Kingen Gun Club
Rich in history, the Kingen Gun Club in McCordsville, Ind., has re-opened its doors for registered shooting. The club held a Big 50 shoot on April 2, and its first regular ATA shoot was Easter, April 20. Amidst the buzz circulating throughout the shooting community, new owners Lowell and Susie Thomas, together with what Lowell has dubbed “a pretty good supporting cast,” have been busy remodeling the old club once run by Dennis (Dink) Kingen. Established by Dink’s dad Bob sometime in the late 1930s, the one-trap club closed when Dink joined the Army Air Corps and served as a nosegunner during World War II after the birth of his daughter Sharon.
Listed as missing in action in 1944 when the plane he was in went down, Dink had in actuality parachuted safely to the ground. Captured and imprisoned in Bulgaria for a brief time, he was released shortly before the end of the war and returned to work the family property, which was used for farming. Dink had never lost his love of trapshooting and was very active during the 1950s at the Indiana Gun Club, located at that time in Indianapolis. With the rapid development of the Indianapolis area came the realization that a new location to shoot would soon be needed. So in the fall of 1959, after opening a bank account in the name of the Kingen Gun Club, he began, with the aid of the McCordsville Conservation Club (which held their meetings there for several years), construction on the present clubhouse and trapfields as well as two pigeon rings on part of the family property.
Sixty-seven shooters attended the first registered trapshoot on July 4, 1960. The second followed on July 31, at which Roy Foxworthy led the handicap field with the lone 96, earning him a half-yard punch. He went on to win the Grand American Handicap that August and later married the editor of Trap & Field. Betty Ann Foxworthy was T&F editor until the early 1980s.
Kingen hosted four Indiana state trapshoots: 1961, 1963, 1965 and 1970.
During those years Dink, aided by numerous folks, expanded the trapline to 19 fields and added more office and restroom space on the west end of the clubhouse.
The east-end patio (which originally was intended to be a closed-in area) was the last addition by Dink. The club was noted for its pigeon shoots, and for several years the New Year’s Day fox drive began there. The family eventually removed nine of the trapfields at the end of the line, reverting the land back to farming. In a speech delivered by Dink’s daughter Sharon at the 50th anniversary celebration of the club, it was noted that several other registered shoots were held on the grounds during the 1960s, ’70s and early ’80s and that “the most heavily attended were the car shoots where (we) gave away Mustangs, a mink stole, and a diamond ring, and [our] Golden West Grand shoots where [we] gave away all expense-paid trips to the Golden West Grand in Reno, Nev.” The club also sponsored plane flights to that shoot. During those years the club held league shoots at night along with an annual registered Shrine contest.” Attendance, however, began to shrink over the next few years, and the club limited itself to summer registered shoots and two flyer shoots per year.
In 1985 Dink suffered a heart attack, limiting his participation and leading to the family’s decision at the end of the 1988 season to no longer hold registered shoots, although the club did remain open for practice shooting. The final flyer shoot was in 1991. It was during the summer of 1997 that the family began thinking of holding registered shoots once more, and it was present owner Lowell who was the major factor behind that decision. Dink passed away in October that year, and his death almost halted that plan. Fortunately, Sharon and her mom Mildred decided to carry on, and Lowell and his wife Susie were active participants in the operation of the Kingen in the ensuing years.
A contractor by trade, Lowell had known the Kingens for years; his great-uncle and Dink were hunting and fishing buddies. Susie had shot some pistol, but because of shoulder problems is unable to shoot any shotgun sports. Susie did all the scoring for Sharon’s shoots and helped cashier at the Indiana State Shoot. Lowell and Susie bought the club knowing that it needed a lot of remodeling, which included gutting and redoing the kitchen and office, replacing the furnace, adding a new drop ceiling and repainting. “All in all, making it a friendlier atmosphere,” according to Lowell. The club has four program traps and one practice trap, and Lowell and Susie’s goal is to get attendance up to 20 squads for their registered shoots on a regular basis. On practice days the plan is to reserve the two traps on the east side for the more serious shooters, and the three traps to the west for “the guys who just want to come out with their buddies to have some fun.” The club will hold seven registered Sunday shoots and plans on hosting 15 Big 50s this target year and four in the month of September that will be counted in the 2015 season [See next month’s Gun Club Scores for results—Ed.].
Youth shooting is an integral part of the activity at Kingen, and the club sponsors a group called “The 500 Flyers,” appropriately named because the club’s address is located at 500 North and 500 West. There is a group of 4-H kids who will come out to the club to shoot trap, and if they are interested in improving, they can move up to the The 500 Flyers. The club is a meeting place for Pheasants Forever. There is a group of Marines out of Indianapolis that will hold a non-registered event at which $500 is first prize, with a Henry rifle as second, and the Hunters and Farmers Feed the Hungry of Indiana organization is planning to hold shoots at the club this year. Lowell and Susie have a number of corporate events set up as well. “The main thing is getting the place back to where it can support itself,” said Lowell, and the focus is on getting the people there. Hot and cold sandwiches will be served during shoots and on practice days. The club has never held a marathon, but the couple think they may try one in the near future. Lowell said they want to restore Kingen to what it once was and then take it even further.
If you are in the area, please put the Kingen Gun Club on your list of gun clubs to visit. Location is 5112 W. 500 N., McCordsville, Ind. Registered shoot dates are listed on the ATA website and in the Official ATA Shoot Directory in Trap & Field every month.