One year ago, this column had the tearful task of announcing the end of what had become a traditional gathering of skilled long-range handgunners who had participated annually in a fundraising event known as the Elmer Keith Memorial Long Range Handgun Shoot.
The 2022 match was dubbed “The Last Dance,” held in an open sloping alfalfa field south of Spokane. The average turnout was around 25-30 shooters, and they came from all over the Northwest.
Named in memory of the man who fostered long-range handgunning, the Elmer Keith shoot was an invitational affair to which quite a few people over the years had asked to be invited, and they were. It was designed as a fundraising event, initially to raise $100,000 for the National Rifle Association’s NRA Foundation in a special Elmer Keith fund, but it outgrew that basic goal. In recent years, proceeds were split between NRA and other groups including the Second Amendment Foundation and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
But all good things must come to an end. At least, that’s what the participants all thought.
Late last fall, it became obvious that reports of the Elmer Keith shoot’s death were, ahem, “greatly exaggerated.” I’m delighted to say my report in this space last year played a role in convincing a fellow named Britt Pettit to pick up the ball and run with it. With the generous assistance of landowners Andy and Judy Kidd, who allowed the shoot to unfold on their property several miles north of Spokane, this challenging event is back … with a bang! It was so well done the Kidds have already invited the match back to their property in 2024.
Many of the old hands were deeply involved in this resurrection, and even Will DeRuyter — founder of the original match more than 20 years ago — showed up as a spectator. Naturally, I turned out for the sole purpose of demonstrating I can still miss 300- and 500-yard targets with the best of ‘em!
As might be fitting for a resurrection, this year’s match was won by a first-timer, Mark Conner, from Othello, a community pretty much in the geographic center of the state. We chatted a bit prior to the shoot; said he was a crop duster. Didn’t say he was a hell of a handgun shooter, though! He was using a Gary Reeder GNR 455 in .45 caliber. He’d been trying to attend for a couple of years and obviously the wait was worth it.
The Back Story
According to DeRuyter, he was attending a gun show in Post Falls, Idaho last fall when he met Pettit. They started talking, and the subject of the Keith shoot naturally came up.
DeRuyter pointed Pettit to this column’s eulogy of last year’s event. Pettit read that story, and told Insider Online, “Calling it The Next Dance seemed appropriate. I didn’t want this shoot to die out.”
Will was almost gleeful when he advised longtime shooters the match was back on. As soon as I got his email, I started putting together loads using newly acquired 215-grain hard cast SWC bullets from Rim Rock over in Polson, Montana, and heading to the range.
Pettit resides in the rural community of Valley, about 45 minutes north from Spokane. He “grew up with guns,” having spent time with his grandfather while the older gentleman reloading ammunition for his .30-06.
Remarkably, he almost didn’t make this gig. He was driving down a road back on Veteran’s Day when he hit some black ice and rolled his pickup. He got banged up, but here he was, making certain “The Next Dance” was as good as he could make it. The consensus among shooters was that he’d done good.
DeRuyter said Pettit was “very fortunate to find this place” on the Kidd property — a long, beautiful meadow with timber on three sides, plus a ridge to the west and a long pond to the east. It was postcard perfect, with the firing line on the south end and the targets spaced out to the north, from 75 to 500 yards. The topography was flatter than the crop field at DeRuyter’s place with a slight uphill angle, and it was dusty.
Do It Yourself
If there’s a lesson in this, it’s that devoted shooters will find a way, because they know that if they want something done right, they do it themselves.
Which brings us around to this: The Elmer Keith shoot doesn’t have to be unique. We had people from Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Utah. One shooter from Montana had been planning to attend, but at the last minute had to stay home because of work demands. Another guy from Idaho had to cancel because his truck conked out.
News Doesn’t Stop
A federal judge in Tacoma handed the Second Amendment Foundation and Firearms Policy Coalition a setback when he rejected their motion for a preliminary injunction to block Washington State’s ban on so-called “assault weapons.” SAF’s Alan Gottlieb simply said it’s not over, yet.
SAF, along with the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, was able to hook up with former NRA chief Lobbyist Chris Cox’s Capitol 6 Advisors.
According to the announcement, “Cox spent 25 years at the National Rifle Association, including 18 as Executive Director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, where he served as the NRA’s chief political, legislative and legal strategist. Away from politics, he founded an effort to enlist leading cultural brands and talents in the country music industry to promote a wholesome American lifestyle that includes a legacy of responsible gun ownership. He has been a frequent analyst on national news programs and was a primetime speaker during the 2016 Republican National Convention. Cox has been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Daily Caller and other nationwide notable publications. He got his start in Washington in the 1990s as a senior legislative aide to a veteran Member of Congress, managing issues relating to the judicial system and criminal justice reform.”
In California, attorneys for SAF and its partners in the long-running legal challenge of California’s magazine ban were going through the process of seeking a summary judgment while opposing the state’s countermotion for a summary judgment in their favor. The case is known as Wiese v. Bonta, originally filed in 2017. That’s how long it takes. Other participants are the Calguns Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition, Firearms Policy Foundation, and several private citizens. The case is in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.