While Missoula County Public Schools are now gun free zones, it wasn't always that way. Missoulian Dave Strom was in high school back in the mid 50s and he remembers going to the rifle range ... located inside the school.

"The Hellgate High School building was Missoula County High School, and that's all there was," Strom recalled. "I haven't been in there to see if they've changed that rifle range, but it would have been there in '55 and '56 ... it ran from the east to the west and the bullet trap was down at the west end of the thing. You could barely hear it elsewhere in the building because it was very well constructed ... you know, heavy concrete."

Strom says the range was accessible from the gymnasium on the east end of the building and that the National Rifle Association played a major role.

"It was an NRA sanctioned thing: they were the ones that handled all the competition, they supplied the targets, the target rifles, the ammunition, everything was NRA sanctioned because this was competitive shooting and they wanted you to learn the right way with the right equipment. The first day they opened it up, I brought my own weapon over there, which was a Winchester pump."

Strom says he was "laughed out" for bringing his Winchester to the range, and was given a .22 long rifle instead. Images of rifle clubs from the local year book called the "Bitter Root" show clear evidence of rifles in the school. It is unclear what happened to the rifle range, but it was likely converted into either a locker room or a kitchen/dining area.

Photo courtesy of Mtmemory.org