NRA Whittington Center Decision Cancels Longstanding Shooting Matches


NRA Whittington Center Decision Cancels Longstanding Shooting Matches

Okay, so NRA Whittington Center (NRAWC) has effectively cancelled a number of shooting matches, as evidenced by a post on their Facebook page which cites fire danger as the reason. There are plenty of dissenting reports, though, from shooters who have been there during more severe droughts and there were no problems. In short, many shooters are calling B.S.

I say “effectively” above because I’m told NRAWC didn’t actually cancel the events, it simply closed the area in which the events were traditionally held, then asked the match directors to move them. Numerous directors made the decision to cancel, evidently believing that alternative locations were not viable.

Here’s what the post says:

A word from our Director, Joshua Adams,

Lately there have been many incorrect rumors circulating that the NRA Whittington Center has shut down many matches that have been run for years.

Here are the facts:

Due to the severe drought conditions and extreme fire danger earlier this summer, the NRA Whittington Center closed access to Coal Canyon where we have hosted the Sporting Rifle Match and the Nightforce Precision Match.

Due to the closure of Coal Canyon, the NRAWC provided an alternative location where both matches could continue. The Nightforce Precision Match did go on as scheduled in its new location, however it was the decision of the Sporting Rifle Match Director – not NRAWC staff – to cancel the remainder of those 2018 matches.

NRAWC staff will continue to monitor our conditions in the Coal Canyon area and if conditions permit next year, we will allow those two matches to continue in that area.

The NRA Whittington Center remains committed to growing our shooting sports, as evidenced by our continued expansion and construction of new shotgun, rifle and pistol ranges.

The NRA Whittington Center is and always has been a proud supporter of our local businesses and community, and we appreciate your support as we make popular (or unpopular) decisions that will ensure the NRA Whittington Center is here for generations to come

Some folks predictably buy this story, which on the surface seems perfectly reasonable.

Greatest place in the world! Heaven on Earth for a shooter. Have to respect all their decisions!

Some of the replies to that comment:

On the fire danger thing, how come the canyon was closed permanently to the match then and not for the dry season????? That’s the big rub with it. The fire danger (a temporary condition) was used as an excuse to permanently evict the match from the canyon. A match that has been going on for over a decade and has brought in thousands of dollars to the WC and the local businesses was permanently evicted from the location. Not temporally [sic] shut down. There was an “alternative” offered however if the new directors of the WC actually understood the sport, they would know it’s not a viable alternative.


The fire danger has not cancelled any match’s in the 14 years before now even the year we drove through the fire on Raton pass to shoot or any of the previous drought years , so ask the question convenient excuse for new management or actual issue , I know my answer .


“Have to respect all their decisions.” “…….I respect anything they do. ” ????
Pied Piper, lemmings, Kool – Aid……. I’m sorry guys, I don’t mean to be snarky but I’m a member of the NRAWC so I have a vested interest in the decisions made by them. Wrong is wrong and though in the end my voice may not change anything it will be heard. I will not shrug my shoulders and roll over for them. Those of us who are speaking up can plainly see the lies. There’s another agenda in the works here and it will come to light sooner or later.

Another person pointed out some big discrepancies between this story and what he was told back in June:

This is VERY different from what we were told earlier this year. Email below from Ken Mestas on June 12 stated: ‘Steve, sorry for the confusion regarding the Coal Canyon closure. In answer to your questions there were several contributing factors involved with Coal Canyon closure, fire danger being the biggest and most immediate concern. Coal Canyon will remain closed to all competitive shooting for the foreseeable future, however, hunting activities and the Santa Fe Trail Rendezvous (with restrictions) will continue.’

Overall, the consensus seems to be that the closure of Coal Canyon and thus the cancellation of matches had nothing to do with fire risk:

RJ Dussart The match has been run safely through worse droughts with ZERO issues. This is a cop-out excuse to put the blame on the SRM match director. The appeal of the match is the natural terrain, we can shoot square range matches in Denver and Albuquerque. Sad your new directors have chosen to miss out on $10,000 in revenue and hundreds of thousands of dollars to the hurting Raton community every year. I didn’t renew my yearly Whittington Center membership due to this.


Pffgghhtt. Always the same ignorance from people that do not shoot field matches, field match shooters want to shoot in natural terrain like coal canyon. Your alternative venues from what I have heard are not anything close to the experience of shooting in coal canyon, which has been done for years with know issue until the new guy comes in. The NRA should be facilitating and supporting every aspect of shooting not just hunters and old school square rangers, that do not take the time to understand the unique and exciting experience of shooting a true field rifle match like the Sporting Rifle Match. If you haven’t shot the Sporting rifle match please do not comment as you have no idea what your talking about.


As a competitive shooter, hunter and Life NRA Member I am very disappointed with the NRA Whittington Center’s decision to end hosting nationally renowned 3 Gun Competitions on their magnificent facility. The reason the facility is “Magnificent” is in no small part because of the financial support of Founders and the Competitors that make the annual pilgrimage to Raton to enjoy RM3G and He Man Nationals. So long as these misguided policies exist I will spend my valuable time and financial assets in facilities, communities and states that support 3 Gun.

NRA Whittington Center

Just what is NRA Whittington Center (NRAWC), anyhow? Their Facebook page describes it as “Gun Range in Raton, New Mexico” and states that “Our mission is to provide a place where you can enjoy the outdoors in a beautiful and safe environment.”

Under “company overview,” they state the following:

We are a non-profit, 501(c) 3 organization. We offer 17 shooting ranges, RV sites and primitive campgrounds, Founders Cabins and back country cabins. We also boast the Frank Brownell Museum of the Southwest, and the most unique summer adventure camp for youth in the nation. The NRA Whittington Center hosts over 250 events and 140,000 visitors each year.

Something tells me they’re going to have to edit that pretty soon…

Competitive shooters are drawn to Coal Canyon for its terrain, and the ability to shoot long distance in natural terrain rather than on a typical rifle range, which is usually just a big clearing with benches, targets, a backstop, and not much else. And while some matches have been relocated, it seems evident that this type of shooting in Coal Canyon has been nixed by NRAWC and will not be reinstated.

Apparently, NRAWC also conducts hunts on the same land and perhaps the new management has decided that shooting matches and other activities in the canyon are bad for the hunting. According to one commenter:

The youth camp (Adventure Camp) is being curtailed as well. For years the “camp out” during each of the 2 week sessions was in Coal Canyon. Not this year and not in the future. Campers will also be moved out of the cabins specifically built for the camp and into tents in mule canyon in 2019 and camp in 2020 will be cut back to one session instead of two. It’s not about shooting because 99.9% of the shooting at ADVC is on one of the square ranges.

And then there’s this:

After reading a couple of these entire posts, it’s clear to me that the Whittington Center is after high-dollar hunters at the expense of the shooting sports. Sporting Rifle Match was where I cut my teeth on Long Range rifle shooting. I’m sure many others share the same experience. This decision made by the new directors of Whittington Center is a disservice to the shooting sports and to the shooting community. Any organization using ‘NRA’ in its name should be engaging in activities that SUPPORT and EXPAND shooting opportunities, encouraging new participants, and the exercise of our Second Amendment rights.

The National Rifle Assocation should be made aware and should demand that ‘NRA’ be removed from Whittington Center’s name.

Whether this decision is really about fire, hunting, tree-hugging, or something else, we may never know. What we can be sure of is that many shooters are unhappy and suspicious, and lots of folks are left wondering whether NRAWC is telling the whole truth in this matter.

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Editor & Contributing Writer Russ Chastain is a lifelong hunter and shooter who has spent his life learning about hunting, shooting, guns, ammunition, gunsmithing, reloading, and bullet casting. He started toting his own gun in the woods at age nine and he's pursued deer with rifles since 1982, so his hunting knowledge has been growing for more than three and a half decades. His desire and ability to share this knowledge with others has also grown, and Russ has been professionally writing and editing original hunting & shooting content since 1998. Russ Chastain has a passion for sharing accurate, honest, interesting hunting & shooting knowledge and stories with people of all skill levels.

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