting, utility ranges, as well as ranges for International Defense Pistol Association shoots, a 600-yard rifle range, a trap shooting range and a 3D archery range.


The Scarborough Fish and Game Association offers countless shooting disciplines, including bull’s eye pistol shooting, for its more than 950 members. The gun club, which has been around since the 1940s, is designed around safety and includes training opportunities for club members as well as many of the law enforcement agencies in the area. (Courtesy photos) The Scarborough Fish and Game Association offers countless shooting disciplines, including bull’s eye pistol shooting, for its more than 950 members. The gun club, which has been around since the 1940s, is designed around safety and includes training opportunities for club members as well as many of the law enforcement agencies in the area. (Courtesy photos) Safety, he said, remains the gun club’s biggest focus and greatest concern.

“Everything is governed around being safe,” Wiegleb said. “The whole facility is designed with safety in mind and we are constantly working to improve safety.”

There has been a constant effort over the years to make the facility better for its members and less disruptive to the neighborhoods around it.

“We’ve worked hard to make it safe here and make sure our members are safe, responsible gun owners,” said Robert Chandler, the association’s chief safety officer.

Wiegleb said in the early 2000s, the association started to get in trouble with the Department of Environmental Protection due to lead bullets landing in some of the wetlands on the 177-acre piece of property. As a result, the association had to shut down the skeet range and part of the trap shooting area and redesign the property’s layout.

“We decided to get serious and rearrange what we did here,” Wiegleb said. “Now all lead goes into uplands and it is all recoverable.”

Now all shots end up in strategically placed berms around the various ranges. Wiegleb said he is working with the town to add skeet shooting back to the association’s offering.


For years the Scarborough Fish and Game Association has been offering basic shooting courses to children, including instruction in small bore rifle technique. The goal of the association is to ensure all users of the facility are responsible gun handlers and owners (Courtesy photo) For years the Scarborough Fish and Game Association has been offering basic shooting courses to children, including instruction in small bore rifle technique. The goal of the association is to ensure all users of the facility are responsible gun handlers and owners (Courtesy photo) Aside from focusing on safety, for years, Wiegleb said, the Scarborough Fish and Game Association has been providing space for many federal, state and county law enforcement agencies to train at. Local police departments, including officers from Scarborough, Portland, South Portland, Biddeford, also use the property for training purposes.

Wiegleb said the association also provides a series of educational offerings for the general public, including basic firearm safety, hunter safety, proper shooting technique, and personal protection inside and outside the home.

Suzanne Hamilton, who is certified by the National Rifle Association to teach basic pistol, basic rifle, basic shotgun, basic firearm safety and personal protection inside and outside the home, said classes fill up quickly.

“There is an incredible amount of interest in the classes,” said Hamilton, one of the association’s range safety officers and a member of the board of directors. “What we do is all one-on-one instruction so we have to limit the classes to about 20-22 people.”

The intention, Wiegleb said, is to create responsible gun owners and operators.

“We are not the problem. We are considered an asset for this town because we are a training facility and we train people to be responsible with their guns,” Wiegleb said.

Hamilton said there are also a number of programs for youths to instill gun safety and respect for firearms from a young age.

“I think people are very interested in shooting,” Hamilton said. “It is a sport. It is a true sport. There are a lot of people who come and end up really getting caught up with it, like with baseball or golf, or anything else. There are quite a bit of places to shoot around the country.”

Interest in the association has quickly increased since Wiegleb first got involved with the association 10 years ago. At that time the association had 300 members. Today that number is over 950. Individuals have to be 18 years old to be a member of the association. Some individuals, he said, have been members since the association was first started.

“For a long time we had between 250 and 350 members. People were being sponsored in by people they already knew, whether it was a neighbor, brother or father,” said Chandler, a retired member of the Maine State Police. “As we started to grow due to the competitions we were holding at the club, our membership started to swell six or seven years ago.”

It was at that time, Chandler said, the association began to adopt more stronger safety precautions and a more stringent vetting process to ensure new members were educated on proper gun safety.

“We were getting people who were not familiar with range safety, so we decided to change things up a bit. We have a safety committee of over 50 members who are all NRA range safety trained and are all AED and First Aid trained,” said Chandler, who was the principal firearm instructor for the Maine State Police.

People interested in joining the association, Wiegleb explained, are encouraged to fill out an application, which is reviewed by the group’s membership committee. Each prospective member is paired up with a sponsor, who is responsible for taking the individual around the grounds and explaining the rules and regulation and making sure the individual is properly trained on firearm safety. Individuals, who have to be 18 years old to join the association, are then interviewed and are given an orientation.

“The safety orientation has helped, I think, to eliminate some of the problem we have had in the past,” said Chandler, who has been involved at the range for 14 years.

Wiegleb said it has created a safe environment for all.

“We have a safe facility here. If you are shooting here, you don’t have to worry about what’s going on around you,” Wiegleb said, adding, “we are well organized. We are dedicated and run a safe range.”

Chandler, who shoots twice a month with his two grandsons, said new members are given a one-year probationary membership are required to devote 16 hours of volunteer time to Scarborough Fish and Game Association.

“With the changes in the way we do membership, we really have people thinking safety when they come here,” Wiegleb said. “We have very little difficulty with people doing things that are inappropriate.”

Hamilton said members are always willing to lend a helping hand to new shooters.

“It’s a very friendly place to come, especially for new shooters,” Hamilton said. “People are helpful and always willing to show you around and how to do things.”

Because of the increased interest in the association, Wiegleb appeared before the town’s Planning Board on Nov. 19 to outline a plan to create several storage buildings for clay shooting targets and defensive pistol shooting and maintenance and training building for law enforcement. The plan, which the Planning Board approved 5-0, also included expansion of the association’s office building to include a facility to offer meals when competitions were being held. Wiegleb said the law enforcement building and other site improvements will occur this spring.

“This club is a real asset to the town,” Chandler said. “It provides a really nice, safe place to shoot.”

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