Nine-year-old rifle shooter ‘one to watch’

Her goal was to earn a bronze badge before she turned nine years old and Emma Kingsley did it with a week to spare.

“Reaching bronze at the speed she got it and age she is, is amazing,” said Allan Harding, an internationally ranked pistol shooter and one of her coaches.

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Emma is one of the newest additions to the Sunshine Coast Rod and Gun Club, but her talents are already noticeable. “She’s one of our best shooters and will be the one to watch,” Harding said.

The Recreational Target Shooting program, run by the Shooting Federation of Canada, oversees the badge system. Competitors aim for five targets on 10 cards – if they collect 80 points, they earn bronze. It takes 90 points to earn silver and 95 or better for gold.

“I can’t shoot as well as she can, and I’ve been shooting a long time,” said Emma’s father, Simon Kingsley.

Emma, a Halfmoon Bay resident, began training last autumn with the Gun Club’s Youth Target Sports Program after showing an interest in target shooting with her father. “I convinced them to let her give it a try,” said Kingsley. The youth program is intended for children aged 12 and older. To start, Emma shot from a seated position using a sandbag to support her. “I knew right away that she would be one of our top shooters,” recalled Harding.

The precocious shooter did get an early start. When she was six, her father set Emma up with a pellet gun and eventually graduated her to a .22 rifle at the Gun Club’s outdoor shooting range. Now she participates in 20-yard prone rifle shooting. Rather than a scope, she uses an open sight and is not assisted with bench rests.

But before any shot is fired, Kingsley said it’s always safety first. Students at the Gun Club receive specialized safety training weekly and Kingsley spent three weeks teaching her about gun handling and safety precautions before she was allowed to shoot the pellet gun. “I wasn’t going to turn her loose with a rifle at six years old and hope for the best,” Kingsley said.

It’s unusual for a youngster to achieve a bronze badge, and while Harding has identified elements of shooting that come naturally to Emma – such as establishing a setup routine and maintaining focus – the goal for now is to have fun.

Emma trains two days a week and is expected to practise more at the outdoor range in the warmer weather. “We’re just going to let her grow with it,” Kingsley said.

Emma appears to have other plans. Last week she accumulated seven cards towards her silver badge and is expected to earn it within the next week. “Gold will be a lot more difficult but she’s pretty pumped on getting that too,” said Kingsley.

Those interested in learning about the youth program can contact the gun club via its Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/sunshinecoasttargetsports

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