Club that shoots for the stars
AS I watched in awe, Laurie Brown fired five consecutive shots with his air rifle at what appeared a seemingly minute target,
Sure enough, the 10 metre distance was of little hindrance to him as he produced a perfect practice card of 50 out of 50 - and backed that up with 49 out of 50 moments later.
Of course, based on that information, it would surprise no one to learn that 58-year-old Laurie is an expert shooter with three gold medals at national level to his name.
It may however, shock many, to then learn that he is blind.
And yet, I soon learnt that Laurie was just one of many club members, disabled or able bodied, to adhere to the high standards set at Modern Print Inclusive Target Shooting Club in Pennar – the scene of my tenth Common wealth Games Challenge.
The club has been running for eleven years, and sessions are overseen by secretary Ron Hovell – a multiple award winner in both shooting and coaching disciplines.
His philosophy on the sport is refreshingly simple: “There is one rule in shooting,” he said.
“As long as you are still breathing we can get you to shoot.
“I have been shooting for all of my life and there is no sport that is more inclusive – there really is a place for everyone.”
Ron started the club after realising there was nothing in the area for those who wanted to compete in air rifle or pistol shooting over the standard Olympic and Commonwealth distances.
After he explained to me the necessity of having properly qualified coaches and officers in place, I asked him whether the club catered for all abilities, and readily combined those who wished to compete with those who turned up for a sense of camaraderie and fun.
I was taken aback by his answer.
“We don’t do mediocrity,” he said sternly.
“We welcome anyone to join and will give them the best training we can - but they must be here to improve and pursue excellence.
“If people aim high, do their best and then fall short then we can accept that. But this is a serious sport and not to be taken lightly – we don’t want people here just to enjoy a coffee and fire a few shots.”
All of a sudden, the seven metre target myself and Bill Carne were soon to be shooting at, dubbed ‘child’s play’ by Ron, appeared incredibly far away.
However, such focus has undoubtedly produced superb results – and only four years ago club member Daniel Court competed in the Junior Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
“He and his father had a set of keys to this place when he was training,” said Ron.
“He would practice for more than 30 hours a week.
Those are the sort of levels of commitment you need at the top level.”
Individuals within the club also compete in a national league set up, containing 92 different divisions, and what Ron told me next brought new meaning to the term ‘sporting integrity.’
“The results are based on honesty. You send your own target cards off to Wolverhampton and your averages are calculated there.
“At the end of the day, if you can’t trust who you are competing against then there is no point competing at all.
“Any anyone who is found cheating is banned for life.”
And Ron, who only last year won a silver medal in the prestigious Ely Shoot, said the club takes immediate steps to ensure newcomers are aware of the etiquette.
“We run youth proficien cy tests when youngsters join us,” he said.
“We run through the legalities and if they pass, they receive a certificate of competence as proof.”
“Having proper measures in place is the core of our success.
“Indeed, one of our disabled members, Mike Lewis, has recently qualified as a Range Conducting Officer – a process that requires endless hours of studying, reading, and commitment.”
When it was time for myself and Bill to take aim, Ron instantly noted my poor stance and grip.
“You have to be side on,” he explained.
“And you are making the common mistake of closing one eye. If you tried doing that over an hour long competition it would put incredible strain on your facial muscles.”
What he did fail to recommend, as my practice shots and two rounds that proceeded it fell way short of the mediocrity he had earlier lamented, was a trip to the opticians as I missed the target with alarming in accuracy.
Bill fared a lot better as he managed to maintain a steady hand – and Ron himself nonchalantly fired his two rounds in a matter of seconds, all of which either struck or bordered the maximum 10 score.
But it was then that Ron delivered a prime example of expert coaching. After re-adjusting my posture and grip, and ensuring I lined up the gun properly with the target - I delivered a five shot score of 40. Pretty much a 400% rise on my earlier feeble efforts.
Of course, in a competitive shoot such a score, while unique by my early standards, would fall way short of victory.
And to put things into perspective, when Ron or other
club members compete, they are allowed 20 practice shots before having to rattle of 60 consecutive efforts.
“Until you have done it you don’t understand the levels of concentration needed,” said Ron.
“60 shots and to win – they all have to be nigh on perfect.”
But it is just that, perfection, which members of the Modern Print Inclusive Target Shooting Club clear ly strive for.
I left in no doubt that this was a club that strikes a unique balance.
Anyone is able to join and no one is discriminated against - irrespective of age, background, or disability.
But once there, the message is clear. Members are expected to strive towards high standards, to work hard, and ultimately, to better themselves.
Such attitudes and high standards can only ensure that even for novices like me - eventually those seven or even ten metre targets might not look quite so far away.
Bill Carne's verdict:
For the first time since Fraser started his Commonwealth challenges and I was roped in to take pictures for the all action young reporter, the Modern Print Inclusive Target Shooting Club represented something that neither of us had any remote experience in.
The club does just what its name suggests, it welcomes all to enjoy the challenge of being good on the range with an air pistol or air rifle, with special facilities for those with disabilities.
The facilities allow people with a disability to take part, with Laurie Brown leading the way as a blind rifle shooter of growing reputation. Ron Hovell is the illuminating light and the likes of Alan Gibby and Helen John play key roles in terms of setting standards and coaching.
There is a real emphasis on safety and self discipline; whether it’s firing at seemingly tiny targets from a distance of seven yards to the 10-metre range.
Indeed, I was first to receive a gentle rebuke from Ron, because I turned round to chat to Fraser with the pistol still in my hand. In my defence it was only because I had just shot 32 from seven yards with my first five shots, including two bulls, and I knew Mr Watson didn’t have a chance of matching it!
Of course, Fraser was claiming foul play as I had quietly let on I had used a .177 slug gun when I was 14, over 50 years ago!
Ron took great care in showing us how to grip the pistol, stand, aim and fire, with a touch of unnecessary humour when he told me my girth was a great asset in maintaining balance. Tony added good advice as we fired in rounds of five shots and then hauled in our targets for checking.
So it was down to the sharp end of business – our shoot-out over two rounds, with me going first and Ron also joining the fray to show us how it should be done. Now modesty forbids me to give the exact result but Ron scored 88 out of 100, including the fact that he fired off his first five shots in less than three seconds.
Fraser did have a third round where he scored 40 out of 50 - although I think I did spot Mr Hovell holding his shooting arm to stop the tremors!
We also bumped into Helen John, who arrived proudly holding on to her new instructor’s after an intensive two-day coaching course – and Helen is going to look after the younger members of this quietly thriving club.
Tune into this week’s Radio Pembrokeshire Friday Night Sports Show, between 6-8pm, to hear Bill Carne speak to Fraser about his shooting experience, and to Ron Hovell, Alan Gibby and Laurie Brown about the Modern Print Inclusive Target Shooting Club.
For more on shooting in Pembrokeshire, visit the Sport Pembrokeshire Facebook page or www.
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