Today’s digitally saturated, indoor-focused culture encourages kids to simulate playing tennis, football or baseball in front of the TV instead of grabbing a ball, some friends and playing the game outside or as part of a club or school team. Computer-simulated competition as a replacement for the real thing reduces physical fitness, stunts socialization skills, trivializes winning or losing and, worst of all, removes the parents from those interactions. However, a growing number of parents are now finding that the shooting sports are an excellent way to get kids outside and focus them on safety, discipline and competition with a common, shared interest. A great example of this was seen at the 2012 Pro-Am match when Eric Humphries and his 13-year-old son, Noah, competed in Florida with their friends, 14-year-old Kyle Holsclaw Jr. and his father, Kyle Sr.

Eric, who has supported his son in many other team sports, was very specific as to why he enjoys sharing the shooting sports with his son. He said, “It’s great to be able to bring your son out and teach him, watch his capabilities explode, and get better with each day on the range and every competition we shoot. I look forward to that day when he gets a smile on his face and says, ‘I beat you Dad!’”

Kyle Holsclaw Sr. also likes to spend time with his son shooting. “You spend more time with them than you normally would because with most team sports, you turn him over to the coach and don’t get a chance to engage with him—you just sit in the stands. With shooting, I get to be there with him, so I get to watch his skills improve and his confidence increase as we learn side by side.” However, it can be challenging for parents looking for support to mentor and teach their kids about hunting, firearms safety and even shooting sports. So what can you do?

Starting Young

There are now many national, state and local youth-related mentoring, educational and competitive events and programs designed to help kids understand the sporting use of firearms. These programs expose kids and their parents to the experience of a family-centered sport designed to enhance discipline, teamwork and individual excellence. How can shooting be family-centered? A four-year GLOCK shooter and winner in various GLOCK Sports Shooting Foundation (GSSF) matches, 13-year-old Brittany Alexander said, “I was drawn into shooting by my father. When he would go to indoor ranges for practice and fun, I always went along. Shooting came naturally and it was almost like a surprise talent.”

Unlike many sports, where parents sit on the sidelines and just watch, shooting sports let children learn and compete side-by-side with their parents and siblings. Team GLOCK’s Champion shooter, 17-year-old Tori Nonaka, was introduced to the shooting sports at the age of three, when Tori’s father began bringing Tori to the range. She began her competitive shooting career at age 12, receiving instruction from some of the best action shooters in the world. She joined the NRA when she was in high school with money she earned working part-time jobs—all the while excelling academically. She maintains a 3.8 GPA.

Tori currently competes in six different handgun sports—USPSA, IPSC, IDPA, Steel Challenge, NRA Action Pistol and GSSF—with wins at the state, regional and national level. Her biggest accomplishment was when she took the silver medal in the Ladies Standard division and was part of the gold medal U.S. National Ladies Standard team at the IPSC World Shoot in Greece. When asked why she prefers GLOCK pistols, Tori answered, “GLOCK is a very comfortable pistol for me to shoot. It points naturally and fits really well in my hand. I think this helped me to enjoy the sport more because it was a natural fit for me, even at a young age.”

Tori added, “GLOCKs are safe, simple, and you don’t have to spend your time worrying about jams or malfunctions. I can focus entirely on my performance and trying to push the pistol to its limits. It has always kept up with anything I ask it to do!”

National, State & Local

There are many national organizations like the Boy Scouts of America that have effective programs for teaching young people about firearms using small units led by volunteers and sponsored by local churches, civic and veterans groups and schools. The overarching organization that supports a variety of local groups is the National Rifle Association, which provides resources, programs and training to assist several youth organizations—not just Boy Scout troops—including Royal Ranger outposts, American Legion posts, JROTC units, 4-H clubs, FFA chapters, commercial summer camps and U.S. Jaycee chapters. The NRA also offers their Collegiate Shooting Programs, which include firearm training and competition for both teams and individual shooters.

Another youth-focused organization is the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), a U.S. government-chartered program that promotes firearms safety training and rifle practice for all qualified U.S. citizens with special emphasis on younger shooters. Each summer the Civilian Marksmanship Program sponsors a popular series of junior camps and clinics to teach intermediate and advanced marksmanship skills to junior shooters and their adult leaders.

Almost every state has youth-based shooting sports organizations like the Texas 4-H organization, which, with over 1 million young participants, has its Shooting Sports Project, a comprehensive introduction to shooting sports safety and the fundamentals of archery, pistols, rifles, shotguns, muzzleloading and hunting. Arizona’s Wickenburg High School Junior High Power Rifle team produces excellent young shooters, as noted by their second place finish at Camp Perry a few years ago. Almost a dozen Pennsylvania high school shooting teams have introduced hundreds of young shooters to firearm safety and competitive shooting over the past few years.

Georgia’s Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office has a Junior Law Enforcement Academy summer program where middle school students learn about law enforcement, police procedures and firearms. Sponsored by local businesses, the students use airsoft-type firearms to learn operation, safety and basic marksmanship under the supervision and instruction of Forsyth County deputies.

On Target with GSSF

One of the most focused and successful national organizations dedicated to the advancement of shooting sports for experienced and new shooters of every age is the GLOCK Sport Shooting Foundation. The GSSF, now affiliated with the Civilian Marksmanship Program, is a safe, fun, youth-friendly organization devoted to the responsible use of GLOCK firearms. They actively encourage family participation in the shooting sports. The GSSF organizes hundreds of indoor and outdoor competitions across the U.S. every year, including last year’s 18th Annual GSSF competition, the most attended action shooting competition ever held. Each event is designed to provide opportunities for shooters of all ages, skill levels and experience to compete with their chosen GLOCK in consistent but challenging courses of fire that include “Five to GLOCK”, “GLOCK ‘M” and “GLOCK the Plates.” As a plus, GSSF matches do not require extensive training and expensive gear often needed to be competitive in events sponsored by other organizations.

I have yet to meet a non-shooter who did not have an identical epiphany the first time on the pistol or rifle range. Every one walked away amazed at how much they really enjoyed the experience! First-time shooter and 14-year-old John Murray found GLOCK pistols “perfect” for him as he quickly learned to outshoot me. My friend’s daughter, Michelle, went to the range with us, rolling her eyes most of the time until she started putting bullets downrange. After a few magazines of .22 LR, she asked, “What else you got?” and soon was center-punching the target with a big-bore GLOCK while enthusiastically accepting coaching on her hold and stance to obtain increasingly tighter and tighter groups. As Michelle stood topping off her magazines with more ammo, her questions of “Why own a gun?” as we drove to the range had changed to “Where can I get one?”

It was just another example of a person who, with just a little time and mentorship, had replaced their ignorance with knowledge. Thanks to a caring parent or mentor, a son or daughter who knows to focus on the front sight of a GLOCK is much more resistant to dangerous peer pressure, which might have them focus elsewhere. Why? Pride is hereditary, and passing it to your son or daughter can be seen by the gleam in their eye after hitting a bullseye you both worked hard to achieve. Keep them on target by sharing the enjoyment of an American right, one that is best achieved with equal amounts of parenting, responsibility, training and a GLOCK.

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Today’s digitally saturated, indoor-focused culture encourages kids to simulate playing tennis, football or baseball…