A friend and I were holding a bull session when he retrieved a special rifle from the back room. It was one that I had wanted for some time but had never found at a reasonable price, a pristine pre-64 model-70 Winchester in the 300 H&H chambering.
As I looked the prize over, something special caught my eye. While 99 percent of the gun was original, there was one flaw. A recoil pad had been added.
It wasn’t the pad that caught my attention, it was what the pad said. Written across it was the name Buck Trew.
For almost 60 years, from 1938 to the mid-1990s, Buck Trew owned, and with the help of his sons, Jack and Barry, operated the Bentleyville Sports Shop. No one in my circle of friends called it by its correct name but instead took an evening and visited Buck Trew’s.
I don’t know if I can properly describe that store but it was the center of hunting activity, not only locally but for hundreds of miles around. The store had character with many mounted game animals and a large stock of hunting equipment, none of which was junk.
Buck would sit in an elk horn chair and listen to beginners and give out sage advice. When I asked him if I should buy a .270 or a .243, he said the .243 was for women and children, buy the .270, it’s one of the best. This man listened to his advice, and while I like the .243 and own both, his advice wasn’t wrong.
In the ’60s and ’70s, box stores began to appear and they sold firearms and that, combined with the death of Buck and his two sons, meant a decline of business and the end of an era where a hunter could visit a store not just to buy but to learn.
Now there is a Chinese restaurant on Main Street in Bentleyville where the old sports shop once stood. I guess that is progress. The only thing that is consistent is there will be change.
One cannot talk about the sports shop without discussing one of the United States’ greatest competitive shooters. Buck Trew was one of the area’s excellent small bore shooters, and his wife, Evelyn, dabbled in the shooting sports, so it was natural that their two sons became competitive shooters.
Barry, the younger of the two, seemed to have a natural affinity for shooting, so Buck approached the late Robert Moore of Claysville to coach his son. Bob was one of the area’s top shooters himself and was a natural to teach the teenage Barry.
Under Moore’s tutelage, Barry started to shoot for the Frazier-Simplex team of Washington. The Frazier-Simplex team was so good they competed against the U.S. Army shooting team.
By 1956, Barry, then 18, had won the National Championship, the National Junior Championship (twice), the State Junior Championship, and was a first team All-American as a freshman at W&J, setting multiple national records.
Barry won many awards, and in 1956 at Camp Perry, Ohio, he tried out for the U.S. Olympic Team, placing seventh. Also, in 1956, Trew fired the first ever 300X-300, a perfect score in the Pittsburgh and Suburban Rifle League. Trew fired 300s until 1988, and during one period averaged 298 for 10 straight years.
He once shot six consecutive perfect scores, a record that stands to this day.
Trew repeated as National Open Galley Champion in 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1969, setting national records with each championship. By 1965, Trew held every national gallery record except for high woman and high police.
For three years, 1957 through 1959, Trew was the National Collegiate Gallery Rifle Champion and the first ever four-time, first-team All-American. One could go on and on about this shooter’s accomplishments. In 1958, Barry was the U.S. International 50-meter champion. While in the service, he was a member of the elite U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning, Georgia.
He was a member of the International team that toured Europe in 1960 and 1962 and South America in 1961. Barry Trew shot in almost every country that took part in the shooting sports and without a doubt was one of the top three small bore shooters this country has produced. The others would be Gary Anderson and Lones Wigger.
Who was the best? Who knows, but I am prejudiced, so I’ll take Barry. After all, his dad guided me toward the .270.
The man who was Washington County’s greatest athlete passed away at the young age of 1992. Joe Montana ranks high among football greats from here, but Barry Trew stands alone among his peers and he competed in an area that has produced some of the country’s greatest small bore shooters.
Thanks go out to Barry’s son, Dean, for more information than I could include in this piece. Incidentally, Dean carries the torch of great shooters named Trew.
George H. Block writes a Sunday Outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter.