Siblings gunning to beat each other at sport

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JOHN.COSGROVE@nullcluthaleader.co.nz

As an adult, the recoil of a .22 calibre target rifle is so mild you may not even notice you have fired your weapon, but when you are young and inexperienced the sound and the recoil can be frightening at first.

For the younger members of the Willis family, of Hillend, the sound of gunfire means another night’s practice at small bore rifle shooting, their new favourite sport.

Parents Jason and Ingrid Willis wanted to encourage the children to build up their confidence.

‘‘It’s important for them to have a go and to learn to believe in themselves,’’ Mr Willis said.

‘‘They started small bore shooting in Southbridge and Leeston, Canterbury last year where we were dairy farming, they liked it.

‘‘They had four to five sessions there and saved their targets to see who had progressed, we moved here to Hillend outside of Balclutha last year and when the kids found out Hillend had a shooting range inside its hall and an active gun club just 250m away they were very happy.’’

Keen to continue shooting, they went along to the Hillend Smallbore Rifle Club for a look and enjoyed it so much they stayed.

Now Jesse (13), Sacha (12), Erika (10) and Amelia (8) shoot .22 calibre small bore target rifles from the prone position, resting their weapons on bales or boxes to help them aim.

‘‘The girls are finding their feet at the moment, checking each others targets after every shoot, but our son Jesse is learning how to mix shooting with his growing passion for MotoX,’’ Ingrid Willis said.

Jesse said he liked the competitiveness of shooting.

‘‘It is a lot of fun competing against my sisters, you do get a bit of a fright the first time you shoot but you soon get past that.’’

His sisters all found shooting fun and wanted to get better at it to be able to beat their brother.

Hillend Rifle Club president Robert Benington said it was great having young people come along to the club.

‘‘Shooting targets is a great sport as it teaches them the basics of proper gun safety, precision shooting, preciseness, and also teaches them self discipline and patience,’’ he said.

The club offered 20m indoor target shooting over the winter and was open to all comers.

‘‘Shooting a weapon helps to improve a person’s concentration and teaches them to assess what they have done. Once they get better at target shooting they can look to regional or national competitions.

‘‘South Otago currently has three members in national teams,’’ Mr Benington said.