Shotgun and Muzzleloading: Two of Many Events at 4-H Invitational

East Campus pillars at enterance

May 22, 2013

LINCOLN, Neb. — A clay disk is launched into the air, followed by a bang. The target explodes in mid-air. A participant cheers: he has hit his target.

For 4-H shotgun competitors, scenarios like this happen on a regular basis.

A shotgun is a firearm fired from the shoulder that uses the energy from a shell to fire spherical pellets, or shot.

Shotguns are used for hunting small game animals, like pheasants, but also are used for sporting competitions across the nation

Tom Person of Beatrice is the chief range officer for the shotgun discipline at the 2013 National 4-H Shooting Sports Invitational. The event will be held at the Heartland Public Shooting Park and the Heartland Events Center in Grand Island June 23-28.

Person said he believes that teaching 4-H youth about shooting sports is a valuable experience for them.

"It helps them build a competitive nature," Person said.  "It also helps them learn sportsmanship, teamwork, camaraderie and safety."

Person said that manners also are a part of shotgun shooting.

"4-H teaches that if I was going to hand you a firearm, when I hand it to you, you say 'thank you' and I would say, 'you're welcome'," Person said.

Shotgun shooting is a competitive sport that consists of either teams or single competitors.

In 4-H, youth are taught skeet shooting, trap shooting and sporting clays. The difference between these types depends on the way that the targets are presented to the shooter. In skeet shooting, competitors shoot at crossing targets, sometimes two at a time, as opposed to trap shooting, where they shoot at a single outgoing target. Sporting clays involves shooting pairs of targets in various presentations that change from station to station.

Certain criteria determine whether or not a shot is a hit.

"There has to be a visible chip that comes off of the target," Person said. "It's really that simple."

Last year, about 88 competitors from across the nation participated in the shotgun event, Person said. He expects more to participate this year.

Another type of shooting sport is muzzleloading. Muzzleloading is different because competitors load small amounts of black powder and a single ball instead of loading a shot with casing.

"We're limited to a 60 grain load which is half of what is recommended as the maximum load," said Walter Branson of Warrenton, Mo, the chief range officer for the muzzleloading category. "It lets them adapt the way the gun works."

Branson said that there is something about muzzleloading that seems to attract onlookers.

"Once you smell the black powder you are hooked," Branson said. "You can actually see the hole in the target. That makes it a little nicer for spectators to watch."

On one day of the muzzleloading competition, competitors will shoot at steel animal silhouettes. The targets include steel crows, groundhogs and squirrels, Branson said. The goal is to knock down as many targets as possible. 

In order for a shot to be considered a hit, it must knock the animal off of the frame. If the target is hit but it merely turns in the frame, it is considered a miss. 

Muzzleloading also has been around for a long time, so 4-H youth get to experience what it was like to shoot a gun many years ago.

"It gives them a little bit of pride to shoot the same firearms that their (ancestors) shot," Branson said.

Steve Pritchard
Extension Educator
Boone County

Tammy Stuhr
Assistant Extension Educator

Heather Haskins
Student Writer
IANR News Service

Sandi Alswager Karstens
IANR News Service

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