I recently received a call from Anoka pal Jeff Weaver, who told me he was at a meeting at the Anoka American Legion. While he was there, he found a group of young people shooting air rifles in the basement. Jeff said he had to stop and check it out and was excited to see more youth enjoying a shooting sport.
He asked me if I wanted to see them at their next practice. I said sure. I had recalled seeing a youth air rifle exhibit at Pheasant Fest in February. At that time, my 10-year-old granddaughter, Addi, took them up on an offer to shoot at the range they had in the booth at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
So off Jeff and I went to see them practice.
I had three initial impressions. These young shooters were serious, they enthusiastically enjoyed the practice session and its challenges, and their parents were equally enthusiastic about the sport.
I learned I was witnessing the Minnesota Centershots Junior Rifle Club. It’s an area nonprofit, sponsored by the Anoka American Legion and affiliated with the Minneapolis Rifle Club. They participate in USA Shooting, NRA and the Civilian Marksmanship Program at local and national matches.
The coaches are NRA-trained and certified. This organization is welcoming to new participants, and youth ages 11 to 18 can join. The Minnesota club has lofty goals and has to its credit significant achievements among its shooters.
From the Centershots mission statement: “We run a friendly, competitive program designed to teach all levels of position rifle shooting, using sporter and precision-grade air rifles. Your journey can range from raw beginner to winning matches at the national level in air rifle and small-bore rifles. Our goal is to teach you how to shoot safely and accurately, compete at national and international matches, and prepare for NCAA or military teams and scholarships.”
The group is clear that they shoot to win.
At the practice I attended, I met with head coach Bill Buesseler and coach Ed Jaros and learned about the sport, rifles, and target equipment. The rifles do not have magnification – only peep sights for shooting at a 50-cent-piece size target from 33 feet. Each shooter has a laptop at their shooting station that digitally shows where each shot was placed. It also shows the pattern and can show how steady one is prior to the shot.
The air rifles shoot a .177-caliber pellet, but even those are not the ones we amateurs use for plinking. Jaros said they sometimes use pellets that are more competition-grade and can prove to be more accurate. Shooting is done in standing, prone, and kneeling positions. Matches are 60 rounds per shooter and typically include 20 rounds in each of the three positions.
Coach Buesseler is an authority on youth air rifle shooting, but based on some bright and straight-shooting daughters, his experience has expanded to collegiate and NCAA shooting and USA’s Shootings Junior Olympics.
His twin daughters Abby and Dana discovered the competitive rifle sport at Game Fair and decided to pursue opportunities in the sport. Both excelled and were recruited by NCAA coaches. Abby went on to shoot at the University of Mississippi’s Ole Miss Team, and Dana went to Kentucky’s Murray State University. They have fared well in shooting and their education.
Not to be outdone, kid sister Allison, four years younger, went on to attend and shoot at the University of Kentucky, where its NCAA team finished third at the championship in Ohio last March.
Allison will next be competing at the USA Shooting’s Junior Olympics and Paralympic Center in Colorado Springs.
There’s more, but one can say these women have come a long way from a stop at a booth at Game Fair.
Allison will be joined in Colorado by former Minnesota Centershots shooters Gavin Barnick and Julianna Hays and by current Centershots shooters Megan Jaros, Elsa Eugster, Tanner Barth, Nathan Engman, and Elly Ross. Coach Jaros’ daughter, Megan Jaros, a high school junior, is working hard to make a college team. She took first place in two recent state championships. Additionally, she placed sixth in a nationwide three-position match. Very impressive.
It was encouraging to see young people enjoying the shooting sport so much during my visit to the Legion. I had a chance to talk to two shooters – Elsa and Megan. My question for them was: What makes this such a good sport for you and other young people?
Both were quick to reply.
Megan said while it’s partially an individual sport, it’s also a team sport, and she said she likes that element of shooting where she competes against herself and for the team.
Elsa said shooting is a mental challenge “because it can stress you out but you have to overcome that” and keep shooting. She went on to say that shooting also helps in other areas of life.
Minnesota Centershots welcomes new shooters and can be contacted by calling Carla Buesseler at (651) 815-3523 or emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org