NRA Youth Sports Fest offers a little 'cowboy action'

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July 10, 2010
— You’re never too old to dress up like cowboy and plink cans in the backyard with a .22.

Well, technically, the cowboys weren’t shooting cans. But they were earnest about introducing young people to the wide world of recreational shooting sports Saturday at the NRA Youth Sports Fest at the Beloit Rifle Club.

Volunteers from several local gun clubs as well as Green County 4-H worked with 120 youth participants who ranged from kindergarten to high school age.

The clubs have invested in youth-sized guns, bows and other equipment with help from the Friends of the National Rifle Association, said Tom Helbig, event coordinator and owner of Handgun Dynamics.

Saturday’s event included safety training and hands-on shooting in eight events including archery, muzzle-loader, rifle and shotgun.

The plan is to host the event annually, Helbig said.

Some parents sat in rows Saturday behind shooting lines and encouraged their children. Volunteers were enthusiastic about cheering on young shooters.

The Rock River Regulators were all decked out in boots and dusters while they manned the cowboy action shooting tent. “Cowboy action” is a style of marksmanship that involves shooting different types of guns at more than one target, Helbig said.

Helbig himself shoots pistols on a weekly basis. Recreational shooting in a league is a fun hobby that’s no different than being in a bowling league, Helbig said.

To keep places such as the Beloit Rifle Club full of members, it’s important to get kids involved, he said.

“We want to see young people come in and keep this sport going because this is so much fun,” Helbig said.

The other keys to the vitality of the sport are the moms.

That’s where shooters such as Diane Danielson of Waukesha come in. Danielson has worked for many years as an NRA volunteer at womens sporting events. This month, she’s moving to a new job in Virginia to teach on a national level.

Women often participate in training programs to learn self-defense, Danielson said. They stay because it’s fun, she said.

“When dads are bringing kids to target practice, well, they come for a while and then …,” Danielson said. “But when the moms bring them, they get there. Moms and kids are the absolute key.”

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