Camp is getting closer and closer now and I thought that would make a great time to write about our activities to give you a taste for what’s on offer. On the first evening of camp, campers actually enjoy a show put on by the counselors to explain what each activity has to offer and what fun they would have if they signed up for them. But in the meantime, I’ll share some thoughts, too, starting with rifle.
Rifle is actually my favorite activity at camp and the one I felt most accomplished and successful in as a camper. So it’s very close to my heart. I took an early interest in it and stayed with it all the way up to what’s called the Distinguished Expert level, which I’ll explain more about later.
But as they say, safety first!
I am sure both parents and campers want to know just how safe is the shooting range at Camp Alleghany? We’re with you there! So let me put your mind at ease about our training, gear, and facilities.
All the Rifle staff are National Rifle Association certified instructors and have to complete a 20-hour Rifle School during Staff Training. It’s run by a woman named Julie Becker who’s a certified instructor and runs the Rifle Range at Virginia Tech.
Once our staff is trained and ready to teach, there is a very small ratio of counselor-to-camper up on the range for maximum supervision (usually 1 instructor per 4 campers).
The first thing that’s established on the range, before a camper even comes near a gun, is that the range is kept fairly quiet during shooting. There is no horseplay, no distractions. The range is meant to be a place of focus and concentration. And while shooting, all campers must wear protective ear and eye gear.
Rifle is still very fun — it’s a challenge to aim and shoot and learn about the gun. It’s just that this is done in a serious setting.
We have VERY strict safety rules on the range which are also taught immediately before shooting begins. There are shooting commands (such as cease fire), and a loaded gun may ONLY ever be pointed out at the targets. When carrying the guns they have to be pointed upwards.
Everyone pairs up with a stall partner for shooting. The partner loads and unloads the gun for the shooter (sort of like someone to keep tabs on you and your safety). And after shooting, we have a pulley system that brings the targets back to the stall to be examined and reinserted for the next shooter. This means that no girls (and no one) is out on the range during shooting.
Hitting her target
One of the wonderful things about our rifle program is that girls progress in mastery in two ways. One is that she moves from lesser to greater forms of a physical relationship to the gun in four positions — the positions are prone, sitting, kneeling, and standing — while also scoring high enough in each position to move to the next position — shooting 10 targets that are a score of 40 or higher in each position. When she shoots all four positions with the 40 score in each, she’s awarded an “Expert” rating.
After a camper shoots her Expert (and this can happen in one summer, or take several summers), she moves up to “The Hill” (to the upper rifle range) to work on shooting her Distinguished Expert. This is a far more challenging thing to do; it’s still the four positions, but she has to shoot 11 “Counting Targets” in each. Here’s how to get a counting target:
- Each target has 5 bulls on it.
- The camper shoots two bullets in to each bull (total of 10 bullet shots per target).
- Those 2 shots must equal a total of 18 points (for prone and sitting) or 16 points (for kneeling and standing).
- The camper has to get an 18 in all 5 bulls (or a 16, depending on the position).
- If you mess up one bull, you have to move on to a new target.
The Distinguished Expert is a very challenging thing to accomplish! Only a handful of people throughout camp’s history have accomplished this and it’s a big deal when they do. Usually the girls are 15 or 16 or even counselors when they finally do accomplish this, for the few who have done so.
Because it’s so hard, we also celebrate when someone has shot half-way through their D.E. (meaning they completed 2 positions). We have an award/honor called The Alleghany Rifle, and that is for people who have shot halfway through their D.E. and also show great sportsmanship, positive attitude, and love for Rifle (meaning that people don’t automatically get this award just for shooting halfway – they also have to have the spirit and attitude).
When I was a camper I loved Rifle, and still do. I shot my Expert when I was 10 which gave me the bug for rifle. I went on to get my D.E. when I was 14, which shows that it can be done if you’re determined enough, though it took me four years to get there. I received the Alleghany Rifle award at age 11, and that half way point gave me the encouragement to stoke my determination. I really wanted to hit my targets and get my score, and eventually I did!
What I remember about that process helps in how I encourage our campers to aim for and reach their goals. It may take time, but if you stick to it, it can be done. That’s what we all want our ‘Ghany girls to accomplish and rifle is one of those activities that literally and metaphorically helps girls understand what it means to aim for and hit her target!
–Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls