Reaching out: Army veteran teaches long-range, precision shooting
“You’re going to shoot this rifle at a target a thousand yards away today and hit it,” proclaims James Eagleman, the director of training at the Barbour Creek Shooting Academy just outside Eufaula.
More used to shooting shotguns at ranges less than 40 yards, I looked out the window of the shooting house incredulously. I couldn’t even see the target more than a half-mile away, but I would trust James with my life. We served together in Korea in the 1990s.
I knew him as Corporal Eagleman, but he retired from the Army as a master sergeant after serving 26 years on active duty, much of it as a sniper or sniper instructor. When I sat down in the shooting house at the range, the “corporal” was most definitely in charge of his former commander. With a little instruction, I did hit the target a thousand yards away, although James did most of the calculations and setup. I just pulled the trigger.
“Barbour Creek Shooting Academy is a long-distance shooting facility,” says Mark Simpson, the owner. “We train clients how to hunt and shoot animals ethically at long range. We are one of the few ranges where people can shoot rifles out to a thousand yards or more and certainly one of the few that offer all the amenities that we do.”
Simpson ran car dealerships for 38 years before selling the dealership as he planned to retire. He bought a 1,000-acre plot of land on Lake Eufaula and started building a long-range rifle shooting facility for personal reasons.
“I started building this facility for my friends and family,” Simpson recalls. “I had been shooting long distance for more than a decade, but I got my advanced training from James. One day, I talked James into coming down to see it. When he got here, he says, ‘We have to make this into a shooting academy.’”
The academy opened in 2017. Most students stay at a lodge on the property that can comfortably sleep up to six people. Guests can also stay at an A-frame cottage on the Chattahoochee River, which flows into Lake Eufaula, or in the town of Eufaula. Some people stay at the nearby Lakepoint Resort State Park. People who stay on the property receive all meals included in the price.
The academy offers two shooting courses, a basic and an advanced course. Each course lasts two days. People could stay all week, taking the courses back to back or take one course now and return at a later date to take the second one.
“The course is partially based on what I taught in a U.S. Army advanced sniper course,” Eagleman says. “Our focus is not just on shooting, but on long-range hunting. In the civilian world, people don’t need to know how to be a sniper, but hunters need to know things like shot placement, bullet selection, terminal performance and other things to make a quick, ethical kill on a game animal. Level 2 is more of a wind reading and advanced hunting course. We go into a lot of hunting-type shooting positions and what to do if the equipment fails in the field.”
Clients can bring their own firearms, but while under instruction, they must use guns and ammunition provided by the academy. After completing the courses, the clients can practice with their own rifles. Simpson lets some graduates put what they learned into practice by hunting hogs on the property. In Alabama, people can shoot feral hogs all year long without limit on private property.
“When we started the academy, one of the first things we discovered was that most people who come here with their own guns find out quickly that they probably have the wrong equipment,” Eagleman explains. “In Level 1, we stress proper equipment selection. All of our school guns are 6.5mm Creedmoor hunting rifles, which are phenomenal guns for long-range shooting. In addition, all of our guns have suppressors on them so we can sit in our air-conditioned shooting house and talk without putting headphones on.”
Mark and James also build their own high-end custom hunting rifles. They also developed and sell their own brand of 6.5mm and 7mm ammunition.
“The guns we sell, BC-1400s, are designed for long-range hunting with minimal recoil so people can make ethical shots at long range,” Eagleman says. “These rifles weigh less than 10 pounds with a scope and are capable of killing game out to 1,400 yards. We test each one by shooting it for accuracy out to a thousand yards. If the rifle doesn’t meet our requirements, we don’t sell it.”
All vets and first responders who enroll in the classes receive a 15 percent discount. Wounded warriors can take the instruction for free, but must pay for their food and lodging. For more information, see www.barbourcreek.com or call 334-845-0000.
John N. Felsher lives in Semmes, Ala. Contact him through Facebook.