Children and airguns (and other rifles)

The school boy walks with his pellet gun (nowadays referred to as an air rifle) under the fig and apricot trees in the neighbour's yard, shooting mouse birds, Cape bulbul (tiptol) and starlings eating the ripe fruit. The boy has permission from the owner to control the numbers of certain species in the garden. She makes preserves from the fruit and if the bird numbers are not controlled, there will be nothing left for the household to enjoy. When he is done, the boy takes a stroll towards the edge of town where he explores the veld with his air rifle in hand for other potential quarry.

This was fairly common practice about twenty to thirty years ago. To some it may sound irresponsible to allow a child to shoot at birds in a built-up area without any adult supervision. With this privilege, these youngsters knew their responsibilities and would be punished if they transgressed. He would also be denied access to the pellet gun for a while. In this way children learnt very quickly how to act responsibly and safely with a firearm and were well prepared when the time came to upgrade to a “proper” rifle such as 22 rimfire or an even bigger hunting rifle.

These days strict firearm legislation (quite necessary) does not allow a person to shoot with an airgun in urban areas which means that children rarely get the chance to use an airgun except at a shooting range or on a farm.

For anyone to perform well in sport, regular practice is essential. What can one do to give your child the opportunity to shoot with an airgun? Almost each one of SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association’s (SAHGCA) 73 branches offers air rifle or 22 rimfire rifle shooting activities that are suitable for children.

The Sandrivier 58 branch that hosts all its shooting activities at the Excalibur shooting range near Welkom, is a good example of a shooting development programme for children. On Thursday afternoons a few adults (among then a former Protea shottist) offer lectures and air rifle shooting activities to children. Some children are dropped off by their parents while others ride out to the range on their bicycles. There is a rifle safe on the property where the children can store their air guns in between visits. The branch also hosts an annual Junior Day in consultation with some of the schools in Welkom to fit in with their programmes, giving as many children as possible the opportunity to participate.

Since 2011, SAHGCA organised air rifle regional shooting competitions for juniors U/12. Similar 22 rimfire shooting competitions are held for juniors U/18. Those who qualify are invited to be part of the Top 15 in each category who compete at the annual national junior shooting competition in September. From 2014, SAHGCA includes a U/18 category for juniors as part of the regional and national President Shooting Competition.
The purpose of this article is to encourage parents whose children are not yet taking part in similar activities, to contact the nearest branch of SAHGCA and ask about shooting activities. The branch will ensure that your children learn about the responsible use of firearms in a safe environment.

I often reminisce about those wonderful days in Tannie Pottie's orchards in Otjiwarongo in the former Southwest Africa. How many other adults have acquired their love for hunting and shooting in this manner? Take that old airgun from the safe, clean and oil it, and allow the children to use it responsibly. You can contribute to the fond memories that your children or grandchildren will cherish forever.

  • Last modified on Tuesday, 28 April 2015 09:26
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Andre van der Merwe

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