Featured PRS Kidz Megan Holly May 12, 2017 0 COMMENT The Rebirth of the True American Pastime Baseball is, in almost every way, perfect; nothing beats sitting in your favorite ballpark, watching your favorite team with a hot dog in one hand and an ice-cold beer in the other. Since 1839, nothing has been more symbolic of American culture, right? Before baseball, parents took their children to different types of bonding activities — events that not only taught them accountability and resourcefulness, but also pride, trustworthiness, and responsibility. At as young as 4 years old, fathers took their sons and daughters hunting — and it wasn’t always for sport; it was for survival. Families had to rely on their skills to bring home food to provide enough nourishment for entire winters. Children were, at times, solely responsible for the survival of their loved ones, based on their shooting skills. Just as baseball has gone through changes, so has the art of shooting (albeit one may have more polarizing sides than the other). The reactions to putting a firearm in the hands of a child have become less of expectation and more of shock and fear. The discipline and focus that’s required with marksmanship, combined with the potential lethality, not only causes a hyper-ulcer in the stomachs of anti-2A supporters, but it’s also rewritten the path of availability for youth to partake in this cultural touchstone. Realizing the vacancy in proper and available firearms training for youth, Precision Rifle Series, in partnership with C&H Precision Weapons and PRIME Ammo, launched PRS Kidz — a program focused on teaching firearms safety to children and their parents, all while providing young shooters with a fun experience in a safe and family-friendly environment. With courses being held in Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee, the program, still in its infancy, has hosted over 100 students, ranging from 5 to 17 years old. We were invited to attend their most recent event at the K&M Precision Rifle Training Shooting Complex, in Finger, Tennessee, where the response was so strong that separate morning and afternoon sessions needed to be scheduled. Custom 22 rifle stocks used during the safety briefings before the students took to live fire on the range. The day began at 8:30 with vehicles full of parents and their children making their way up the gravel drive to K&M. Once everyone arrived, Shannon Kay, owner of K&M, welcomed the group of 13 students and their parents, handing the proverbial mic over to lead PRS Kidz instructor and owner of C&H Precision Weapons, Buck Holly. With their parents beside them, every participant was taught the principles of firearms safety and how to handle and appreciate their rifles in a complete and enjoyable format. During this portion of the course, the parents were also the students, as they’re critical to continuing the learning process of firearms safety with their children. Impressing the danger involved in these activities gets children’s attention, as it would someone of any age. The goal is to see the children become confident not cocky, respectful not fearful. “I want to be confident that if my children were to come across a firearm at a friend’s house someday, my child would know what to do, or, better yet, what not to do in that situation,” said one of the mothers whose 7-year-old daughter participated in the class. Holly conducting the safety briefing with some of the students of the PRS Kidz clinic. Each student was required to show competency with the practice rifles before being cleared to shoot on the range. The program ensures that the safety component of the class is ingrained into every participant. Establishing this is integral to how every shooter, of all ages, handles a firearm — enforcing the importance of these components, without scaring the kids away, proved to be one of the most important aspects of the day. After each student competently displayed their understanding of the safety rules and principles of firearms, Holly introduced them to their courses of fire. Five shooting stations — bench rest, prone, tri-pod, barricade, and port hole — simulated a true PRS-style match, each with a shooting coach to aid the shooters on position, aim, and calling shots. Parents are invited to participate from a safe distance, as they’re encouraged to allow the coaches to instruct their child when he or she is on the shooting line. While nothing can truly rival the fortitude and nightmare-inducing terror of a “Dance Mom,” “Range Dads” can be just as obnoxious and distracting when it comes to the success of their child on the range. Accomplished hunters, former military or law enforcement, or just proud parents are among the most common offenders when it comes to self-inflicted pressure in their child’s ability to shoot. The assumption that shooting capability is a genetic trait, and the frustration that a child isn’t ringing steel consistently at 100 yards by age 7, isn’t an uncommon circumstance. Holly walked each of the students through different situations of aiming and firearms safety. The students demonstrated knowing their intended target and what’s beyond it. When it comes time to shoot, the students are introduced to .22-caliber rifles. These are the most practical for teaching younger students due to their lack of recoil, practicality, and attainability for anyone looking to continue training after the course. The program’s sponsors provided every piece of equipment used during the PRS Kidz clinic. Savage Arms donated five of their brand-new A22s with Bushnell RimFire scopes and magazines, and PRIME ammo sent enough ammunition for each student to run through 150-plus rounds each. On top of that, tuition for the course was free for all students. “PRS Kidz is a vital part of the Precision Rifle Series Organization for three very important reasons,” says Shawn Wiseman, PRS Director. “First, it provides high-quality firearms education and instruction to our young shooters, which allows them to operate their weapons safely, confidently, and effectively. “The program also instills the values of integrity and sportsmanship in our youth that’s lacking in many other competitive sports. Finally, we believe that bringing young shooters into our sport will help preserve our gun rights in this country. They will be the future vanguard of the Second Amendment, more willing to fight for their rights because of their passion for the shooting sports.” As the familiar ring of steel began to fill the air from students and each position, we couldn’t help but take notice of one shooter in particular. He listened to the direction of each of his coaches, positioned himself time and again, leaned in to find the target through his scope, and gently squeezed the trigger. Shot after shot, he made impact on the four targets set at his station, ranging from 50 to 100 yards. He was focused, excited, and proud with each call of “Impact!” that sounded from the coach. He was also 5 years old. “We’ve tried everything for Landan,” says the young boy’s mother. “He just couldn’t get the hang of soccer or baseball. The things every other kid his age has been getting into.” “You put a rifle in his hands though,” added his father, “and he’s a totally different kid. He absolutely loves it. We just have a hard time finding a range nearby where we can take him. Soccer fields or baseball diamonds, sure. But a range? Not within 70 miles from our home!” Holly walks each student through the courses of fire before they take their shooting positions. Targets were identified at each shooting position, along with their rifle and ammo. Location of ranges became the topic of conversation for many of the parents. While some had the luxury of hosting partial ranges on their own property, many voiced their concern with the lack of available properties within a reasonable proximity — or even more so, watching the number of ranges closing down thanks to liabilities, public opinion, or local politics. “We live close to the local law enforcement range, and because I’m friends with them, I have access,” said one father. “Unfortunately, I am only allowed to spend time on the range. My daughter, who loves to shoot, isn’t permitted on the premises because of her young age.” Another added, “One of the reasons we chose to come to this clinic was to ensure that our 8-year-old was able to spend quality time on the range without being bullied out of a position by adults with ‘real’ guns.” Finishing the day with a score of 47/50 points, Landan tied for First in the mock PRS match at the conclusion of the class. Through his coke-bottle glasses, the undeniable pride and joy on his face was something that’ll never be forgotten. Participants ranged from 5 to 17 years old. Each shooting position was equipped with a rifle and a shooting coach who assisted each participant in finding their target and making impact. While the majority of the participants shared Landan’s reaction to time spent on the range, the instructors were also presented with students who openly and admittedly feared the firearms. Today’s popular culture has provided enough content to scare anyone away from firearms, and PRS Kidz takes it as a personal mission to teach the proper handling, control, and expectation when the trigger’s pulled. Lilah, a 6-year-old whose father purchased a .22 for a Christmas present in hopes that they could spend quality time together, was one of the toughest to get on the line. Her expectation of sound, recoil, and pain virtually paralyzed her within a 3-foot radius of the rifles. Unfortunately, this is something we see more often than we should. Between the over-dramatization of cartoons, television and movies, scare tactics of anti-firearms groups, and home videos of parents who think it’s funny to put a 12-gauge in the hands of a 10-year-old only to watch him fly backward, it’s no surprise that kids and novice shooters alike are apprehensive to shoot. After watching the entire class run through each course of fire twice, Lilah made a deal with her dad — five shots, that’s all she needed to take. With some coaching from Holly, Lilah was able to find her target and ring three out of the five shots with the accuracy of a trained professional. Confident and surprised, she lifted her head to show an ear-to-ear grin. “Teaching the next generation the importance of firearms goes far beyond simply hitting a target at 100 yards,” says Holly. “It sends the message, ‘I trust your ability to listen and learn.’ This instant feeling of belief provides the child with a sense of pride and duty to do right by that person, leading them to come away from a properly conducted day at the range feeling more empowered and respectful of rules.” The National Rifle Association and other industry-sponsored organizations pour tens of millions of dollars into youth shooting programs across the country. But the question remains whether children, even under the supervision of a trained professional, can be trusted with a potentially lethal tool. K&M Owner, Shannon Kay (bottom right), watches as his youngest son takes to the 100-yard target. One father, an avid hunter who brought his 12-year-old daughter to the morning session, said that he encouraged all of his children to shoot their first firearms when they were in kindergarten. “I believe that as long as children are properly trained, they won’t be the ones to go looking for them with a blind curiosity.” Other parents mimicked this sentiment as one of the primary reasons for partaking in the course. Many anti-firearms groups claim firearms safety to be one of their biggest platforms even as they work to undermine basic 2A rights; programs like PRS Kidz can help offset this by instilling fundamental components of firearms training at the most impressionable ages. While the competitive shooting arena has skyrocketed in recent years, from 3-Gun-Nation to USPSA, few programs are geared specifically for the youth demographic. By offering the students who come through the program a chance to learn and apply their knowledge in a more practical application, PRS Kidz provides the opportunity for each participant to test their skills and leave with a sense of accomplishment, wanting to return and continue in the sport. “In just a short period of time there has been a sharp decline in the number of U.S. households owning guns,” says Jim O’Shaughnessy, CEO of PRIME Ammo. “According to an ongoing New York Times poll, in 1994, 53 percent of households owned a gun. Today, just 36 percent own a firearm and gun ownership is still declining. PRIME is committed to providing ammunition and support to organizations such as the Precision Rifle Series and PRS Kidz to efficiently introduce responsible, safe, and fun firearm activities to today’s youth.” Many of the students who attended the clinic come from families who are well tuned in with the firearms industry. Whether by owning their own business or competing as a family, there was no shortage of supporters of the sport. This led me to wonder, are shooting sports a subculture that time forgot? The one that generations of families continue to do, but never speak about? Participants, parents, sponsors, staff, and volunteers from the first session of the PRS Kidz Clinic at K&M Precision Rifle Training. Brian Allen, Precision Rifle Instructor at K&M said, “My father instilled in me the importance of safety and the enjoyment firearms can provide; my wife and I have done the same with our children, who now have kids of their own — even competing with them at PRS Matches. Seeing our oldest son help instruct at the PRS Kidz clinics is beyond rewarding.” Family friendly, safety-conscious, and teaches responsibility, trust, and respect in a fun and rewarding setting. While our fathers’ fathers’ fathers’ (well, you get the gist) may not have had to navigate the politics or haters that we encounter today, the foundation of firearms hasn’t waivered. With more emphasis on the safe and proper handlings of firearms, programs like PRS Kidz are becoming the trusted source for this curriculum for youth shooters. As the interest in shooting sports continues to grow in the younger demographics, the sanctity of this once favorite activity reaffirms its place in our culture. Spread the word and pay it forward. Bring others into the fold. Let’s restore the title of Greatest American Pastime to its original and true place. About the Author Megan Holly is an anomaly, especially when it comes to her knowledge on guns, gear, and other oddities in the industry. She’s a certified NRA pistol instructor, an entrepreneur, outdoor fanatic, and professional debater to an overly confident toddler. In short, she can be a handful of hot coals or jelly beans. You pick your poison.