In order to keep airgunning alive, we need to have new folks coming into the sport. You might think this would be easy, but it’s not, as it’s getting harder to find places for people to go shoot. However, it’s not impossible, and as someone who has done it in the past, I’m pleased to share some tips with you on how to get your own airgun club off the ground.
If you are like most airgunners, you have a passion for shooting sports and have found that airguns allow you to get in trigger time when it’s simply not practical to shoot traditional firearms. Once you get the airgun bug, all you want to do is share it with others. This is a great starting point, but how do you get others to share your passion? It will take time, but consistency is the key.
It All Starts with One
A shooting range is a great place to meet other shooters. If you have one near you, start going regularly and just engage with other shooters. Take some of your airguns with you and let them get in some trigger time. Once you get the first person hooked, you’ll be on your way.
If you don’t have a range, try reaching out to folks in your area over social media. The biggest challenge you may find is locating a place where it’s safe and legal to shoot. It may be possible to set up something on your own property, provided it’s appropriate. If you invite folks you don’t know, you’ll want to get a basic “hold harmless” agreement, just to be safe and protect yourself.
Drawing in More Folks
Once you have the start of a group and a location, it’s time to start putting together regular events. I started with monthly events at our local gun club. It was slow going, but we started getting regular groups of shooters at each event over time.
One way we brought in new shooters was to create flyers and post them at locations like gun shops or any community bulletin boards we could find. We’d offer folks a free morning of shooting airguns where they could come and try things out. It really worked well, and we found that folks wanted to bring in younger shooters too. Within a few months, we had a consistent number of folks showing up for each shoot, so much so that we ended up recruiting regulars to help set up, takedown, and monitor safety on the range.
Keep it Safe
Having a range safety monitor who is clearly designated as such, will help everyone have an enjoyable and safe time shooting. Keep in mind safety gear such as safety glasses will need to be provided for all shooters. Clear instructions on gun safety should be explained to all attendees. Obedience to the safety monitor is essential, and make sure everyone signs a waiver every time they visit your shooting range.
Keeping it Going
It’s a lot of fun when you get together with a group of like-minded folks. The key is learning how to keep them coming back for each event. Here are some of the activities we found to be the most popular.
Open Fun Shoots – We’ve talked about this already, but folks really enjoyed being able to come out and shoot all kinds and calibers of airguns. We even connected with some vendors that loaned us a sampling of their big bore airguns before hunting season. It was the first time many of us had any exposure to big bore airgunning, and some of us got really hooked. If you get a large enough group showing up regularly, it’s ok to let local vendors and manufacturers know. You may find them willing to loan out products so people can get in some trigger time on airguns they’d otherwise never get the opportunity to shoot.
CO2 Field Target – Field target is a great sport, but one that’s often ruled by who has the most to spend on their airgun equipment. To keep things fun and easy for newcomers to enjoy, we set up a CO2 Field Target League (called the “Fusion League”) where we used only the Umarex Fusion and red dot scopes. We set simple knockdown targets from 5 yards out to 35 yards. Not only was this a lot of fun, but it was very affordable and accessible. Because everyone was shooting the same gear, it was always more about the shooter than how much they could spend on the equipment.
25 Meter Benchrest – The most popular event with our older members was the 25-meter benchrest. We used industry standard targets, and shot airguns in .177 and .22 caliber. We had multiple classes so anyone with an airgun could compete and have fun. We had a springer class for spring and gas ram powered airguns, a 20-foot-pound and under class for middle-of-the-road shooters, and an “anything goes” class for those that just wanted to show off.
The most important point to remember is to keep it about having fun. The minute it gets too competitive, about money, or club politics, things can go sideways in a hurry. So be sure to keep things lighthearted and fun. It will take time, but it only takes a couple of dedicated folks to get a vibrant airgun club off the ground. So if you love the sport and want to get more people involved, get out there and make it happen!