How to Get Your Child (or Yourself) into Olympic Rifle Shooting, Part 2: Equipment and Ranges
In a previous post I introduced Tom Pike, a coach at the junior club where I learned to shoot, and the father of one of my teammates growing up. Tom has coached many athletes over the years who have gone on to accomplish amazing things, including shooting for team USA in the Olympics and even winning the first gold medal of the 2016 Olympic Games. Tom is a veritable font of great advice and information to share about how to get started in Olympic-style rifle shooting. I wrote previously about the importance of finding a good club with great coaches, and Tom emphasized the importance of shooting matches to become comfortable with competition. The philosophy of the NOVA Sharpshooters is threefold:
- "Shoot as many matches as you can."
- "Be safe and have fun."
- "Shut up and shoot." (This one might be my favorite.)
Now I'd like to share more about the equipment needed to get started in competitive shooting, and in the following post there will be more information on getting into competitions.
Q: What equipment do the NOVA sharpshooters share with new members (rifles - what type, how many do you have)? What might you consider baseline equipment for someone to get started?
A: We have an assortment of air rifles, both sporter and precision. (Blogger's note: sporter is a more basic style of air rifle competition, which you can read more about here. Precision air rifle is equivalent to Olympic style air rifle.) The club provides Daisy 888, Crossman Challenger, Walther LG300 Jr, FWB P70, FWB P700 for use by members. We have about a dozen precision rifles, and at least that many sporter rifles. We also have three air pistols for those who want to give it a try. (Blogger's note: Ask around at local clubs to see if they have rifles you or your child could try, before you buy. This sport can get pricey, so borrowing gear to get started can help get your or your child's shooting career going without dropping a lot of coin.)
The minimum equipment for precision competition would be a rifle, jacket, sling, glove, off hand stand, and spotting scope. For 3-position air rifle, which is what the Potomac High School Rifle League and countless other junior teams shoot, they would also need a prone mat and kneeling roll. We have all the other equipment needed, jackets, pants, spotting scopes, prone mats, kneeling rolls, slings, gloves, offhand stands, you name it.
Q: The new NOVA Sharpshooters range looks awesome. It's come a long way from when I shot there (circa 2001 - 2007) How has it been to finally use it, especially with all the years you spent in the “old” range?
A: This new range is amazing. First off, it can fit more people! It used to be a three bay tractor shed when you shot there. We fundraised and added a 50 x 100 foot addition on the back. This allowed us to reorient the range to expand from seven firing points up to 25. Now there’s a bathroom (blogger's note: Indoor plumbing?! Back in my day there was an outhouse in the dark. For real.). The firing points are wide and there is plenty of room for observers and gear.
One of my favorite parts of the new range design is that it is ADA compliant. This allows us to host a lot of wounded warriors shoots from local military hospitals. Those are typically run during the day as a volunteer effort (by former coaches of mine.) We just received a $25,000 grant from the US Paralympic committee to buy equipment, so we are looking forward to expanding our adaptive event offerings. (Paralympic Shooting in the US is growing - and McKenna Dahl just won a bronze medal this summer at the Paralympic Games! I'm excited to see how the NOVA Sharpshooters will help grow the sport further.)
Last year the range hosted the World Police and Fire Games' air rifle matches, and we've hosted the NRA 3P Air Gun national championships. Our goal with this range is to make it a premiere range facility rivaled only by CMP facilities and USA Shooting airgun facilities.
To do this, we kicked off a fundraising effort to purchase electronic targets (contact Josie McCarty if you want to help by donating or fundraising! I did and I'm proud of the fact that when they get electronic targets I will have contributed). This is going to set us up to be a world class facility. We also want to build a separate indoor smallbore range. There are very few ranges in the US that offer the space and quality of our range, and that would just get better with smallbore.
Overall, we just want to grow the sport.
Amen, Tom! Thanks to you and the whole coaching staff.
If you want to know more about the precision air gun shooting sports, I recommend checking out the NRA, CMP, and USA Shooting. Find a club nearby and get in contact with them. Even if they don't offer a competitive shooting program, they might know of which clubs nearby do offer this shooting sport. As always, reach out to me if you have any questions!