About West Shore Sportsmen's Association
Sometime during the 1930s, a collection of men from the West Shore area got together to discuss ways to keep from losing a sport they enjoyed - hunting in the Central Pennsylvania area. Growing populations and the spread of urban areas had begun to reduce the wide expanses of farmland in the West Shore region, and hunters were finding it increasingly difficult to find land to hunt. These men formed a loose association with each other with the goal of developing relationships with current landowners and farmers to secure hunting rights. They also acquired a piece of farmland of their own; managed and maintained through dues and their collective efforts.
In 1954 this group incorporated as a not-for-profit under the name West Shore Sportsmen's Association. At that time, WSSA only owned the one piece of farmland, and met in fire halls or member's homes to hold meetings. Dues were spent to maintain the farm, and to stock it with game birds and rabbits which they released on the land to hunt. Membership numbers totaled around 400 for the first decade. The personality of the club during this time was that of a collection of outdoorsmen and its mission focused on hunting and conservation.
WSSA had no established shooting ranges on that farmland. In 1956 the Board approached the NRA with the interest of becoming an NRA-affiliated club. James Dee, NRA spokesperson responded, "there is no point in NRA affiliation if we are not a shooting organization." Within two years WSSA acquired our current property, and the farmland was sold off a few years afterwards. In 1958 the clubhouse was completed, and the membership finally had its own building to hold meetings.
During the 50s and 60s the membership developed some formal shooting ranges on the property. A path for the 100 yard rifle range was cleared. Two trap houses were also erected behind the clubhouse in the locations between the current #2 and #4 pistols pits that threw clay birds up the mountain. For many years these were the only ranges at WSSA.
In the 1970s the indoor range was constructed. The William Penn Bullseye Pistol League formed the West Shore Pistol Team and they included WSSA on the competition circuit. During this period of time the character of WSSA began to mature as a club with shooting ranges, as opposed to just a hunting and conservation club.
In May of 1987 the Sights Practical Shooters, a local IPSC chapter, was looking for a new home. At that time, WSSA numbered around 400 members. They approached the Board to ask if by joining the organization, would WSSA agree to become an IPSC affiliated club and allow matches on the property. The Board agreed, but no pistol pits existed on the property. Sights raised money and through both these funds and their volunteer efforts, they constructed the pistol pits we currently have. Within 2 years of WSSA establishing itself as an IPSC club the membership grew to 500 members.
During the 1990s WSSA became a Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) affiliated club, and held SASS matches on the property. Professional trainers also began coming out to WSSA to offer training classes, the first being Ken Hackathorn. Many others have hosted training classes over the past 20 years.
It was during this time period - the 1990s - that the character of WSSA went through another significant change. This change also coincided with Pennsylvania becoming a "Shall Issue" state and the growth of the Right to Carry movement burgeoning across the United States. The personality of the organization had changed from a collection of outdoorsmen that used firearms primarily for sporting purposes to a majority of members who were practical shooters; carrying and using firearms for practical purposes.
Today the membership numbers roughly 1,700 households. The Sights Practical Shooters has changed its affiliation from IPSC to IDPA. Over the past 20 years, WSSA has added the annual National Tactical Invitational (NTI) and hosts its monthly study group. WSSA has also added the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), archery, and trap shooting to the active sponsored clubs and activities roster. WSSA is also used by several area police departments for training and annual qualifications.
Different private trainers now come to WSSA roughly a dozen times over the year to offer shooting instruction classes from beginner to expert level.
The current personality of WSSA is a membership who uses firearms for their practical purposes. While the club is still open to members who wish to hunt on the property, the facilities cater to dynamic, action pistol shooting. WSSA offers archery, trap, and rifle ranges. We also have 6 ranges dedicated to pistol shooting, and 2 shoot houses constructed and maintained by the NTI group. WSSA recognizes and embraces our heritage, while changing to satisfy the current trends in firearms ownership and use. - Attributed to Ken O'Donnell