Shooting Down Negativity

Shooting Down Negativity

East of one of the busiest freeways in California, bright lights beckon southbound drivers coming from San Jose on Highway 101.

4 min read

Field Sports Park provides safe, supervised firing-range opportunities

By Joanna Piedmont

East of one of the busiest freeways in California, bright lights beckon southbound drivers coming from San Jose on Highway 101. Those who have wondered but never stopped to inquire may be surprised to learn they have just passed the only publicly-owned firing range in the Bay Area.

Welcome to Field Sports Park—operated by the Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation Department—where 102 acres of grasslands greet the shooting enthusiast; where one can go to a natural, outdoor park setting in a safe, supervised, and family-friendly environment to participate in shooting sports at any level, from recreational to top-level competition.

The park’s history goes back to the 1970s. The park was acquired by the county in 1976 and was originally operated through a lease by the Olin-Winchester Corporation from 1978 to 1988. Since that time, Santa Clara County Parks has operated the facility and implemented major improvements.

A Birds-Eye View

The facilities include six trap and five skeet fields with picturesque views. The original clubhouse built by Winchester is utilized by members to congregate and mingle before heading out for their league shooting. 

The rifle and pistol facilities encompass 22 covered pistol or rimfire positions, including 7-, 15- and 25-yard targets. There are 10 uncovered rifle positions at 50 yards, 16 covered rifle positions at 100 yards, and three uncovered positional/steel shooting positions at 100 yards. A 200-yard range and a multi-purpose range also are available. At a kiosk, customers may check in and purchase anything needed, including ammunition and targets. The rifle and pistol facilities offer views of elk, turkeys, pigs, and magnificent wildflowers that excite any hunter preparing for the hunt.  

Significant construction projects are slated for Field Sports Park, beginning in 2023, with the goal of renovating existing structures, upgrading the electrical, public-announcement, and plumbing systems, and bringing the park up to modern times.

The park is staffed with a Rangemaster II that supervises five permanent rangemasters, four seasonal rangemasters, one permanent park-service attendant, 10 seasonal park-service attendants, and a multitude of dedicated volunteers. Park-maintenance staff members and park rangers provide support services.

Year-Round Programming

Park staff members provide year-round a place for supervised participation in the shooting-sports world. Rangemasters and other staff have the opportunity to help build safer, smarter shooters, and, therefore, a safer community for all. Staff members continually strive to enhance these experiences in a fiscally responsible manner that ensures future generations will continue to support and enjoy the services.

There is no slow season since a competition shooter is preparing for a match or a hunter is sighting a rifle for a perfect shot. Rain or shine, holiday or not, advent shooters are at the range, enjoying what they love.

With recent closures of ranges, ammunition shortages, and a negative perspective spread through various media, shooters have much to worry about while trying to enjoy their hobby. For those reasons, Field Sports Park offers free programs year-round to satisfy any interest in sport shooting:

  • A youth program that brings smiles to participants
  • A basic gun-handling program for any novice who purchases a firearm
  • Trap and skeet leagues that humble every league shooter
  • Rifle matches that welcome competition among friends
  • Training courses that help public agencies meet qualifications.

Promoting Sport Shooting

Firearms are used at the range for hunter training, competitive shooting, educational programs, and more. Although shooting in general has a negative connotation in the United States, Matt Suggs, USA Shooting CEO, says it best: “The more we can get people exposed to the sport, the less they’ll identify gun ownership with what they see on the evening news.”

The park’s youth program has been operating for more than 20 years and is currently provided by The Zouaves Shooting Club and sponsored by Santa Clara County. The program is an educational progression of safety, equipment, and shooting training, with each new section building upon the previous ones. All necessary equipment, including firearms, targets, and safety equipment, is provided. Offering this program to youth also allows parents an opportunity to understand the meaning and intention of safe sport shooting.

Along with the commitment to educate people on the safe handling of firearms is an emphasis on promoting sport shooting instead of violence. For example, the word “firearm” is used instead of “weapon,” since a weapon refers to an item designed or used for inflicting bodily harm or physical damage. If a staff member hears a customer use the word “weapon,” he or she corrects the individual and explains the difference. Another protocol is prohibiting silhouette (human, zombie, clown, etc.) targets on the pistol/rifle range, since any training that might harm a human is not supported.

Ultimately, staff members hope to improve the public perception of a shooting range. Field Sports plays a role in sustainability, promotes recycling, encourages diversity of visitors, and brings education to youth at the range like a park ranger does on a hike in another park. Rangemasters are not only safety monitors but teachers. Staff members want shooting sports to continue for generations. So, the next time you are driving by, stop and see what Field Sports Park is all about.


Joanna Piedmont is Rangemaster II for Santa Clara County Parks Field Sports Complex in San Jose, Calif. Reach her at (408) 463-0769, or