By Ashley Brugnone, CMP Writer
Camp Perry, OH -(AmmoLand.com)- “We’re lucky to have this an hour away. My sister wants to come the next time, and my son wants to come the next time – I’m going to have to get a van or a bus.”
Steve Rehoreg, 64, of Sheffield, Ohio, spoke enthusiastically about the Gary Anderson CMP Competition Center. He, among others, is part of the growing group of Baby Boomers and beyond who are discovering a place that many didn’t even know existed, to take part in an activity that actually caters to both the young and more mature age groups: air gun shooting.
Air guns are simple to operate – with small lead pellets used as ammo and a pump or CO2 cylinder to expel the pellets downrange. There is absolutely no recoil in the light-weight guns, and the firing sound is so quiet that hearing protection is not required.
The Gary Anderson CMP Competition Center at Camp Perry (near Port Clinton, Ohio) is a $1.1 million expansion to an 80-point indoor range where only air guns are fired. The range contains 10-meter firing points, equipped with state-of-the-art electronic targets, and is facilitated by the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP).
The CMP is an organization dedicated to teaching firearm safety and marksmanship skills around the country through its numerous clinics, competitions and range events. Its headquarters is located at Camp Perry.
Whether to improve on existing abilities or to learn something new, several adults are flocking to the Gary Anderson CMP Competition Center as if it were a bowling alley or pool hall – a place for a night out on the town.
Steve became aware of the range after he and his friends discovered it during the world-famous National Matches at Camp Perry. Once he gave the air rifle a try, Steve was instantly hooked. He even bought one from the CMP North Store, where there’s a variety of rifles currently available for purchase.
“It’s trigger time. In the winter, you can’t really shoot outside, so we come here, and it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “The weight is the same, the trigger pull is the same – there’s not much of a kick. It’s pretty much like any rifle you shoot.”
“You feel a little apprehensive shooting in front of people, but (the CMP staff members) make you comfortable and relaxed – everybody’s great,” he added.
Tuesday and Thursday evenings, August through June, the CMP hosts Open Public Nights for anyone interested in attempting air gun shooting. For those new to the sport, air guns are available for loan at the range. Guests may choose from sporter or National Match style air rifles or air pistols.
Mark Montgomery, 64, of Gibsonburg, Ohio, is just one of many regulars at Open Public Nights. A life-long lover of shooting, he found his way to the air gun range at Camp Perry one day and now shoots there 6 or 7 times a month.
After seeing other kids at the air range and wanting to teach his own grandchildren more about marksmanship, he brought them to an Open Public Night so they could find out for themselves how enjoyable it can be to shoot an air gun. Now they, like their grandpa, are infatuated with the range.
“I get calls after school, ‘Can we go to the CMP?’” Mark said, with a smile.
So far, Mark has brought three of his grandchildren to the range – with six more to go.
“They’ve all just loved it,” he added. “I’m going to keep adding one at a time.”
For Mark, one of the best parts about coming to the air range is getting to teach his grandkids qualities through air rifle that he believes will help shape them into responsible adults. And, because of the ease of the equipment and the helpfulness of the CMP staff, he is able to enjoy learning right alongside them on the firing line.
“The kids get to come here and be shown shooting by people who know what they’re doing,” he said. “I don’t want to make it sound too easy, but it’s a piece of cake. I’m half-blind and 64 years old and I can do it. Anybody can do it. The joy isn’t diminished by your age.”
Inside the Gary Anderson CMP Competition Center, outside of the range, is authentic Olympic memorabilia and other notable items from the outstanding career of one of the most decorated marksmen in U.S. history, Gary Anderson.
Gary is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and has held seven World Championships and 16 National Championships in his competitive marksmanship career. Still a large influence on marksmanship programs in the United States today, Gary serves as the DCM Emeritus for the CMP. He lives in the Camp Perry area and occasionally stops out to the range, when time allows.
But Gary isn’t the only Anderson who likes to promote shooting. His wife, Ruth Ann, also encourages her friends and family to visit the range, and she can often be seen on the firing line herself. Ruth Ann, a woman who has seen countless marksmanship events around the world with her talented husband, is a strong believer that shooting is a sport for all ages.
“I think our grandchildren were about 4 or 5 years old when Gary first started instructing them in target shooting,” she said. “Today, I am 71 and enjoy shooting.”
Because of the ease of the air guns, the safety precautions administered within the range and the assisting equipment available for those in wheelchairs or with other disabilities, she is confident that shooting is also a sport that can appeal to anyone.
In fact, she and a group of women from her church even began their own “fun” team, which became known as the Annie OAKlies – named in homage to the famous American female sharpshooter and the nearby town where the women live, Oak Harbor. The original group consisted of 10 women, ranging in age from 22 to 84.
But, before Ruth Ann convinced them to make a trip to the air range for Open Public, various questions and concerns were raised amongst the group.
“I don’t know how to shoot. Is there a lot of recoil? Is it noisy?” they asked.
Ruth Ann talked to the women and assured them that firing on the electronic targets was fun and easy. She reminded them that all they had to do was sit in a chair, rest their rifles on a bench, pull the trigger and listen to the tiny “Plink!” of the pellet firing downrange.
With her explanation, the women decided to give it a shot. After a few weeks, their thoughts and feelings instantly changed.
“This is really fun. The range officers are so helpful and knowledgeable.” They said. Along with, “I really like coming here. Can I bring some of my own friends?”
Eventually, spouses and friends of the OAKlies also began coming to Open Public Nights. They, like many others, are a part of the increasing number of curious Ohioans taking advantage of the world-class facility right in their own backyards – honing a new skill and having a great time along the way.
For more on the Gary Anderson CMP Competition Center, including Open Public Night information, visit http://thecmp.org/air/cmp-competition-center-event-matches/.
About the Civilian Marksmanship Program:
The Civilian Marksmanship Program is a federally chartered 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation. It is dedicated to firearm safety and marksmanship training and to the promotion of marksmanship competition for citizens of the United States.
For more information about the CMP and its programs, log onto www.TheCMP.org.