Watching young people gain self-empowerment and confidence shooting handguns makes me happy. That serves as the payoff for me and my fellow GSL Defense Training instructors 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. And this proved to be another great year.


Take that, Joe “Buy a shotgun” Biden!

This session marked the 25th year for the event and I’ve been there for about twenty of those as an instructor on the pistol line. Our company, GSL Defense Training has run the line for about six years now.

We made sure these young men and women stayed safe while having fun and learning some life skills. We had 102 young people attended this year and while many years ago, the boys outnumbered the girls almost two to one, this year the girls outnumbered the boys by a fair margin.

As much as I love teaching manly-skills to young men (instilling toxic levels of masculinity), I love empowering women even more.  After all, while God made men and women, Sam Colt made them equal (1 2 Lots more).

I would also bet this is the only National Rifle Association summer gun camp sponsored in part by the City of Chicago’s gun buyback program thanks to Guns Save Life‘s plucky activism.

It’s only proper that we show Chicago’s new Mayor Lori Lightfoot what her tax money is buying. After all, she’s the one who continues buying our mostly non-fuctioning, rust-laden junk for perfectly good cash.

Somehow, I don’t think Lori funds those buyback to pay for big smiles like these.

On kids like these.

We make it fun for participants with lots of shade, fans, music and a great time for all. This year, we had an almost one-to-one instructor to participant ratio so the kids got lots of individual coaching and instruction.

And they did well. After an introduction and dry-firing (above), we had them shoot about 60 to 70 rounds in practice with instructors coaching all the while. Then they shot ten for score.

The top five shooters in each relay then got to shoot their choice of (mostly) center-fire “pistols.”  Oh yes, and a retro “M-16” just for giggles. We’re sure Mayor Lightfoot and her minions would approve.

It was interesting to watch some of the top shooters pondering the choices.


At other times, I’m not sure who was prouder of some of those targets, the kids or the instructors.

And shooting like that certainly gets you into the bonus round.  In this case shooting .357 Magnum loads.

Speaking of giggles, the Kel-Tec PLR-16 “Giggler” returned. The kids so-named the gun because it makes grown men giggle like little schoolgirls when it’s fired.

“Are you sure I can do this?”  Oh yeah.

And her expression after shooting it?

That wasn’t so bad!

Here’s another determined kid shooting a .357 with full-house .357 loads. He’s going to remember this day for the rest of his life.

Other stations at the camp included rifles, black powder, Cowboy Action shooting, air rifle, air pistol, trap, archery, Ruger Steel Challenge, paintball and more.

While not all of these stations had shade, music or “The Giggler”, they all had experienced instructors — sometimes of them Olympic-level, teaching the fundamentals and ensuring everyone’s safety.

Of course, some of those Olympic-level instructors from the Central Illinois Precision Shooters were looking to recruit future shooters. CIPS shooters, under Coach Joe Miller, have done very well at national matches, including Rylie Passmore who won the sub-junior division of the NRA Air Rifle Nationals Standing event this year.

Instead of attending as a camp participant this year, National Champion Rylie worked as the youngest junior staffer ever (at barely 13 years old), teaching her peers how to shoot air rifles at that station.

All in all everyone had a great time.

Guns Save Life donated three Beretta target pistols and two CMP air rifles that Darnall’s awarded to camp attendees (well, mom or dads) using some of Chicago’s money. Other individuals and organizations donated long guns as well, about two dozen in all. Attendees had about a one-in-four chance of going home with a gun.

The camp will happen again next year. The cost is about $125 and includes food, guns, ammo, etc. Participants need to bring a tent, sleeping bag and personal hygiene stuff.  Darnall’s asks participants to leave their electronics at home or with mom and dad. See the Darnall’s website to register.

Here are some additional photos from the pistol line. Pro-gun organizations wishing for higher-resolution images for pro-gun promotion, contact us at TTAG.  We have these and over 2,000 other photos from the event.