NEWTOWN, Conn. — Warmer weather and more hours of daylight make spring the perfect time to introduce youngsters to the shooting sports. To help get children properly started in these safe, adult-supervised and fun activities, parents have many programs from which to choose.
Programs exist for practically every age level, allowing youngsters to find the type of target shooting that best suits their interests and abilities, whether it’s shooting clay pigeons with a shotgun or silhouette targets with a rifle or falling steel plates with a handgun. Certified instructors and adult coaches ensure that youngsters understand and follow the rules of firearm safety in addition to learning marksmanship skills that will help them enjoy these sports with friends and family for years to come.
Parents, particularly those with limited or no exposure to recreational shooting, should know that the shooting sports are rated among the safest of all sports. The National Shooting Sports Foundation’s brochure, “A Parent’s Guide to Recreational Shooting for Youngsters,” can explain what the shooting sports are all about and is available online at www.nssf.org/lit. For the millions of parents who already know the enjoyment of recreational shooting, it’s welcome news when their children say they want to participate, too.
“The shooting sports provide a great way for youngsters to meet new friends who share their excitement for these outdoor activities,” said Steve Sanetti, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. “Shooting is every bit as challenging and fun as other supervised youth sports. It helps develop not only shooting skills but positive life skills, too, such as respect for authority, personal responsibility, teamwork and sportsmanship.”
All the programs listed below offer an introduction to target shooting, and some provide opportunities for individual and team competition. In addition to these programs, a local shooting range or firearms retailers can help a youngster get the proper start in the shooting sports. To find a shooting range near you, visit the NSSF Web site www.wheretoshoot.org. Find a federally licensed firearms retailer near you at http://www.nssf.org/retailers/find.cfm.
Scholastic Clay Target Program: The NSSF-developed Scholastic Clay Target Program, now administered by the Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation, is for newcomers and experienced shooters. Under the supervision of adult coaches, SCTP provides team competition for youth in skeet, trap and sporting clays, with the opportunity to win state and national championships. Learn more at http://www.sssfonline.org/.
AIM (Academics, Integrity, Marksmanship): AIM provides a safe and positive experience with firearms and registered trapshooting for youth elementary school through college age. AIM encourages good sportsmanship and personal responsibility through competition while establishing the foundation to make trapshooting a lifelong avocation. Learn more at http://www.shootata.com/aim/aim4ata.html
Junior USA Shooting Patch Program: This NSSF patch program provides an excellent opportunity for youngsters to get started in target shooting. Under adult supervision, participants learn safety and shooting basics while earning official Junior USA Shooting team riflery or shotgunning patches. Learn more at http://www.nssf.org/JRUSA/
Boy Scouts of America: The Boy Scouts have long taught youth the safe, responsible and intelligent handling, care and use of firearms, BB guns and other air guns. Boy Scouts offer merit badges in shotgun and rifle shooting. Learn more at http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/boyscouts/advancementandawards/meritbadges.aspx
National 4-H Shooting Sports: More than 300,000 4-H members have been introduced to shotgun, rifle, muzzleloader and handgun shooting through this program, which emphasizes the development of youth as responsible, productive citizens. The activities of the program and the support of adult leaders provide young people with opportunities to develop life skills, self-worth and conservation ethics. Learn more at http://www.4-hshootingsports.org/
Scholastic Steel Challenge: The SSC provides the opportunity for young adults aged 12 through 20 to participate in the challenging sport of “speed steel” in a supportive environment taught by trained adult coaches who focus on the safe handling and use of handguns.
In addition to the programs mentioned above, the following organizations also provide youngsters with opportunities to get started in recreational shooting:
American Legion Junior Shooting Sports Program:
National Sporting Clays Association:
National Skeet Shooting Association: