The Couple That Trapshoots Together Stays Together




                   The Couple That Trapshoots Together Stays Together

Minutes after the 2017 Clay Target Championship Shootoff where Sandra claimed Runner-up

     I’m not sure the title of this article will catch on, but, in the case of Sandra and Lonnie Spencer it sure is true. Lonnie and Sandra have been married for 51 years! They’re first trapshooting win was the same, the Mountaineer Classic Handicap Championship, three years apart. Lonnie in 1977 and Sandra in 1980. Last week I visited the couple at their home in Nicholas County. Off the beaten path they have a beautiful home in the hills with views you don’t get to see very often and never in the city, quiet and serene. From their balcony Lonnie can see the home where he grew up. He remembers when, as child, two white mules brought in the power poles when electricity was coming through the area.

Sandra was born not far from there, in Richwood, just a few miles east. But as a child, her family moved around the country, her father, building roads across this nation, from Oregon to Massachusetts, Sandra attended eight different elementary schools, but was able to settle down in WV in her freshman year of high school they married in 1966 at the ages of eighteen and nineteen and raised 5 boys. In 1980 when Sandra won the first of her eleven Ladies Championships she was pregnant with her fourth. Officials teased her about disqualifying her for having two people on a station! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

 Lonnie and Sandra love to shoot Trap. Sandra never shot a gun before Lonnie had her shooting a .22 at cans when they going together. “That was a lot of fun, I liked shooting that” said Sandra with a smile. Lonnie’s first cousin got him into shooting flying targets when he loaded up a hundred rounds and they went out on a gob pile and shot down over a hill. “I don’t know whether I hit any or not” he said. Later, they shot in a field at plastic two piece reusable targets called Super Pigeons. The target had two halves that were pressed together and joined by a pin on the outside lip. While shooting with his first cousin, Lonnie asked Sandra if she wanted to try this and her first response was “No, no shotgun, they kick! I don’t want to shoot!” Well the lure was too great and she tried anyway. “She hit one of them and that started it” says her husband. “I don’t know how many thousands of rounds I’ve loaded after that”.

  I asked Lonnie how he started trapshooting. “Well my first cousin Larry Neil was a really good shot … he was the one that got me into it…there was five of us, me, Larry Neil, Sherrel McCutcheon, Denzil Losch and Kenneth Groves and we all thought we were really good. We had been going down to Coast to Coast Sporting Goods in the evenings to shoot where they had a single trap. The owner, John Lustrum, said “Boys, they have a shoot at Winfield FMC Gun Club, the Mountaineer Classic” “If the five of you enter I’ll give you shells” Armed with a couple cases of free shells, they took off for Winfield. “We went down there at FMC and we shot and man I don’t know if I ever hit the side of a barn while I was there… and we thought we were good We got down there and man o man here was all these people just smoking targets and we didn’t do too good. We liked it, we liked it real well and we practiced up and went back the next year and I won the Mountaineer Classic Handicap Championship. I won with a 96 got a big ole plate but, I had to shoot off with Mildred Paxton to get that, we both had 96s.” Lonnie has the program for that first registered shoot he attended. Three years later, Sandra would win the Mountaineer Classic Handicap Championship with the same score.

 “Every year the Tri-Angle Gun Club in Bluefield, VA has the Pocahontas Open and there is a plaque hanging in the clubhouse that has all the names of the Handicap Champions on it. Richard Paxton’s name is the plaque it goes way back. I won it one year, and I think I’m the only lady on it. Two years later Lonnie won and I’m pretty sure we’re the only husband and wife listed. This year I won the Singles Championship against Ted Carwile and he saw me at the Old Dominion Shoot where I broke the hundred again he said “now you’re just showing off”! Sandra says “I just like to see the target disappear.”

 Lonnie began registering ATA targets in 1976 and has amassed nearly 131,500 targets to his credit. Sandra started a year later and has nearly 115,000 targets.

Lonnie looks back at the guns they used “it’s a wonder those old guns we shot didn’t kill somebody. They were old Ithaca Century II’s and were only a couple hundred dollars apiece. Sandra had gun trouble one day when she closed it up it shot a hole in the ground Doyle Moffatt asked her if she was going to put a tomato plant in it.” Sandra said “It scared me to death. Finally, we got good guns, Perazzi TM-1 which I still shoot today, 40 years later.” Lonnie bought a brand new one and I got a used one, we got tired of our guns breaking down.” Both guns were full fixed choke; when the target is hit “there’s just a greasy spot left”. Sandy likes the balance of the TM-1 and has no plans to change. “When I put the gun up there is no effort, my doubles gun wears me out.”

 Sandra has won eleven WV Ladies titles with the TM-1 since she started her career, which by the way is far from over, she ties Mildred Paxton for that honor with Bunny Sanders leading them both with thirteen WV Ladies titles. An accomplishment that Sandra is proud of. “I got a newspaper article that was written the very first time I won, in 1980, I was six months pregnant and when I won, Richard (Paxton)  said “I’m going get you disqualified” I asked why?” he said “because there was two people on the station.”  Sandra couldn’t shoot the handicap the next day because she was sick, their son, JR, was born October 9th 1980.   Sandra made her own maternity tops, of course with a shooting pad stitched in the shoulder.

      Sandra dominated the WV Ladies Singles Championship by winning every year from 1980 through 1983.


She also won the 1983 Ladies Grand American Vandalia Handicap Championship after a shoot-off for the Grand American Vandalia Handicap Championship against a squad of All Americans, one of which was Dan Bonillas.

Then life got in the way Lonnie worked as Superintendent for Island Creek Coal Co. and for many years they only shot the WV State Shoot. In 1990, without so much as a practice round Sandra won the WV Ladies Championship again. Lonnie went to work for KB Coal Company as a Surface Mining Foreman, driving 70,000 miles a year back and forth to Madison for thirteen years that made trapshooting all but impossible. Not shooting at all between 1995 and 2001, the Spencer’s returned to the sport they loved in 2002. Lonnie retired in 2006 and they have been travelling, mostly to shoots.

Sandra played a video that she and Debbie Ridgway had taken the year Darrell Dowler was on crutches  in it were Charlie and Debbie Ridgway, Richard and Mildred Paxton, John Lewis, Bob Lowe, Doyle Moffatt and Geneva, Harley Barr, Paul Fordyce, Pat and Jack Gandee, Kinzy and Delma Smith, Frank Hall and others taken at the WV State Shoot as the video played Lonnie quipped “changed a little bit haven’t they” The first time Lonnie shot at Brooke County he broke a 96 and won his handicap yardage group.

 In the last few years Sandra has been on fire, among her accomplishments are winning the 2014 Grand American Lady II Handicap. The last six consecutive West Virginia Lady II titles years 2012 through 2017.  She has made her mark on the World Trapshooting stage in the 2014 Grand American Gipson Ricketts Handicap she earned Lady II Runner-up and the 2014 Grand American Lady II Handicap Champion, her most satisfying win. Other accomplishments: 2016 Grand American Mec Shooting Sports Singles Lady II Third Place; 2016 Grand American Sterling Cut Glass Singles Lady II Runner-up. 2017 Grand American Clay Target Championship Lady II Runner-up; 2017 VTA Old Dominion Sandra won or was runner-up in every event; 2017 Dixie Grand Caesar Guerini Handicap Lady II Champion; Dixie Grand Singles Lady II Champion; Dixie Grand Handicap Lady II Runner-up.

                                            The Spencer’s trophy cabinets. Lonnie’s is on the left.

Sandra's most satisfying win; 2014 Grand American Handicap Lady II Championship

                                                     Lonnie and Sandra still holding hands after 51 years.

                                         Sandra’s secret to trapshooting just might be not to change guns!

One secret I have to exposed has nothing to do with trapshooting, that is Lonnie’s wood working abilities. Their living room is outfitted with some of his work and it is stunning, coffee table, end tables, hall tables and cabinets made of walnut beautifully crafted with a rich finish. Photo’s below:

It was a pleasure to get to sit down with them and talk about their Trapshooting adventures. Two nicer people you will never meet!

                         Check out this month's Trap & Field you'll find Sandra's picture on the cover!!

                              Lonnie made Sandra a knitting box out of some leftover walnut he had.

                                       Coffee table with drawers that pull through either side

           Wormy Chestnut Clock with storage compartment sitting on top of his first project shown in full above.

                                        Lonnie in his workshop with a nearly finished project