If you are an active target shooter, odds are you first started with a BB gun or an air rifle. Used properly, air rifles are safe, universal, and fun, making them the go-to tool to introduce youth and adults to the sport of target shooting. The Student Air Rifle Program (SAR), developed by the Missouri Youth Sport Shooting Alliance (MYSSA™) in 2013, is a 501c3 nonprofit. SAR uses school aligned units of study, teacher training, universal whistle commands, positive language, and standardized equipment to facilitate an introduction to the lifetime sport of target shooting to school-aged youth in grades 4 through 12. Target shooting is known as a life time sport and can be practiced for most at an early age and continue through adult hood. In addition, target shooting has the ability to foster teamwork, responsibility and focus while teaching important life lessons, which is at the core of SAR.
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In 2002, the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP®) was launched in Kentucky. Some thought it could never be done. Many questioned the idea of introducing archery as an in-school activity. As of 2015, the program has grown from humble beginnings and is administered in over 14,000 schools in 47 states and 4 countries. Over 2.2 million students are exposed to archery each year and the program has been taught to over 10 million participants since its inception.
The NASP® has been a tremendous success. The Student Air Rifle Program (SAR) applies the model used by NASP® to create a similar program for basic air rifle shooting and firearms safety. Although there are other air rifle programs available, this program is the only one modeling the methods and structure of the popular NASP® program that has proven to be effective.
Why use the NASP® model?
1. The NASP® program is extremely successful and is accepted nationally and internationally.
2. The structure of the NASP® already exists with proven safety protocols including international whistle commands, training methods, and standardized equipment.
3. Over 14,000 schools are participating in NASP®. These schools are already participating in a shooting sport and are more likely to participate in additional programs.
Why an air rifle program?
Air rifles are fun, safe and simple, making them the go-to tool to introduce youngsters and adults to the sport of target shooting. Target shooting is known as a life time sport and can be practiced for most at an early age through adult hood and can be practiced by many regardless of physical ability. NASP® surveys indicate that nearly 70% of participants are new to the sport of archery; over 25% of NASP® participants purchase their own equipment as well. Similar results are expected with SAR.
Target shooting is a terrific gateway activity that can lead to active participation in hunting. A recent survey on NASP® found that 18% of NASP® participants purchased a hunting license as a direct result of participating in the NASP®. The potential for SAR to accomplish similar or higher recruitment rates is expected. Introducing students to the shooting sports with air rifles aligns well with the five stages of hunter development and fits perfectly with the first stage thus providing a natural transition from target shooting to hunting.
Air rifle and smallbore target shooting is a sanctioned activity with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and is also recognized as an Olympic sport. SAR can provide the foundation to feed other shooting sports programs taught outside of school as well as collegiate and Olympic level participation.
Why in school?
It is the philosophy of SAR that more kids can be introduced to target shooting and the shooting sports by incorporating the program in the school setting. Though, this presents some unique challenges, the outcome will be a higher number of youth participating in the shooting sports. Traditionally, shooting sports programs have been pursued outside of the school setting and are often attended by participants who are already interested in shooting sports or who have a family connection. By incorporating the program with school curriculum, a larger number of participants can be exposed as well as greater non-traditional involvement.
Why standardized equipment?
Standardized equipment allows all participants to be on a level playing field and erodes the potential for financial background or social status to have an impact on the participation of any student. In addition, equipment is readily available; everyone is familiar with the operation of the equipment and is available at a fair price due to the mass production that is achieved.
Why students in grades 4 – 12?
Data suggests that active participation in the shooting sports is higher if involvement is started at an early age. In addition, recruitment is higher if students are exposed to the shooting sports multiple times and have positive experiences. SAR is able to achieve those guidelines by starting the program with 4th graders in a school setting and potentially have student involvement through 12th grade.