Smiles. Lots of smiles. I saw no end of smiles as I snapped some pics Friday at the nation’s longest-running NRA Youth Shooting Camp. Under sunny skies, about 120 young people aged 9-16 participated in the first of three days of pulling triggers. Seeing them succeed — like the young lady pictured above who had just dusted her first clay target ever — brought smiles to all of us.
Darnall’s GunWorks and Ranges hosts the four-day, three-night event west of Bloomington, Illinois. This year marks the 24th year of introducing young people to the fun and excitement of the shooting sports.
Long-time experienced instructors and/or Olympic shooting coaches volunteer to supervise each station.
The disciplines include rifles, pistols, black powder, Cowboy Action shooting, air rifle, air pistol, trap, archery, Ruger Steel Challenge and more.
Five years ago, the camp gained international attention. Guns Save Life members traded mostly scrap metal for perfectly good cash, and then used that money to buy ammunition for this very camp. In the end, our participation in Chicago’s annual “buy back” event gave them a publicity black eye.
News outlets both foreign and domestic covered our deliciously seditious act. In fact, we humiliated them so badly they gave up on buy backs for several years. Last year, they held a single-location event and turned us away because we had the wrong skin color.
This year, while Chicago hasn’t had any buybacks (yet), the camp continues. On Friday, participants shot trap, muzzle-stuffers, air pistols and the Ruger Steel Challenge (think Cowboy Action with semi-auto .22s). Saturday and Sunday, the kids will shoot small bore rifle and pistol, cowboy action, archery and air rifle stations.
The camp continues Saturday and Sunday. For the last few years, I’m privileged to supervise the pistol shooting station with many of my fellow GSL Defense Training instructors. We make it fun for participants with lots of shade, fans, music and a great time for all. At the same time, we try to turn up the cool factor to 11.
To make it more interesting for participants, we take the top five shooters of each relay and let them shoot some cool center-fire “pistols.” This year, those pistols will include a couple of SIG-support braced pistols, including a CZ Scorpion and an AR-15. The kids nicknamed the Kel-Tec PLR-16 pistol “The Giggler” because it makes even grown men giggle when fired. In addition, we make available more traditional handguns: 1911s, Beretta 92’s, S&W .357 Magnums, GLOCKS and more.
For young people, shooting these center-fire handguns for the first time bring big smiles to little faces.
Yesterday, even before visiting the pistol station this weekend, smiles were found everywhere in abundance.
Stay tuned for more photos from Saturday and Sunday.