Summer Camps for Junior Shooters

Summer is the time for kids to head out the door and have fun at camp, and junior shooters are no exception.  Summer camps designed especially for young marksmen are a great opportunity for kids who are already experienced shooters to get together with others in a fun and safe environment and brush up on their skills.

I will focus on four camps in this post: The MGM Targets Junior Shooters Camp, NRA National Junior Pistol Camp, NRA National Junior Smallbore Rifle Camp, and the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit Action Shooting Junior Clinic (the only one not held in the summer).

MGM Targets will host their 2012 Junior Camp on July 21st through 23rd, in Boise, Idaho.  Cost of the camp is $260 per junior shooter, which also includes lodging for a parent or guardian (parents/guardians will also receive two half days of instruction).  A limit of 60 campers ensures optimal training time by some of the nation’s best shooting instructors.

Campers must be an active member of USPSA (United States Practical Shooting Association), IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association), or SASS (the Single Action Shooting Society aka Cowboy Shooting), and have competed in at least four pistol matches, and possess good handgun handling skills.  This is NOT a beginner’s firearms safety class.

Junior Competitor, Allie “Allie Cat” Barrett, who I previously interviewed and wrote about HERE, has been accepted to the camp again this year and has said she is really looking forward to the fun.

The National Rifle Association also sponsors camps for young shooters.  The NRA National Junior Pistol Camp and National Junior Smallbore Rifle Camp are the intermediate events held during NRA National Rifle and Pistol Championships at Camp Perry, Ohio.  Pistol camp is held from July 10th through the 15th, and rifle camp is held July 21st through the 26th.

Intermediate to advanced shooters must be 12-18 years of age, and enrollment is limited to 50 students for pistol camp and 72 for smallbore rifle camp.  Standard registration is $225 per student, plus housing, food, and other expenses.

This year the 5th annual U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit Action Shooting Junior Clinic will be held August 13-17, in Ft. Benning, Georgia.  Cost for the camp is only $35, and it is limited to 32 shooters.  This advanced, smallbore rifle camp is open to shooters 14-18, and accompanying parents are welcome to attend classes with their children.  Shooters must have participated in NRA or USA Shooting matches and acceptance to the camp is based on previous matches shot.

If your child is a pistol or rifle shooter, or may be interested in learning to shoot, one of the best ways to get them into the NRA or USA Shooting matches is through an organization such as the Venture Scouts or the county 4H clubs.  Both of these organizations offer shooting sports and make participation in these matches available to their members.

Contact the individual host organizations for each camp for exact details or more information.

Women earning more leadership positions in shooting sports

Publisher/Editor, Barbara Baird, over at Women’s Outdoor News, has a good post today about leading ladies in the shooting industry.  She notes that in the shooting sports, women have been allowed to compete on a level playing field with men, and have risen to leadership positions in the industry, overall.

As Barbara said, “. . . are we seeing a paradigm here? Women tried to play football and no one attended the games. Women’s sports, even at collegiate levels, do not command the gate revenue that men’s sports do. But, in the shooting sports, where women shoot during the same tournament or match, yet compete against other women (and themselves, really), are we seeing the rise of women in leadership levels because they are allowed to compete alongside the men, and compete in other areas then, as well?”

Check out her story here:  “Ladies, first, in the gun industry?

Granny, Get Your Gun!

As I alluded to the other day in a previous post, many “grannies” are coming into the shooting arena these days – and hey, I’m not hating on grannies, cause I are one 🙂  I’ve heard from more ladies lately who are in their 50’s, 60’s, and even 70’s, than I have from the spring chickens, and I think there’s a good reason for that.

One lady told me the other day that her kids were into everything when they were growing up:  football, baseball, cheerleading, etc., but that she had not been involved in any activities when she was young – most likely due to lack of funds.  Finally, she said, it is her turn.  This lady lives alone and one of her sons felt she needed to have a gun for self-defense; but, surprise, surprise, she found out she actually loves to shoot and enjoys it as a hobby as well as a protector of all that is hers.

Another lady told a horrifying story of her EX-husband holding a gun to her head for three hours.  Although she didn’t go into a lot of details, she said she realized it was time for her to take control and learn to defend herself, after too many years of letting someone else control her life.

Others have said they just never had the time nor the money for a hobby of their own while their kids were young and involved in their worlds, so now that they don’t have to worry with a babysitter and they’re not having to taxi kiddos to and fro, they are free to explore various options of their own.

Again, whatever the reason and whatever the age of the lady involved, I think the shooting sports are a blast for many reasons (pun intended).  One thing I do recommend for some of us ladies, though, especially those that haven’t been extremely physically fit in many years – or who maybe put their kids’ health and physical well-being above their own for too long – is to begin to eat right and get some exercise.  Being fit can help you feel more empowered, regardless the activity you are doing, and shooting is no different.

I have found that being involved in shooting has helped motivate me to WANT to get back in shape.  Improving your upper-body strength will make it much easier to hold your firearm steady for longer periods of time – and you know you don’t like to stop shooting just because your arms are tired.

When I first started shooting, I said, “Now, if I could just lose weight doing this!”  Well, you might actually be able to do that if you join a practical shooting group that darts and dashes through a course of fire, rather than standing in one place on the line.  I mean, getting exercise and being able to shoot at the same time?  That’s a killer combo! (another pun intended)

So don’t let the fact that you have grandchildren, or are old enough to have them, keep you from taking up a new hobby and trying the shooting sports.  I mean, technically, shooting is a pretty good equalizer in the fact that even if you are in a wheelchair, you can still shoot.  Have back problems and can’t stand?  Sit at the line and shoot benchrest.  One way or the other, if you want to shoot, there is a way for you to do it.

So get your gun, get out there, and shoot something, Granny!  Show those spring chickens how it’s done!

Emily Miller on Fox News

Here’s a link to a good interview of Emily Miller by Fox News, regarding female gun ownership – link here.  Miller jumped through hoops for months to be allowed to purchase a gun in D.C., and she gives some great statistics in her interview.  Check it out!

A Girl, A Glock, and the NRA Pistol Quals – Part 2

Well, it didn’t take nearly as long to complete the handgun qualifications through Expert as it did to write about them, so here is the second part of my NRA pistol qualification quest.

In my last post about the quals I was mid-way through the Marksman 1st Class level, which I completed.  Marksman 1st Class requires two-hand shooting, both strong side and weak side.  This means that you hold the gun with both hands in a normal grip for the strong side shooting, then switch your grip so that the weak hand pulls the trigger during the next set.  It takes a minute to figure out this grip using your weak hand, sort of like trying to cross your arms in the opposite direction than you are used to.

I was shooting at an AP-1 target, so had to shoot from 30 feet, and as with all the prior levels, it required ten qualifying targets.  There are two stages to M1stC:  The first stage being five shots in three minutes, strong side; and the second stage being five shots in three minutes, weak side, for a total of ten shots per target.

This is the first level of the qualification that requires a minimum score.  To pass this level you must acquire five targets with a score of 46 or better and five targets with a score of 56 or better.  The targets do not have to be shot in the same session.

The next level is Sharpshooter, which is the same stance and grip as M1stC, but with a faster time limit and higher minimum score.  For this level the shooter must fire five shots in 20 seconds with the strong-hand grip and five shots in 20 seconds with the weak-hand – still a two-hand grip, ten shots per target.

Scoring for Sharpshooter is, again, ten targets total, five with a score of 60 or better and five with a score of 65 or better.  Both stages for a target must be shot in the same session, but the ten targets do not have to be completed on the same day.

Now we get to the Expert level, which is shot one-handed, both strong-side and weak-side.  Once again at 30 feet for the AP-1 target and 15 feet for the AP-2 target, the shooter must fire five shots in three minutes and five shots in ten seconds with the strong hand; and then fire five shots in three minutes and five shots in ten seconds with the weak hand – for a total of 20 shots per target.

The complete Expert course (20 rounds) must be fired twice with a score of 130 or better and three times with a score of 150 or better.

Now we get to the highest prize, the Distinquished Expert level, which will encompass everything we have done in all previous levels, and which must be witnessed by a current NRA member, instructor, or coach, and for which paperwork must be submitted to the NRA in order to receive acknowledgement in the NRA magazine.

This level should be completed by hanging three targets at eye level, about an inch apart, and they are shot from the same distances as the previous levels.  There are four stages to this level and each of the four stages must be shot during the same session, but the qualifying targets need not be shot on the same day.

In Stage 1, the shooter will fire five rounds, strong side, with two hands in ten seconds.  Stage 2 is the same, except that the rounds are fired with one hand only, the strong hand.  Stage 3 requires five rounds fired with two hands, weak side, in 10 seconds.  For Stage 4, the shooter must place five rounds in the targets in 10 seconds, with the weak hand only.

Scoring for this level requires the shooter to acquire three targets with a minimum score of 145 or better, and three targets with a score of 170 or better.

So, all that to say that I have one more level to complete, Distinguished Expert; and it’s a level I hope to master within the next month.

Wish me luck ~ and happy shooting!

I love to clean…my gun!

Ladies, do you clean your gun(s)?  No, I don’t mean, does your husband, son, boyfriend…clean them for you.  If you shoot, and you should, then you need to learn to clean the firearms.

“If ya shoot ’em, ya gotta clean ’em,” is one of my mottos – trust me, I have many :0)

And do we even need to discuss the fact that something that contains gunpowder and lead, and that EXPLODES in the barrel, even needs to be cleaned?? (big eye roll)

I know, I know, one more thing to scrub, right?  But cleaning your gun is much different than cleaning your toilet.  There is no better way to become truly comfortable with every aspect of your firearm, to know it literally inside and out, than to break it down and clean it.  (Nobody needs to get to know a toilet :/)

So here are the reasons, in a nutshell, that I think it’s important:

1.  You become very adept at field strip and reassembly of the gun, which could be very important should you ever have a problem during use and have to strip it, fix it, and reassemble it in short order.

2.  You know without a doubt that the firearm is clean and in working order.

3.  It helps you take ownership of the gun.  Some women shoot guns belonging to others, which is fine, but then they walk away and forget about it until they shoot again.  Even if it isn’t your gun, take ownership and responsibility of it.

4.  For the new gun owner/user, the firearm will be much less intimidating if you see it in pieces on your kitchen table.  I’ve seen ladies who were really afraid of “weapons” completely change their mind after holding just the little round barrel in their hands.  Things are not as frightening when you know them inside and out.

One of the best ways to learn to clean your gun is from someone else who knows and who will take the time to show you, step by step.  Many ranges are now hosting gun-cleaning clinics, some especially for women like the ones I hold, and that can be a fun, social time, as well.  When I’m in a room full of women cleaning their guns and talking, laughing, and having a great time, I usually say the gun-cleaning circles of today have replaced the quilting groups of old :0)

But if you don’t have someone to show you, or a clinic to attend, just go online to Youtube, search for “field strip” or “take down,” “break down” of whatever gun you have, and I can assure you someone has a video on it.  That’s how I learned to break down one of my new handguns.

So don’t stress over it, get with some other girls and make it fun, leave a window open so you don’t all get high on the solvent :0) but remember, “A clean gun is a happy gun” (another one of my mottos).

** CAUTION:  NEVER, EVER, EVER EVEN ATTEMPT TO CLEAN A FIREARM IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING, DON’T HAVE SOMEONE WITH YOU THAT DOES, AND UNTIL YOU HAVE, PERSONALLY, CLEARED THE GUN AND MADE SURE IT IS UNLOADED.  ABOVE ALL, STAY SAFE!

Om…bang…om…

I was encouraging a friend and fellow shooter this morning that has a lot on her plate, and I told her not to forget to shoot.  I think everyone that is involved in a sport or hobby knows how calming and stress-releasing it can be, and shooting is no different.

And it’s not an anger thing, like some people joke about – “Gotta go to the range and burn off some steam!”  Sure, sometimes I feel like that, but more often, it’s just that tightness you get between your shoulders when you have too much going on, and you have so many things flying around in your head that your eyes are about to pop out.

But there is no better way I know to forget all of that, than to put a full magazine in your gun, focus on that little black dot downrange, and punch holes in paper.  The focus that you must have to shoot well is incredible, and staying in that zone for even a little while can make everything else just melt away.

Yep, shooting is definitely my yoga :0)  Can “bang” be a mantra?

(Here’s a great post by Lynne on the same subject – as well as an update on National Take Your Daughters To The Range Day:  http://femaleandarmed.blogspot.com/2012/01/for-sheer-joy.html)

National Take Your Daughters To The Range Day

All over the country this June, young girls will head out to go shoot something.  They will be attending the First Annual National Take Your Daughters To The Range Day! This event, held on June 9th, will be an opportunity for gun ranges throughout the nation to introduce many young women to a sport that may just become a life-long hobby, or even profession.

Whether it is a pistol, a rifle, or a shotgun, girls six and up will be able to find their firearm of choice and continue a shooting tradition that helped make this country great.

Range owners across the nation can attest to the incredible numbers of women who have become interested in shooting in recent years, to the tune of 15-20 million female gun owners – and that’s not even counting the number of women who shoot a gun belonging to the man in their life.  So the numbers are there and rising, causing manufacturers nationwide to take notice and produce thousands of new gun-related products designed just for women.

And whereas men have typically taken their sons out to hunt or to the range with them, many times daughters (and moms) have been left at home – but not anymore!  National Take Your Daughters To The Range Day co-founder and firearms instructor, Lynne Finch, believes it’s time to tear down the stereotypes and get those young ladies out to the range where they belong.

“Boys learn to shoot in Scouts or with their Dads,” Lynne said.  “Often, the girls are left behind because shooting isn’t ‘girly.’  Well, we can, and do shoot, and well.  Learning to shoot gives young women confidence, helps to build self-esteem, and introduces them to a sport they can participate in their whole lives.”

Lynne said she had previously assumed that most women came to shooting through a desire for self-defense, and that she had not been aware of the fun and family aspects of the sport.  But after reading world-champion shooter Julie Golob’s book “Shoot,” which describes the world of competitive shooting, and asking questions through her blog, Female and Armed, http://femaleandarmed.blogspot.com/, Lynne came to understand that women shoot for many different reasons and in many different capacities.

“I have grown since I started shooting,” she said.  “I’m more confident, it helped my sense of self-esteem to learn a new sport, and I know I can defend myself.  More than that…it is fun!  More women are coming to shooting, [so] wouldn’t it be wonderful to encourage parents to teach their daughters to shoot?  A family bonding experience, a great experience for young girls, maybe even introduce someone who is new to the sport to something they can enjoy the rest of their lives.”

Lynne said she shared her thoughts with now co-founder, Evan Carson, also her handgun instructor, and the idea for a National Day was born.

So if you live near a range, spread the word about National Take Your Daughters To The Range Day, or better yet, volunteer to help them host an event.  Promotional materials should be available online soon at little to no charge – and if you don’t have a daughter, adopt one for the day!  It could make a huge difference in her life.

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2224045980508.82126.1828501919&type=1#!/pages/National-Take-Your-Daughters-to-the-Range-Day/225104034241369

I’ve Got A Thing For The Ping!

“It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that [ping]…”

Oh, I got the ping, and now I’ve got a thing for Steel Challenge shooting!  Coming in at #1 among only two women who used a centerfire pistol with iron sights (9mm, no scope), I might not have swept the field with my shooting prowess, but I definitely had fun and found out I really like shooting this event.

I set out recently on a quest to try all of the different styles of handgun sports, and am now placing Steel Challenge at the top, probably because, unlike Bullseye shooting, I can score relatively well with an off-the-shelf gun and no modifications.  Of course, trigger modifications may come into play as I progress with my Steel Challenge skills, but you can shoot well and enjoy the sport with a standard, factory firearm.

My firearm of choice for this match was a Glock 34, which my awesome husband bought specifically for me to use at these events.  It has a long barrel, which makes for less kick and more accuracy, and the trigger can be easily modified to get those rounds off much faster.  Right now, I’m focused more on accuracy, so I’m not worried about speed as much; but then, without the speed, you won’t do well in the rankings, so the two go hand in hand.

Steel Challenge is an event where the shooter stands in one place, in a square drawn on the ground, in fact, and shoots at targets set up at various distances.  The targets are generally ten-inch steel plates (although some plates are even larger).  When said steel plates are struck by the beautiful brass of a bullet, they make a lovely “ping,” sounding a bit like wind chimes, and letting you know you hit your mark.

At first glance, the course looks really easy, since the target stands are set at pretty reasonable distances, some even only a few yards away.  “Oh, that’s going to be easy,” I thought.  And while it’s not hard, there are several factors that come into play to make this sport, as its name implies, a challenge.

Anyone with test anxiety may have a difficult time with Steel Challenge just in the fact that everyone else is watching you shoot.  Unlike a shooting event where everyone is shooting at the same time, in Steel Challenge, only one shooter is shooting each stage, so all the other shooters in that squad are waiting patiently for their turn to shoot – and are watching everything you do.  That can be a bit un-nerving for those of us who are new and maybe a bit self-conscious.  And I was nervous.  I didn’t properly seat my magazine twice and it fell out on the ground, which has never happened to me before; but I gathered myself together and pressed on, trying to put all of those observers out of my mind.

Another challenge for me was that since I was using a 9mm, I had to draw from a holster, which I wasn’t used to at that time.  Only centerfire guns are drawn from a holster; rimfire shooters start from the ready position and do not use one.  Most of my shooting time has been straight target shooting, where my gun can be laid on the table in front of me when it is not in use.  And even at the Bullseye Match, the guns are laid on the table, so drawing and shooting from a holster – heck, even wearing one – was new to me.  I felt like I was at the OK Corral, my hand hovering in mid-air near my holster, twitching, waiting for the buzzer to allow me to try to find the gun and draw it quickly and smoothly – which sometimes actually happened :0)

Also, it’s not the distance of the targets that makes it difficult to shoot the stages, it’s more the transitioning between them – trying to hit every target as quickly as possible, moving on to the next target, and remembering to shoot the stop plate last.  Each stage has one target that is the “stop plate,” which must be hit only at the end.  If it is hit before any of the others, there is a three-second penalty added to every unhit target – and seconds really matter in this game; in fact, tenths and even hundredths of seconds matter.  Most stages can be shot in three seconds, or less, by those more experienced.  Others of us, though, only dream about those times.

The Steel Challenge course I participated in consisted of five stages, each with four or five targets set up in various configurations and at various distances.  Each shooter enters the shooting area (think batter’s box) and when the buzzer goes off, shoots through the course as quickly and accurately as possible.  Then they show clear and/or reholster their gun.  The same shooter shoots each course five times in a row, the highest score is thrown out, and the remaining scores are totaled.  Lowest score wins.

Steel Challenge has many categories for shooters, which makes it easy to find your niche.  The first division is Rimfire: any pistol firing .22 Long Rifle ammo, with either iron sights or optics.  The next division is Centerfire:  any pistol firing 9mm/.38 special ammo, or larger.  Under the Centerfire division are several different categories, such as:  Open (all legal firearms are allowed, scope or iron sights); Iron Sight (any pistol without optics); Production (any double action or safe action pistol on the USPSA Production gun list); Optic Revolver, Iron Sight Revolver; Cowboy Single Action; Steel Master (competitors with the lowest score in a combination of three categories); and Long Guns.

And while all shooters compete for overall placement in a match, according to the Steel Challenge Shooting Association website, participants may also choose to compete for category-specific awards.  Those categories are:  Lady, Law Enforcement, Military, Pre-Teen (under 13), Junior (13-17), Senior (55-64), and Super Senior (65 and older).  Basically, if you can’t find your niche in Steel Challenge shooting, you’re just not looking hard enough.

So now I’m searching the websites and calendars for my next opportunity to shoot this fun sport.  Next time, I will not allow myself to become as flustered with the audience and the time factor, will slow it down just a notch, improve my accuracy, enter both the Iron Sight and the Lady categories, and listen for that lovely ping when my brass finds its mark.  Come join me!

Men, Please Don’t Do This!

So I had to experience one of my pet peeves this weekend at the range – men making women shoot a gun that’s too much for them.  It was a dad this time, with his teenage daughter and son.  I don’t think dad had any ill intent, but that’s the way it was turning out for poor darling daughter.  I didn’t initially see the gun dad was shooting, but he and son shot first and it was a powerful bang, then they tried to get the daughter to shoot.  Of course, this tiny little teenage girl didn’t want to shoot that big gun, especially since this was obviously the first time she had ever shot a gun; much less the fact that they were shooting at 25 yards, so she couldn’t even see if she hit the target or not.

After much prodding and cajoling by dad and brother, little missy actually gave it a try and promptly put the gun down, backed out of the stall, and announced that she wasn’t going to do it again.  Dad and son guffawed over it, and tried to get her to go again, but daughter insisted it was not for her.  Ugh!  I hate it when that happens.

I had had enough by this time, so I walked over with my little .22 revolver that we shoot just for fun, and asked daughter if she would like to try mine.  She immediately said no, but I convinced her to walk downrange with me – where she could actually see the target – and give it a try.  At first, I think she felt like I was patronizing her and trying to get her to shoot a kid gun; and unfortunately, she had been so traumatized by her first experience that even the ease of shooting a .22 at close range didn’t change her mind.  She hit the target a few times and was surprised at the lack of kick, but wasn’t interested in more.

Dad said he had been trying to get her to WANT to shoot with them.  I bit my tongue and just told her how much I love shooting and that it really is fun when you use the right gun for you, and when you start at a closer range so that you can get some success before moving back.

They were already packed up and in the car when dad came back over to me and sincerely thanked me for helping his daughter and taking time with her.

Again, I really don’t think he meant to turn her off from shooting, and that cannon might have been all he had for her to shoot with; but I think the outing was counterproductive.  It’s not the case with every female, but when you have a woman that is resistant to shooting to begin with, it would be worth the time and effort to find a lower caliber gun for her to try as a first experience.

I don’t know if darling daughter will shoot again or not.  I heard her say that she will just stick to her horses.  Hopefully, one day she will try it again – but this time with something that won’t knock her on her rear when she shoots.