Stories about people saving innocent lives thanks to their firearms are quite common, but the largest range in the Eastern U.S. has saved a family’s livelihood. Marine Corps veteran Cole McCulloch opened the Peacemaker National Training Center in Glengary, WV, in 2011 on land that has belonged to his family for more than 200 years.
When McCulloch’s grandfather, James K. Hutzler, died in 2001, the federal government imposed an inheritance tax in excess of $1 million on the family. After paying the tax, the family was able to keep the land, but had no money left in the bank. “For years my grandfather and I always knew that his goal and mine and the entire family’s was to find a way to not sell the farm,” McCulloch said. “Well, he did a great job in helping because he basically saved the money to pay for the unavoidable death tax that was coming. After that, there were no answers.”
McCulloch grew up roaming and hunting his grandfather’s land. Following high school, he joined the Marines and became part of a Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team.
“After leaving the service, I met Larry Wallace, one of the greatest accuracy-rifle gunsmiths to ever live on this planet,” he explained. “He taught me everything I know about long-range shooting and precision accuracy, and gave me the long-range shooting bug.”
In 2009, McCulloch came up with the idea of creating a 1,000-yard shooting range on the farm, and from that notion the plan for Peacemaker came into existence. Over the next two years, he transformed 800 acres of the 2,300-acre property into a facility with 17 supervised ranges, a 1,000-yard range (one of the few open to the public in the mid-Atlantic) with electronic targets, and two climate-controlled classrooms complete with Wi-Fi and LCD monitors.
“I felt the shooting industry truly needed a national-level, dynamic and civilian-based shooting complex that supported recreation, competition and professional training,” McCulloch said. “Now that Peacemaker is standing on its feet, so to speak, it has changed our lives and has enabled us to keep the land we love and help people across the nation learn that responsible gun owners are good citizens.”
The Peacemaker ranges are open to the public, and the business accepts memberships for those who want access to the entire facility. The place also hosts multiple competitions and training seminars for many different shooting disciplines, as well as concealed-carry courses and corporate events.
McCulloch is proud to have saved his family’s land, but is even happier with the result of that process. “The greatest thing is what the old farm has become and what it stands for,” he said. “Peacemaker is a place for the responsible gun-owning citizen. I don’t care if you’re a Navy SEAL, Jerry Miculek or a grandmother—all good people are welcome and everyone will be treated with the same level of dignity, respect and service under a formal set of range rules. I always wonder, if not for Peacemaker and the countless well-run ranges around the nation, where will the next Sergeant York come from?”