I AM someone who chooses the least obvious and generally most
challenging of hobbies, and target shooting has to be the star on
top of the tree when it comes to being misunderstood; for when
people know that you shoot, they sometimes assume that that makes
you a little unsafe. The very opposite is true, and shooters are,
generally, people who realise that with rights come
responsibilities - and these are no more obvious than in the world
If you go to your local gun club, you will not be allowed to
handle a weapon for the first few visits. One of the things that
gun clubs do is to make sure they think you are safe before they
let that happen; and, when it does, the training is all about
safety long before it gets down to the shooting part.
The great thing about the hobby is that it is open to young and
old, male and female, able and disabled, without general advantage.
You don't need to have special clothing or weapons, although you
may soon want your own glove and jacket, if you're like me; and
then you will want a weapon of your own that's specifically set up
for you. When that happens, you can be competitive at club level
for less than £250.
When you shoot competitively, your opponent is primarily
internal - although you do compete with others - because it is all
in the head. The goal is to score a "poss" (100 out of 100), and
this takes consistent breathing, handling, posture, and more
besides. The buzz the first time you get all the rounds into the
little black bits on the paper targets is sublime; and, once you
do, the challenge is to get them nearer to the centre.
Once you have managed it at 25m, the distance changes (50m or
100m), and you go outside (where there's wind, rain, and different
light conditions), or you change position from lying down ("prone")
to kneeling or standing.
Safety and security are of paramount importance, and, should you
take up the hobby, owning your own weapons is something that
requires many checks, and confidence on the part of the gun club,
and the police.
There are many other sorts of shooting where you'll use shotguns
and shoot game or clay pigeons, but, for me, target shooting
provides a great opportunity to get away from the pressures of the
day and get the mind concentrating on something different. The
discipline and joy that it brings, coupled with the fraternity who
do it, makes for a wonderful escape from the daily grind.
So, if you've ever enjoyed trying to win a prize at the shooting
gallery at the funfair, and like the idea of something that
challenges, I suggest that you have a go at target shooting. It can
be an indoor hobby, or out on the ranges firing at distances in
excess of 900m (with full-bore weapons) - the choice is yours.
To find your nearest club visit the National Small-bore Rifle
Association website (www.nsra.co.uk), and click on the "club
finder" link. The NSRA also publishes a magazine for members; but
meeting real shooters and discovering the sport in the flesh is the
best way forward.