This past weekend Eric and I went on an adventure to Balston Spa, NY to the 4H Shooting Sports Workshop, a first for both of us. The purpose was for Eric to be trained as a 4H air rifle instructor and for me to be an air pistol instructor so that, starting in October 2018 we can then start scheduling classes for these two disciplines allowing us to teach air rifle/pistol to kids from 9-19 and be the first Monroe County 4H Shooting Sports facility.
We arrived Friday a bit early, at 5:15 or so. Dinner started at 6 and then we had our first couple of training items that were non-shooting topics but necessary for our training. Each group then met briefly to go over the agenda for the next couple of days, so we had Archery, Shotgun, Muzzle Loader, Rifle (air and center/rim fire), air pistol, hunting and coordinators (think organizers). We ended at 9, went to the hotel and went right to sleep. The next morning we were back at their facility at 7:30 or so and broke into our groups at 8.
The air pistol group met indoors in another facility and started setting up our indoor air pistol range using the Crosman "tents" to set up a corridor with 2 walls and a backstop of ballistic fabric. With this out of the way the three instructors then set about going over the curriculum that we would eventually be teaching to the kids. Some of us had a chance to then shoot the pistols using the 4H method, in our makeshift "range". This took us to noon at which point we went back to the main facility for lunch.
An hour later we were back at it allowing everyone else to shoot using the 4H method. A bit later we were then being told that we need to break down the content so that each person (13 in total) has a portion of the content to speak to in front of our "kids" the next morning. The great thing about 4H is that they have an awesome curriculum that is tried and true. Essentially every course lesson has the intent of 30 minutes of learning/teaching followed then doing what you just learned about. So kids aren't bored and are quickly doing what they are here to do instead of being bored having to sit through hours of talking.
So we separated out parts and did a dry run and our instructors were impressed because we were one of the few groups to do this in under 30 minutes, which apparently is rare. This finished the instruction for the day, so we went back to the facility for dinner at 5:30. We then had a couple more hours of instruction on risk assessment and something else (it's a blur at this point) and then they held and auction. Each participant was encouraged to bring an item to auction off to help defray some of the costs of the workshops. All in all there were 97 items I believe. Crosman was AMAZING and provided us with two spring piston rifles and I brought a 40" rifle case that I couldn't use. Once again everything finished at 9pm and we were back at the hotel and sleeping.
The next morning we again met and then went to our facility to run through our instruction again and to take a quick "assessment". We then worked with the coordinator, who taught us what they learned, and we then taught the coordinators what we learned. We cleaned up and went back to the facility for lunch at noon followed by the awarding of certificates. We said our good-byes and headed back to Rochester with a lot of information in our heads.
As my wife, Maureen, headed out the door this morning she surprised me yet again. She thanked me for what I am doing in my sport to help younger people learn proper gun safety and trying to have kids learn this as early as possible.
You see, this weekend is my 4H Shooting Sports training weekend. All in preparation, hopefully, for a successful first ever 2019 4H Field Target season. The ultimate goal is to try and get younger people involved in our sport while teaching them proper handling of rifles and pistols. And if they go on to other shooting sports, well I'm fine with that, but I hope that they will always keep in mind the gun safety that they learned in our program.
Maureen actually teared up as she thanked me. The Florida school shooting that occurred last week is fresh in her mind. And while a gun ultimately killed those children and teachers there was a mentally disturbed individual behind the trigger that was using his weapon for the wrong reason.
Yes, you'll need either an extended driver's license or a passport to get into Canada, but please consider it at some point in your field target career. There are matches in Port Colborne and Ottawa throughout the year. I look forward to going to Port Colborne for their Canadian nationals in July and I'm trying to get up to Ottawa for a match at some point.
The border crossing isn't that bad either. Air rifles above 500 fps are considered firearms in Canada but it's not a big deal. There are forms on-line that you should fill out prior to your trip (HERE) When you get to the border it's really no big deal. When you get to the station explain that you are traveling to a field target match and that you have an air rifle to declare as a Canadian firearm. Have the paperwork ready if they wish to see it. They will then give you a yellow sheet of paper and tell you to park at the center median and wait for an officer to come to you. DO NOT PULL OUT YOUR RIFLES AT THIS TIME. Wait in or close by your car for one of their police to approach you and hand them the yellow paper and your passports/licenses. They may ask you questions about your gun, how fast it shoots, where you are planning on shooting, etc. no big deal just don't mention shrouded barrels or silencers. They will then ask where your air rifles are and may want you to retrieve them or just have you step back while they retrieve them. If you get them practice gun safety and be very aware of where the muzzle is pointed. They will want to verify the serial numbers on the gun(s), they will typically ask you more questions.
They will then tell you to go inside, pay your $25 Canadian, and you are then free to go. They take cash or credit/debit. The registration is good for 60 days so if you come back across within that time frame then you don't need to re-register your air rifles.
You can register as many air rifles as you want under one registration. However, don't push it. If you have more then one shooter in the car they tend to be a bit skeptical when you have multiple shooters and just one person registering them. We did this once and it felt like they were looking into my brain.
Coming back into the USA has been a crap-shoot for me. The first several years it wasn't an issue and I show them the declaration of an air rifle as a firearm and was good. However, in recent years I have been a bit frustrated trying to return to the US. It seems that at the mention of anything related to guns air rifle, pellet gun, etc. gets you to secondary even though air rifles are not regulated in the US. At one point I even had the US guard ask for proof that I purchased it in the US. Hello, here is the paperwork I DECLARING it on my way to Canada. Nope, go to secondary.
However, every time I go to secondary, they are very nice and when they hear your story they laugh, ask for your keys to verify the air rifles, and come back shaking their heads and rolling their eyes. Give you a slip of paper and tell you to have a nice day.
One time Eric and I were coming back to the US with about 10 piston air rifles in the trunk that were all broken. Before that I had tried many different terms without luck. The guard asked me if I had any firearms to declare to which I said no. He asked me to open the trunk and came back very angry demanding to know why I hadn't told him I had firearms in the trunk. "Because they aren't firearms, they're air rifles". I tried to explain that air rifles aren't firearms and that I had answered his question truthfully and wasn't trying to hide anything. He wasn't having any of it and sent us to secondary. I thought the guy at the desk was going to bust a gut laughing when I explained this to him while he rolled his eyes at the idiocy of the border guard sending us to secondary. He asked for my keys, verified my story, and handed us a piece of paper along with a "sorry about that" and said we are free to go.
Summer of 2017 Mark DeBoard, of Crosman, forwarded me an email with an article about 4H Shooting Sports and their 3-position comp. I was amazed that there was this much activity and they didn't mention field target in their program at all. So I did what all desperate people do in this situation....sent an email to 4H begging to add field target to their program.
Imaging my surprise when I then got an email back from Tara, at 4H wanting to get more information from me. We spoke and I think she got the idea that I love field target. She explained that there wasn't currently a 4H Shooting Program in our particular county and that she had a lot of parents contacting her asking when one would be available. She also had the board of directors wanting the same thing. Over the years she just hadn't found the right individuals at the right time with the right location. So we spoke a couple of times and I even met her at the local 4H office. She said that they are planning on starting this field target program in the 2019 fiscal year, which starts October 2019. In the meantime we (Eric, Myself and Tara) are going to training this weekend in Balston Spa, NY to get certified in the 4H training methods for Rifle and Pistol.
I'm hopeful that this will bring young shooters into field target. I also realize that this is a huge undertaking but I think that we have the right people at the right time with the right venue to start something like this.
It's important to shoot accurately, but it's also important to take care of your body while you shoot otherwise your shooting will suffer. What I mean is that as your day progresses you get hungry or have to go to the bathroom, for example... So if you neglect your body you suddenly realize that you are starving and think about when you can eat instead of that 3/8" killzone in the wind at 16 yards that needs your full attention.
I make sure to keep a water or two and some snacks in my bucket seat. The water I might not even touch if the day is cooler, but once it gets hot I need to make sure that I don't get dehydrated. And I may eat before the match at 6:30, but not be done with the match until 1. For many this is your regular times, but for me I tend to eat at 6:30 and then have an early lunch at 10:30 or 11, so by 1pm I am not a pleasant person to be around if I haven't eaten since breakfast. So I make sure that I carry some snacks to tide me over for a later lunch on those days that I shoot. I might even have a bit larger breakfast than usual so it lasts me longer. Consider more proteins in your breakfast that will take longer for your body to burn.
And the bathroom can throw a wrench into the works. As you sit there taking a shot you suddenly realize that you've been holding it in for 3 lanes already. I'm pretty sure that tenses your whole body up...not good.
The point of all this is to pay attention to what is going on around you but to also pay attention to what is going on within you.
This is another one I'm on the fence about. I get that caffeine can increase your heart rate therefore causing more movement when you shoot. But I mean, I really need a nice mocha in the morning to wake me up. If I don't have a coffee in the morning then I may be more likely to make a technical mistake, like not loading a pellet or measuring distance wrong. And by the time you get there, sight-in and actually start shooting just how much is left in you? Not sure.
There are some people that quit caffeine all-together at least two days before a match and others that just don't have caffeine before they shoot.
I guess it all depends on how serious you are and how caffeine affects you. Every shot I take in the basement has caffeine through and through. Maybe it's a matter of making sure you have something to eat and then have your coffee, so it isn't racing through your system all at once?
I'm sure this is an individual thing, but because it is individual that means that you have to be very aware of your body and how it reacts to these types of things.
If you're the addict, then I must be the dealer...
I know, you travel to the match, pays your money, shoots your targets and leave. Please consider letting the match director know what you liked/disliked about the match and, PLEASE, stick around to help tear down or offer to help setup next time. It's typically only 15 minutes or your time. At least let them know that you appreciate the time that they put in to make each match possible.
Match Directors are a rare breed in that they work for no pay under horrible conditions and often purchase equipment and awards with their own money simply for the love of the sport. Their payback is the smile on your face, and that's enough for them.
When I first started I didn't give it much thought. Then, when I became a match director, I realized just how much work goes into a match and the amount of BS that they wade through each year. For a small monthly match there's at least a 3 hours setting up the targets and sight-in, more if you also have pistol matches. There may be more time before the match maintaining and painting the targets. And consider a grand-prix event. Setting up two rifle courses and a pistol course might be 6 hours or more, and then you have to repaint/maintain everything for the next day. And then you have ground maintenance. Some clubs operate under existing gun clubs that will typically maintain the grass lanes. But if there are woods courses then those are probably maintained by the Match Director. As an example, when we first set up our woods course we spent approximately 50 hours getting that course ready for the first grand-prix match. We thought the next year would be simple, just go in and trim the lanes. Unfortunately it was an extremely wet spring and when we finally got back there we couldn't see any lanes, so we went through another 50 hours getting the course ready again and having to move some of the lanes per the gun clubs request. This year we are determined to get back there ASAP and start mowing so we don't have to kill ourselves a third time.
If you have some extra money consider giving a donation to the match director. I just got my first donation last week and let me tell you I was extremely appreciative. And if you can't spare any money consider giving your time and you might even learn something in the process.
I get that you were winning until that target was DQd, but it probably wasn't anything the match director could control so just accept that as part of the game and DO NOT yell at the match director for this turn of events. And even if a target is set up incorrectly, a reducer beyond 45 yards (my mistake last year), or having a kneeling lane on a pistol course (my mistake last year) consider cutting them some slack. They're busting their ass trying to make sure that everything is ready to appear seamless to you. But take a moment to consider all of the time and effort that has gone into that particular course you shot and go up to the match director and their helpers and say "thanks for your had work and dedication". And if they're good lookin', like myself, give 'em a hug!
Yesterday I took a bit of a ride to Cicero, NY, about 90 minutes away, to go see Andre Gross shoot 3-position at the Cicero American Legion. It was a bit of a wake-up call as I was amazed to see a ratio of almost 50/50 boys and girls. The other wake-up call was there were so many of them. They had 20 targets set up and essentially had matches all day. Andre did really well with a final score of 595/600, which means he got all X's except for 5. This would be the equivalent of archery getting all 11's.
So the participation was through the roof and it was all kids in grade schools (through 12th). Larry, the organizer, filled me in on some of the details. The Legion provides all of the equipment for the kids. They have the option of getting their own equipment, but it is never required. The highest ranking kids locally then go to the next level, state I believe. Those winners then go to the national. And if I remember correctly they are then up for a $10K scholarship if they win. 3-Position also ties in with the JROTC of which there are additional incentives, scholarships and such. And I believe the Legion sponsors the kids all the way through to the nationals.
All of this loaded me up with lots to think about since the field target sport is finding it very difficult to bring in new people, let alone younger competitors, and almost unheard of are female competitors.
Maybe we need to figure out some way of working with the Legion to get field target in there or come up with scholarships similar to theirs in order to bring in the younger generation(s). Would it be feasible for a club to sponsor kids in the junior division to go to a state grand-prix. And then sponsor them to the nationals if they place in the grand-prix. And then the nationals might start out with a $1,000 scholarship for the winner of the junior division.
3-Position might have 50,000 + kids participating nationally while field target might have 500 people nationally. Eventually our numbers will dwindle unless we have some channel to bring in new people. And for some reason field target isn't nearly as popular as it is in England for instance -- probably due to powder burners being so highly regulated over there.
I'm not sure about any of you, but after I got into this sport I noticed that there were people who typically finished close to where I did in my class, Hunter PCP. Without them knowing they became my reason to practice -- to see if I could eventually beat them. It's a small thing, but if it gets you to practice then use it to your advantage.
Most of my FT friends know who their competition is. For example Eric and Paul, who shoot hunter piston, typically shoot about the same and they keep a running tab throughout each season -- they both laugh about it and each are encouraging to the other.
While Eric and I are in different classes in Hunter we still are competitive against each other And now that I'm getting into pistol, because of Eric, we'll probably become like he and Paul. Even before the season has started I'm feeding him things to encourage him to practice -- like I can hit 5/8 standing at a 3/8" target in my basement.
Greg, down at BCSA, tends to shoot a bit better than me on a regular basis and so has become the next mark for me. I guess in some ways it's a good reference point for you to see if you're doing better or worse over time.
I've even picked out the next level above Greg -- the Himes brothers. Wow, can they shoot. And they are typically their own competition -- nothing like brothers to pour salt into that wound!
When I first started I thought of it as something neat to do. As time passed, though, it become a bit of an obsession. In some ways it's like golf -- it can be frustrating at times but what keeps you coming back is that amazing shot you made. Same thing applies here -- looking at a target, correctly estimating the distance and wind, holding off the target several inches to account for the wind, and then pulling the trigger and a 1/2 second later seeing the target fall through your scope is such an exhilaration. But on the days that you might not be shooting well it then becomes rewarding in other ways -- poking fun at your friends, cheering them on and just having fun.
Within a single sport you have the challenge of :
Keeping all of these factors in mind as you go through the lanes can be a tough thing to do and it's what keeps me coming back. I might make a technical error, which I can easily rectify by making sure to pay better attention but if I misjudge the wind I can only hope to correct with more experience.
When I first started I might have aimed for 50%, and counted hits. Now, as I've gotten better, I aim for 85-90% and count misses. Once you've started counting your misses you know you've made a good amount of progress.
Up to this point I haven't gotten that elusive "perfect match" -- no misses -- but I continue to try. I have gotten high-score for a match, which I am very proud of, as it means that on that particular day I was able to shoot better than 20 of my peers. I have placed at many local monthly matches but not at the larger matches.
Now I also spend time trying to get other people addicted to this wonderful sport by putting on monthly matches. Hopefully we'll be working with 4-H to integrate field target into their shooting sports curriculum in the near future.
Just make sure that in the end your obsession doesn't take over your life or that your obsession becomes your biggest frustration. Field target should be fun -- if it isn't then you need to figure out what will make it fun.