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A shot of humility: Reporter Budd Bailey tries his hand on the range

Alden rifle coach Paul Borkowski’s question was right to the point.

“Wanna shoot?”

After he told me I could use an air rifle that didn’t make much noise, I agreed to try the sport for the first time. I thought it might be instructive to find out just how tough it is.

I first wondered if everyone on the range would find an excuse to leave the building for reasons of personal safety. But the Bulldogs seemed to take a guest appearance in stride.

Cailyn Bennett, a junior who is second on the team in air rifle, was assigned by Borkowski to be my personal instructor. At 5-feet and perhaps 100 pounds, Bennett is a great example of why the sport can be enjoyed by anyone.

She gave me a few basic lessons: how to stand (left foot forward, staying as compact as possible), how to load the pellets into the chamber, and how to hold the gun. Bennett then informed me that just the slightest pull on the trigger would send the pellet flying … so I needed to be careful. She couldn’t have been nicer or more patient.

I looked at the target, printed on a piece of cardboard well down the range. As I looked through the scope, two thoughts quickly struck me: It sure is a small target, and it keeps jumping around. Nerves and age were making the image shift.

After my first couple of shots, Bennett had to ask where I was shooting. She had been looking through something of a telescope and couldn’t pick up a hole right away. I received a few more reminders about technique as I went along, and at some point hit the outer ring of the target – good for one point in a competition.

Finally, on the last of about six or seven shots, Bennett said happily that I had actually hit the inside part of target. We reeled in the paper, and I had scored seven points with that last effort. She gave me the paper as a souvenir.

I put the gun down and thanked Cailyn for the help. Thus ended my career as a marksman, with no recorded injuries and new respect for those who practice the craft.

– Budd Bailey

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