WHO We Are
In the Spring of 2010, we recieved the news that Bishop Dwenger High School could now have its own rifle team. Within weeks, we sat down to the first of what would be many meetings with the BDHS school principal. The principal was wholeheartedly on board, but there were still questions about the practical logistics of this new venture. The team’s biggest issue was finding a place to shoot. The second, finding equipment to shoot with.
As Summer 2011 rolled around, we held our first summer camp using almost exclusively borrowed equipment. Coach Rice’s private stock, along with equipment generously provided by Allen County 4H and the Bishop Luers Rifle Team, sufficed to run a successful summer camp in the National Guard Armory gym on Cook Road. Each night, the heavy backstops were disassembled and carried up a flight of stairs, and all shooting equipment was loaded into a van. It was hard work, but worth it.
Fall 2011, however, came with sad news – the team would no longer be able to practice at that facility. We were without a home. Thankfully, we were put in contact with a man named Doug Schumick. Doug generously allowed us to shoot in his private barn for an hour every Tuesday. We were allowed to leave the backstops up at night, but all shooting equipment still needed to be loaded into the van nightly.
As summer grew closer, interest in the program also spread rapidly. It became clear we’d need a new place for rifle summer camp and general, year-round operations.
Finding a Home
We approached Tippmann properties in Spring 2012, but the company did not feel that they had the correct kind of property for us. They did however give us the contact information for Vince Tippmann, Jr. Vince showed us around a few placed but felt that a location at 4820 New Haven Avenue would likely serve us best. He gave us the property keys and the permission to hold summer camp there, with the caveat that we’d need to leave if he sold the property in the fall. In November, we moved to a storefront facility on Highview Drive for the remainder of the season. While the facility itself wasn’t without its problems, the partnership between the gun store owner, the landlord, and The X Count was overwhelmingly positive.
Interest in the team continued to increase however, and the Highview facility was simply not enough to accommodate our growing needs. So in the Spring of 2013 we packed up our tucks and moved back to New Haven Avenue. By this time we had athletes from 6-12th grade from many schools in the area. We added six more backstops for a total of fifteen and now held three practices instead of two. We were on a mission to provide quality precision rifle instruction to all interested people. Given all this, our facility needs were becoming urgent.
It seemed like every free moment we were looking at industrial buildings and meeting with realtors. Many of the facilities were (and still are) vacant but had asking prices of $100,000-$1,000,000. Those with lower prices would need expensive and significant repairs. We glanced at the a vacant building on Merchandise Drive, but it seemed too small and all phone numbers to contact someone were disconnected. So, we spent some time hoping for a donation of another building. This building was eventually sold for much more than we could afford, and we now know that it was not without very costly problems. Again, Gregg mentioned the Merchandise Drive facility: “See what you can find out about [it].”
So after more than a dozen phone calls, we reached a man called Russ Handwork. Russ said that they were just talking about that building and had no idea what they were going to do with it. We set up a meeting for November of 2014. It was at that meeting Russ asked if Diane would give him $20,000 and get him out of an environmental mess. Diane said she would give him a tax write-off and $1 for the building. He said, “send me an email and I’ll have my CFO look at it.”
The following year was a dance with an array of state government officials and regulations, former owners, and various other larger entities. The process was both exhausting and exhilarating. Eventually, we signed the purchase agreement, wrapped up all the environmental issues, and had an official closing.
How Far We’ve Come
We now call 5301 Merchandise Drive home. We’re located in Fort Wayne, Indiana and continuously seek to provide meaningful answers to the questions Americans have about our country’s direction. The answer, we believe, lies in the relationships we foster with the community, particularly with young people. We pass on traditional American values to young people through education about the importance of gun safety. This education has never been more relevant or crucial to preserving America’s Second Amendment rights. Future generations have the power to preserve the constitution, and we at The X Count have the privilege of showing them how.