Andy McLachlan shows how parents can easily and safely get their kids involved with airgun shooting activities
It has always been a comfort to me that I managed to introduce my three sons into the shooting sports. The reason for this is that I genuinely consider the ability to be safe and responsible on the shooting range as an important lesson for young people as they grow into maturity. Being aware of safety issues and having personal responsibility for both your own and other people’s well-being is a transferable skill that will last a lifetime.
Fortunately, as I am sure you will agree, shooting, particularly airgun shooting, is something that is very enjoyable for many people of all ages and both sexes. It doesn’t really matter what build you have, how fit you are or even how easy it might be for you to get about. Most people can load and shoot an air rifle to the extent that they are able to hit a target. If that happens to be a target that reacts to being struck, so much the better.
Many aspiring target shooters will start themselves off by using a break-barrelled spring-powered rifle. There are a lot of suitable guns available these days that fit the bill perfectly, providing the newcomer with the opportunity to learn the essentials, such as muzzle awareness and correct cocking and trigger techniques. At my own Rivington club, we insist that any shooter under the age of 16 is permanently accompanied by their parent or guardian. This reminds the youngster that they are being observed at all times, and in particular that their safe use of the gun is being constantly monitored.
Many of the youngsters and their parents swiftly realise that the use of a PCP assists their ability to hit the target more frequently. Let’s face it, a recoilless gun is far easier to shoot than one which has the urge to bounce and push, as a springer does. My own thoughts, however, are that spending at least a few months learning how to accurately shoot a springer will eventually pay dividends when the tyro shooter first uses a PCP. It can be a delight to see a youngster’s face when they consistently manage to drop a 40-yard target when only a few weeks previously that would have been out of the question.
What has this to do with target shooting? Well, for youngsters who genuinely become interested, the sight of experienced target shooters doing their bit on the zeroing range with top-of-the-range equipment, steely-eyed expressions and talk of the latest batch of wonder pellets can often prove surprisingly interesting for youngsters who might be inclined to consider a future as a confirmed target shooter. Obviously, if their parents are already into target shooting, it is a much easier step for the youngster to take when considering their first competitive shoot. It is a fantastic sight to see on many competitive shoots when whole families are genuinely enjoying both their time together and new friends are being made.
The current UKAHT series caters for youngsters in two categories: the first is for ages 9-13 and the second covers 14-16. To compete, younger shooters must be directly supervised by their parent or guardian for the duration of the shoot, which of course means quality time spent together! The HFT Masters series also promotes the inclusion of younger shooters, with their first entry being for free if they are accompanied by their parent or guardian.
Presuming that youngsters continue to attend the shoots and don’t get distracted with other teenage-type activities, this window spanning seven years can and does produce some outstandingly good young shooters who are fully experienced at competition shooting. It is also noticeable these days that the youngsters shooting the big HFT competition series are probably evenly split between boys and girls. Many of these young shooters’ parents are also great shooters who regularly appear on winners’ rostrums.
So, if you have children who might be interested in airgunning, try to get them along to a club with you to learn the basics. Once this has been achieved, there is nothing whatsoever stopping you from becoming involved in competition shooting. You will honestly be made to feel very welcome, and will of course be able to spend some genuinely great time together doing something that you all enjoy. You will not regret it!