The smiles keep me coming back to help at America's longest-running NRA Youth Shooting Camp in Bloomington, Ilinois. Darnall's GunWorks and Ranges hosts the kids each year for a four-day, three night gun camp on their property. This year marks the 24th year for the event.
It's also probably the only National Rifle Association summer camp sponsored in part by the City of Chicago's gun buyback program. We know Mayor Rahm Emanuel will sleep better knowing that Chicago taxpayer money helped fund this worthwhile program to introduce young people to the fun and excitement of shooting.
The facility's owners, Ron and Sue Darnall, shut down the place to paying customers to host the camp. It stands as yet another concrete example of their dedication to America's longstanding gun culture. Award-winning support, too. Sue, pictured above, received the Marion Hammer Women of Distinction Award in 2007 for her work promoting freedom.
Both of them personify the gun culture that Michael Bloomberg, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi would dearly love to extinguish in this country.
In total, about 100 young people aged 8-16 enjoyed trigger time all day Friday. This isn't 3-gun or high-speed, low-drag operations. The camp stresses introducing the fundamental shooting skills to these kids, along with a heaping helping of fun. Oh yes, and plenty of firearm safety, too. Lots of emphasis on firearm safety.
What's more, Saturday and Sunday hold a whole lot more shooting in still more shooting disciplines. The first full day's shooting stations included trap, black powder, Ruger Steel Challenge and air pistol.
The camp continues Saturday and Sunday. For the last few years, my fellow GSL Defense Training instructors and I supervise the pistol shooting station. We make it fun for participants with lots of shade, fans, music and a great time for all.
At the same time, we turn up the cool factor to 11 by letting the top shooters in each relay shoot some neat center-fire “pistols.” This year, those pistols will include a couple of SIG-braced "pistols," a braced CZ Scorpion and more.
Years ago, the kids nicknamed the Kel-Tec PLR-16 pistol “The Giggler” because it makes grown men giggle when fired. In addition, we make available more traditional handguns: 1911s, Beretta 92’s, S&W .357 Magnums, GLOCKS and more.
For young people, shooting these center-fire handguns for the first time brings big smiles to faces. Even better, it inspires them to take the marksmanship element of shooting the pistols seriously.
At other stations, they'll learn about and shoot rifles, Cowboy Action, air rifles and archery.
I have participated at the camp for almost twenty years now. Today, I see a second generation of young people coming through. It's something when a parent comes up to you to tell you how they remember you helping them years ago when they attended camp as a kid.
More coming tomorrow or Wednesday.