The transformation of the idea of shooting sports at Liberty University into reality has much to do with the efforts of Dave Hartman, executive director and head coach of the Liberty University shooting sports program, and his ambition to help the school achieve its goal of marksmanship opportunities for students and the surrounding community.
According to Brad Butler, the Liberty University planning coordinator, students have long been asking for a place to hone their firearm skills. The school has already offered a free firearms safety training seminar that over 3,000 students have taken advantage of—showcasing the high interest in the shooting sports.
The university’s president has also been highly committed to supporting the Second Amendment, allowing faculty, staff and students to carry guns on the private campus as long as they possess the proper permits.
“The university has been wholeheartedly supportive of this endeavor,” said Hartman.
Before embarking upon Liberty University, Hartman and his wife founded the Spokane Area Youth Shooting Team back near their home in Spokane, WA.—a team talented enough that it went on to win the USA Youth Education in Shooting Sports National Title in 2015 with help from his son, Tommy, who was a member.
When it came time for Tommy to head off to college, he chose Liberty University, but soon realized there was no place on campus where he could practice his skeet shooting.
After hearing rumors that the school was interested in building a team and a range, Hartman contacted administrators, asking if they were going to get a team together in the near future and also offering his expertise if the school needed any guidance.
“My thought process was, since I already had a team that had done well in Spokane, I would try to give any of my information or knowledge gained over the years to whoever was building a program at Liberty,” he said.
As it turned out, the university was already looking into building a range and even had an extensive plan in the works. Hartman stayed in touch during the process and, eventually, they offered him the position as head coach of the program.
“My wife and I talked about it, we prayed about it, and I accepted,” he said, with a smile.
His duties began in January 2017 when he attended the SHOT Show in Las Vegas, NV, the largest annual trade show for the outdoor and firearms industries. From there, he has spent his time re-establishing old contacts within the shooting sports community to recruit students for the program—a daunting task considering he was doing so without a range to offer—or even a real program in place.
“I was recruiting basically like a wing and a prayer, with a promise that we could put this together and that the kids could come and get a first-class education but also continue the sport that they love,” Hartman said. “We’re offering opportunities.”
When it came time for a range to be built, the university spared no expense. Initially, after the plan was submitted to the university president for $1.5 million to get started on the large endeavor, he turned them down—astoundingly proposing $3 million for the project instead.
Construction on the range, which was actually projected for a total cost of $3.2 million, began last summer. Spreading across nearly 600 yards near Liberty’s main campus, the new Liberty Mountain Gun Club covers all of the bases for marksmanship enthusiasts.
With 100-, 200-, and 300-yard rifle components, a pistol and 3-gun range that measures 80-yards wide and 50-yards deep, as well as a shotgun range that has an International bunker trap with an International skeet field overlay, American trap with an American skeet field overlay, 5-stand, wobble trap set and two sporting clays ranges under construction.
The shotgun range opened to the university team at the end of October and to the students later this year. The rifle and pistol range is currently open to the student body, with a June soft-opening for the sporting clay range for students, and a June soft-opening for the public to use all of the ranges.
Be sure to keep an eye on the Liberty University shooting teams as well as the progress of their range as they continue to develop into the future!