Ikes in Action: Shooting for Merit Badges
Virginia > In March, the grounds of the Fredericksburg-Rappahannock Chapter erupted with activity. The area underwent a transformation over the winter months to improve drainage and make the pond a better venue for fishing. Now the far western shore was dotted with colorful tents that had been pitched the night before. The banks of the dam and the pier were filled with Boy Scouts trying their hand at landing the bass, trout, and crappie stocked in our pond. Occasionally, a large cheer would rise when someone pulled a fish from the frigid water.
The Scouts were also there to qualify for merit badges in shotgun and rifle shooting. About two weeks earlier, the chapter put out a request for volunteers among our range safety officers, and a dozen answered the call. The boys were all required to attend a training on firearms safety. Muzzle and trigger discipline were the prime directive for the day. Over the course of 5 hours, 38 boys ages 7 to 17 cycled through the shotgun range and the 25-yard small-bore range.
Some of the boys had experience shooting and several were very accomplished marksmen, but many had never shot a firearm before. Those who were new to it approached the shotgun range with anticipation mixed with concern about handling the recoil of a 12-gauge or even a 20-gauge shotgun. One simply said, “Awesome!” It seemed not to matter that he had not hit the clay pigeon.
It was a similar story over on the small-bore range. Scouts with a range of experience and skill used a mix of old-school iron sights, peep sights, and scopes mounted to the .22 rifles. Targets were hung from a target line near the impact berm, about 25 yards from the firing point. Most Scouts had no trouble getting their shots inside the target circle, and several of them shot groups that could be easily covered by a quarter. All seemed to enjoy the experience and were eager to return to the firing point.
When the final cease fire was issued and the firing line was clear and safe, Scouts went down range to collect targets, unbroken clays, and plastic wadding. It was a long day, but the range safety officers seemed satisfied that they had helped the youngsters experience the joy and accomplishment of marksmanship (even at the expense of a few stiff muscles for the adults). Most important, there were no injuries and no inadvertent discharges, so the safety goals were met as well.