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August 4, 2015




This young lady shoots a .357 for the first time. And she loved it!  Read on to see how she did.




Click on any of the photos for higher resolution versions.

by John Boch

On July 23-26, 2015, about 130 young people aged 9-16 participated in the nation’s longest-running (and probably the largest) NRA Youth Shooting Camp in the nation at Darnall’s GunWorks and Ranges in Bloomington, IL.

It was the 22nd year for the event and saw young people participating in most of the major shooting disciplines during the daytime, while camping overnight on the property.

The campers were exposed to shotgun shooting (trap), rimfire rifles, rimfire pistols, black powder, archery, Cowboy Action Shooting, Ruger steel challenge (Cowboy Action Shooting with modern rimfire rifles and without the cowboy hats), air rifles, and more.  Instruction was done by veteran instructors, including Olympic level coaches at some stations.


Guns Save Life was again a major sponsor of the event this year.  Guns Save Life members (including officers, staff and directors) participated as volunteers at the event as well, helping to inculcate the next generation of Americans in the safe use of guns and the excitement of shooting.  It’s all part of our mission to educate!

In addition to Guns Save Life, the Friends of NRA, the McLean County Sportsmen, The Steel Group and a number of individuals contributed funds, product (prize guns, ammo) and much more to the camp.  The Darnall family coordinates the event and local businesses also provide food and logistical support as well.  There’s a lot that goes into feeding and supporting 160+ people over four days and three nights.

Click for super-high resolution.

Click for super-high resolution.

GSL Defense Training provided the instruction at the pistol line and that’s where I spent most of my weekend.


I’ve been a volunteer instructor every year since 1999.  Indeed, I’ve been there since before this year’s campers were even born.

There’s no greater satisfaction than seeing a big smile on a new shooter’s face as they fire their first shots and see success.  I worked under long-time master instructor James C. Hagearty II for many years and about four years ago, after Mr. Hagearty left, GSL Defense Training team took over the pistol line.  In addition to GSL Defense Training staff instructors, we also welcome other top-notch handgun instructors in Central Illinois to help.


We brought fans and music to our station to keep it fun.  Some of the younger kids can be a little nervous about shooting pistols, but we put them in a good mood and make it the most exciting station in the whole camp.



To spice things up a little, we allow the top five shooters from each 12-15 shooter relay to shoot five rounds from their choice of center-fire pistol.  We’ve got a host of handguns, from the 5.56mm “Giggler” to .38s, .357s, 9mms, .45s and others.  An opportunity to shoot “the big guns” is a big hit for the kids.



Remember this girl (from the top photo)?  She was a little nervous about shooting full-power .357s.   But with some coaching…

Five shots with .357 Magnum rounds.  30 feet.


We told her to stop trying to outshoot the instructors.  Imagine what she could do with a little practice.


This young lady decided to try an “old fashioned” .45…  One like her grandfather might have carried in foreign countries fighting to liberate the oppressed.  The surprise of the first shot on her face was replaced with…


“Wow!  I can do this!”


There were plenty of others.




12 Responses to WHAT HAS YOUR GUN RIGHTS GROUP DONE LATELY? Guns Save Life at NRA Youth Shooting Camp

  1. Grant Wilson on August 4, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    Last year and this year i got to shoot one of gunsavelife’s special guns at there station at Darnell’s i shot a 19 11 pistol and a 223. Pistol last year i also won a 10/22 thank you gunsavelife and for what you do for ower gun rights

    • jboch on August 5, 2015 at 8:45 pm

      Congrats Grant.

      I remember the name.

      You’re so very welcome. We work hard to safeguard and defend everyone’s right to self defense.


  2. Sam Whittemore on August 4, 2015 at 2:11 pm

    Nice work, gents (and ladies!).

    Guns Save Life makes us all proud with what you do, day in and day out. You walk the walk.

    Waiting until the grandkids are old enough… They will be going. I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews about the camp and the people who run it.


  3. Indirect Action on August 4, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    Thanks for all you do.

    Kids look like they are loving their time shooting pistols.

    And congrats to Grant!

  4. Christy on August 5, 2015 at 8:29 am

    My oldest daughter has gone to camp for 4 years. She absolutely loves it and wants to become a junior counselor after she’s too old to attend as a camper. Next year my youngest will be able to go. It is a fantastic event to learn about all shooting disciplines. I have had no reservations about leaving my daughter there for 4 days.

  5. SED on August 5, 2015 at 10:39 am

    I would like to thank the wonderful youngsters we got to work with. You restore in me some hope for this country.

  6. Wendala on August 5, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    This is one of John Boch’s favorite weekends of the year. The GSL Defense Training Crew and other GSL members give up their time on a usually very hot weekend. There is great music playing, the kids all told me that the pistol line is their favorite every year. 🙂 The smiles are real and the kids have just as much fun as the instructors. It is so fun to watch an 8 year old take a few shots and then get comfortable and nail them all in the 9 ring. Those smiles are the best. They literally climb over each other trying to find out who has the best score so that they get to shoot one of the big guns.

    It’s also a blast to watch one of the little girls tell an instructor that she WANTS to shoot a .357 Magnum, and then totally nails her 5 shots!

    This is a fabulous camp for kids of all ages. I think Sue Darnall said that about 60% of the Jr. Staffers are kids that have come up through the camp since they were little. And remember, they don’t get paid for this!!!!!!!!!!

    Kudos to all and looking forward to next year!

    • Sam Whittemore on August 5, 2015 at 5:38 pm

      Thanks, Wendala.

      Hope you guys are still there in a few more years…


  7. Dyspeptic Skeptic on August 6, 2015 at 5:55 am

    GSL is always involved in education and training. GSL does more to educate and promote gun rights in a day than some groups do all year.

    We’re all working on the same team though!

  8. Dyspeptic Skeptic on August 6, 2015 at 5:57 am

    Oh yeah, and this work at this youth camp is priceless!

    For many who are gun haters, teaching kids (children!!!) to shoot handguns probably causes them much heartburn!

  9. gil engel on August 9, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    I was so pleased to see my grandkid’s target in the story, but even happier to see the smile on her face. GSL is doing great work for all of us in the shooting community. I look forward to seeing all of you next year.

  10. Lone Ranger on August 10, 2015 at 6:59 pm