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Students take up target shooting with air rifles

April 2024 Issue

Student Air Rifle (SAR) Program

For the past three years, Texas students have been participating in an Olympic-caliber sport that organizers hope will catch on the same way that archery in schools has spread in recent years. They're shooting air rifles. The program has been in a pilot phase in its first three years, and beginning in 2024, schools will maintain records on classes held by teachers. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is planning to organize a state air rifle tournament in 2025.

Air rifles, powered by compressed air, are safe, simple and fun, making them the go-to tool to introduce students to the sport of target shooting. Target shooting can be a lifetime sport and can also serve as a gateway to hunting.

In December 2018, a group of TPWD Hunter Education staff, partners and volunteer instructors were trained in the new Student Air Rifle (SAR) Program. Developed by Jake Hindman, the national nonprofit's director and an employee of the Missouri Department of Conservation, SAR is modeled after the highly successful National Archery in Schools Program, or NASP, which TPWD implemented in 2004. More than 1,800 Texas schools currently participate in the archery program, reaching tens of thousands of budding archers each year with a wholesome, hands-on outdoor activity.

More than 550 Texas teachers have been trained in the SAR Program. SAR, like archery, is designed to teach safe, responsible behaviors and habits with sporting arms, increase shooting sports participation, improve student performance in schools such as attendance and grades, reach students from any background or ability, highlight the fact that target shooters pay for conservation, and foster the hunting and outdoor heritage.

“The thousands of teachers trained in NASP now have an additional activity to use in their physical education, agriculture science and outdoor education classes,” says Steve Hall, Hunter Education coordinator. “SAR is the perfect choice for introducing youngsters to safe firearm handling, to hunting and the outdoors, and to an Olympic-caliber sport that teaches discipline, concentration, focus and communication — just a few of the many intangible benefits of target shooting.”

SAR is showing promising results in schools. Teachers find that because the instructional steps are so much like the archery procedure, students are having no problem learning the “11 steps to air riflery success” — with the same whistle commands and focus on safety used in NASP. Even the equipment is similar — 10 sturdy, dependable air rifles (instead of bows), tin pellets (safe for indoor use), sturdy cases and racks, a safety net, five target backings and bull's-eye-style targets.

Instructor training is now available to fourth- through 12th-grade teachers with access to an indoor gym or outdoor pavilion. Contact regional TPWD Hunter Education staff to schedule a daylong workshop (or half-day workshop preceded by review of training videos).


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