ELEANOR — Amariana Burrow remembers exactly what kindled her interest in rifle.
“I went to the [Putnam County Gun Club’s] youth day,” said the 13-year-old. “I got to shoot a .22 there, and I liked it.”
Fast forward to today. Burrow became a member of the gun club’s Junior Smallbore Team, and will soon give competitive rifle a shot.
Youngsters in the Huntington-Charleston area will soon get a chance to do what she did — participate in a public event and learn how to shoot. On June 1 and 2, the team will hold its annual Junior Smallbore Rifle Camp at the club’s range near Eleanor.
The two-day camp, open to boys and girls age 10-20, is designed to introduce young people to firearm safety and the basics of precision smallbore (.22 caliber) target shooting. Bill Shank, the camp’s director, said there’s also something unique about the event: It’s free.
“We provide all the equipment, all the ammunition, lunch each day, and there is no charge for any of it,” he continued.
The camp begins each day with registration at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m.
“We start with a safety briefing, and then we start the kids shooting” Shank said. “We try to shoot five or six paper targets on Saturday, and then on Sunday we start off with two more paper targets.
“After that, we put out swinging targets, metal plates and clay pigeons, and the rest of the day is spent having fun.”
Shank said anyone interested in learning more about the camp should call him at 304-539-2944. Pre-registration is important, because as many as 45 youngsters have been known to attend. All youngsters who attend must be accompanied by an adult.
Campers who wish to learn the finer points of precision shooting can join the smallbore team. That’s what Burrow did. Her experience at the youth-day event started her thinking about joining the team. Almost a year later, she did.
Like all the beginners, she shot from the prone position, the most stable position for shooting, with her rifle supported by sandbags. Eventually she moved off the sandbags, donned a shooting jacket and glove, and started shooting competition-style.
On June 8, she’ll get her first taste of officially sanctioned 50-yard prone competition. That’s fine with Burrow, who has enjoyed competing as a cheerleader, a basketball player and as a member of the Winfield Middle School Archery in the Schools team.
“I’m a little nervous, but I’m very excited to get started in rifle competition,” she said.
Burrow said she’s had to adjust to the team’s ambitious practice schedule, and to the discomfort of the heavy canvas shooting jacket.
“It’s much different from what I thought it was going to be,” she said. “There’s more to it than meets the eye. But I like it because there’s a lot of nice people. And my parents are excited that I’m doing something I really enjoy and am dedicated to.”