A small but enthusiastic mix of young and old, male and female, make up Burnley’s Northern Practical Pistol Club where members practice their action air shooting skills in a dynamic, but very controlled environment.
I went along with colleague Kelvin Stuttard to try my hand at the sport.
Founded in 2004, the club currently has around 20 members who shoot a “target course of fire” to simulate real life situations – a concept similar to the training armed police officers undertake.
Long-time member Steve Brett guided me around the course and explained the social and physical benefits.
He said: “The issue of firearms tends to split public opinion. There was a nationwide gun amnesty following the Dunblane massacre in 2006.
“Safety is paramount and we operate to very strict rules and our senior members have all undergone intensive training in order to coach beginners.
“We use BB guns which fire small plastic balls. In my opinion, pistol shooting is much safer than archery for instance, which tends to be practised a lot more in schools.”
Such is the sensitive nature of the subject, members shoot at paper and metal targets which are not body-shaped.
The sport of practical pistol shooting is world-wide and governed by the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC). Rules have been adapted to encompass the use of these guns.
The sport is now called Action Air Practical Pistol shooting and is growing around the globe.
After a thorough briefing from Steve on the mechanics of arming and readying the gun in a safe manner, I made my first tentative way across the course.
Searching for a new hobby last year, I began indoor climbing and I have to admit the adrenaline rush as I made my way around the shooting course was similar.
Only the shooter is allowed on the range at the time and safety glasses must be worn at all times.
A calculation is made with points and time to provide a “Hit Factor”. This then determines a competitor’s position. The sport requires speed, accuracy and problem solving.
Steve added: “We’d like to increase membership because we feel it’s a very worthwhile past-time for young and old. We have to be very careful how we advertise because of the nature of what we do, but the sport has a lot to give.”
Members travel around the country to take part in competitions, and recently held a memorial event in Burnley raising funds for Pendleside Hospice.
For further information email Steve at [email protected].