I’ve never seen a gun – for real, that is – or held a gun, let alone fired one. So it is with a mix of excitement and nerves that I pull the trigger for the very first time on a 0.22mm caliber handgun.
I’m at the Cayman Islands Sports Shooting Association firing range, tucked away behind the Owen Roberts International Airport. The nonprofit organization has been around for more than 30 years, offering a place for shooting enthusiasts to practice their skills.
Beside me is the sport’s club president, Edison McLean, aka ‘Fast Eddie’, treasurer Kevin Schirn and club member Chanda Glidden. All three are offering me their many years of shooting guidance and tips, including how to load, hold, aim and fire, as well as instruction on how to safely handle a firearm.
I missed my intended target on the first shot, but McLean assured me it was just nerves that got the better of me. And indeed, he was right. As I fired off a few rounds, I found I was getting closer to my intended target – a static stand – before finally hitting the bull’s eye.
The club has about 170 members and offers a range of shooting disciplines and friendly monthly competitions in which sports shooting enthusiasts can hone their skills. These include a 75-yard rifle range, 10 covered outdoor shooting lanes for handgun practice, shotgun skeet and trap fields (clay pigeon), as well as short- and long-distance plinking – where participants shoot at non-standard targets, such as glass bottles or balloons filled with water.
All newbies like me start off with a small handgun on one of the outdoor shooting lanes, under the guidance of an experienced club member and instructor, who are all certified by the National Rifle Association.
“You want to start off with a minimum bang, a gun which offers less recoil,” Schirn, a club member of more than 20 years, explains. “It’s about getting comfortable. The larger the gun, the more control you need.”
“In Cayman, guns are misunderstood,” Schirn says. “They are associated with violence and not appreciated for the sport that they are. The club is about the sport, not about firearm ownership.”
You have to be a member to use the facilities; however, the club is always happy to welcome new members, after necessary police checks and references have been carried out.
“We are keen to attract people who are interested in the sport of shooting, not those who just want to own a handgun for the wrong reasons,” Schirn explains.
Shooting is a male-dominated sport, and the club is keen to attract more female members.
Glidden joined the club 18 months ago after being introduced by a friend who was a member. Having become hooked on the sport, she now practices twice a week and competes regularly in competitions, both locally and overseas.
“I always wanted to learn how to shoot and had a natural interest in the sport,” Glidden says. “The first time I came out to the range was just amazing. I was hooked.”
She adds: “Shooting is both mentally and physically active – you have to be engaged at all times. It tests your skills, speed and accuracy. There is never a dull moment.”
Glidden says that a lot of fear comes from not having knowledge of how something works and that the club offers a safe and controlled environment.
Looking forward, the club hopes to build a new facility and range in East End, which will conform to international standards, allowing the club to host international competitions. This larger area will also allow the club to offer more activities, such as archery.
For more information, visit http://www.cissa.ky.