Crosman has long been the airgun of choice for parents when it comes to introducing kids to shooting. Rick McAllister is a competitive field target shooter and fan of Crosman and he puts both to work to introduce kids to shooting.

“West Virginia has a structured, 10-hour Hunter Safety and Awareness Program for kids 12 years and older purchasing their first hunting license. But there are many kids who are ready to learn to shoot that are under 12 and there are available airguns that are small, light and just right for youth. We sought to address this ‘gap’ between the state’s structured safety program and a youngster’s first shooting experience,” explained McAllister, an avid field target competitor and the man behind First Shots.

Mark DeBoard, prostaff and manager of Crosman’s Shooting Services, met Rick a few years ago at an event and learned about the First Shots program. “He’s a good guy and has introduced thousands of youngsters to field target shooting at various events,” said DeBoard. Recently Rick provided photos of his zombie target idea, “they just have to hit the target anywhere and it will fall down, which is a great confidence booster,” said McAllister.

Rick recently gave Croswords the low-down on how First Shots works.

Typically what I set up for the kids is similar to a common field target lane that you might see at a match, except that I up the number of targets to 5 for that lane.  Targets are always around 23 to 25 yards and are full-sized kill-zone targets…1.25” – 1.5”  I also set up another lane for the very small kids that includes a bank of 5 knock-over target…”hit anywhere – fall over targets.”   This helps the littlest of kids be successful when they can hit the target and see it fall over, just like the big kids do.  These targets are set out at around 15 yards.

All targets are common animal field target-style targets with reset strings.

The shooting box is a chair for the kids (my chair right next to that) and a tripod / adjustable gun rest under a canopy or shooting range cover.  The kids form an “excited” line behind the kid’s chair and wait their turn.  I take each child through one at a time, and usually give them from 5 to 7 shots each. 

My coaching of them begins as soon as they sit down and lasts only as long as it takes them to shoot the 5 to 7 shots they get…so you end up covering things really fast…and looking at their eyes from the side to make sure you are reaching them: 

1.)    What their skill level is…have they ever shot before, or is this first time.
2.)    How to hold the gun…be familiar with it. No sound and a little jump.
3.)    How to acquire the sight picture through the scope.
4.)    Where the trigger is…to keep their finger straight and the finger pad on the trigger guard until they are ready to shoot.
5.)    How the gun is loaded.
6.)    How to hold it steady.
7.)    How to engage the trigger…(I must say “sneak up on it” 1000 times a day!)
8.)    How to not shoot until they know their target.
9.)    How to hold onto the gun after each shot…and follow through (you would not believe the number of kids that completely let go of the gun as soon as the shot sounds off!!)
10.) How to visibly keep their finger off the trigger between shots.

I usually end up having one hand very close to the gun, especially if they are young or inexperienced.  I have caught the gun many many times, and have never had one hit the ground.  I usually don’t take my eyes off the child / shooter the entire time they are sitting next to me.

The airguns I have used have been 100% Crosman since the first introduction of the AS2250XT’s.  Those were the first consistent platform we had that provided a bulk-fill option and lots of consistent shots.  Prior to that we used a variety of pre-charged or spring type airguns.  The last two years I have used two slightly modified Marauder Pistols in carbine form, and connected directly to a smaller HP tank.  These have both provided the best service of any airguns I have ever used and the accuracy is good enough that the kids hit what they are aiming at…and this is infinitely important.   Both guns are scoped as well.

I do also keep a couple of the Marauder long guns (.22 and .25) on hand, for show and to use if necessary.  I need to add the new 1720 and a .177 Marauder long gun and I will be set.  

The three (3) events that I am now attending annually are:
1.)    Ruffed Grouse Society Sporting Clays and Youth Shoot – May, year 2
2.)    Logan County Hunting & Fishing Expo – July, year 2
3.)    West Virginia National Hunting & Fishing Days – September, year 15

Events #2 and #3 get state-wide promotion across all of West Virginia…with the first being a County-sponsored event, and #3 being state-sponsored (Dept. of Natural Resources.)

Event #1 above is a single day local event and I have usually had between 20 and 50 kids.  It’s a relaxing environment and day.

Events #2 and #3 above are over a Saturday and Sunday, with Friday being the set-up day and require 3 to 5 hrs of travel one way.  Both begin at 9am and usually end around 4 to 5pm.  Over both days and if the weather is just decent, I typically have between 150 and 200 kids still down and shoot…though some of those are repeat shooters…they get up from the chair and get right back in line.  So, over a weekend I could have as many as 300 to 400 shooters come through my range.

Both events #2 and #3 include a Youth Challenge, whereby kids sign up and compete for prizes across a series of outdoor, shooting, and fishing events held over the entire event.  For example, when they come through my station, I have to sign a card to validate that they shot at my station before they moved on.

The flow of shooters is constant at both events…all day long.  I normally don’t get a break or take a break throughout the day unless I have to.  There just isn’t time.  So its really busy…I will grab a drink when I can, but eating or the restroom is not usually possible.  If something happens that I do get a break (like to fix a target because the string was shot off) I take that opportunity to repaint kill zones with florescent orange paint.

I have never received anything but praise from parents and other on-lookers.  I am patient with each child and make sure they have every chance to successfully knock down a target or two.  I am not in a hurry…each child is important and each one is like the only one I will see the entire day.  Its really hard work sometimes, but if it positive for the child and it’s an experience that they will always remember fondly, then it’s not hard work after all.

I should probably point out that I am usually by myself for all of this too…set-up, two-days of shooting, and the packing up of everything.  If I have the time, I burn vacation days on both Friday and the Monday following the weekend event, just so that I can prepare, and then unpack and get the guns all cleaned up put away.

When Rick is not knocking down field targets or teaching kids the basics of shooting, he’s with Ginny.