Most athletes start young to maximize their potential. Shooting sports are no exception, and an increasing number of competitive 3-gunners are starting out early. Learning to shoot used to be common for American kids, especially in rural areas, but actually training for performance with parents or professional coaches is a more recent phenomenon. As with musicians and gymnasts, starting marksmanship training early yields immeasurable benefits later on.
While attending the NRA Annual Meeting gathering in Nashville in April 2015, I was able to meet a group of such young shooters, along with their parents and supportive friends. We spent a day at a private range, shooting guns and photos. The six girls ranged in age from nine to 16, and every one of them demonstrated an unusual level of maturity. This was less surprising once you considered the degree of parental involvement with their education and activities.
All of these young ladies impress the world with their breadth of interests and talents, which include everything from shooting sports and music to excellent academics and public speaking. They all have a degree of dedication and earnestness that they use to perfect their skills, and this drive, partly innate, partly imparted by closely involved family members, also caught the attention of industry sponsors who, in turn, have flocked to support these young shooters.
Watching them shoot reinforced the value of fitting guns to individual shooters. The adjustments to the length of pull, balance and grips to fit smaller hands and shorter limbs allow for the individual shooter to demonstrate their absolute best. Since most of these ladies are musicians, they also often use suppressors to safeguard their hearing.
For almost all of them, the parents were their first trainers. But most have gone beyond a single source of training. For example, Shyanne Roberts trained with Todd Jarrett, a world-renown competitive shooter and instructor.
Besides being an inspiration to other kids, these young ladies are a challenge to adult shooters. It’s one thing to be outshot by another experienced adult, but quite another to be shown up by a preteen. Watching their progress illustrates the value of quality training and also shows the rewards of dedication to learning and practicing new skills. Having excellent people skills, these juniors are ambassadors to the shooting sports and gun owners all over America. And last but far from the least, they prove that there’s much more to girls in shooting sports than pink pistol grips. ASJ
Vanessa Aguilar, the youngest of this group that we interviewed, is also the youngest member of the San Antonio Sure Shots Pistol League. She shoots rimfire rifle and pistol, both customized for her. Despite a hearing impediment she’s been able to make TV and radio appearances, in addition to extensive training in preparation for IDPA and Steel Challenge competitions planned for next year.
Moriah Combs is the oldest of this group, and came to the shooting world through extensive involvement with her 4H club. Shooting since the age of six, she holds over 20 grand champion titles. She’s now a national 4-H Shooting Sports Teen Ambassador for Ohio, representing 3,000 youth shooters. Her other passions are photography, choir singing, hunting and running a cake-baking business.
Cheyenne Dalton has been shooting since the age of five. She competes in the USPSA and NSSF Rimfire Challenge and holds a state championship title. She is planning on competing in 3-Gun competitions next. Outside of the range, she fishes with line and bow, hunts and plays numerous musical instruments with her band.
At 11, Maddie Dalton sings and plays musical instruments when she isn’t winning the youth title in the Limited category of the 2014 NSSF Rimfire World Championship. That’s pretty amazing progress for someone who had only shot their first gun a year prior. She’s a two-time winner of the Oklahoma junior fiddle championship as well. How is that for talent?
Shyanne Roberts has already participated in 3-Gun, IDPA, USPSA, action rifle and steel silhouette events. She also makes frequent TV appearances, making a strong and well-articulated case for gun ownership as part of our individual freedoms. Shooting is just one of her many passions – academics, music and other sports round out her personal development. In addition to rifles, rimfire and centerfire pistols, Shyanne also runs a 12-gauge shotgun quite effectively – even though it’s taller than she is!
Editor’s note – The American Shooting Journal’s Patriotic July 2015 issue features Shyanne Roberts on the cover. Look for copies nationwide!
Sydney Rockwell is a 14-year-old competitive shooter who began shooting rifles with her dad at age nine. Serving as the vice president of her school’s student council, Sydney is also an avid hunter, golfer and competitor in several action-shooting sports, including Steel Challenge, 3-Gun, IDPA and USPSA competitions. This past October she was selected for the prestigious US Army Marksmanship Unit’s Junior Shooters’ Clinic, and received training from some of the most elite competitive shooters in the world.
Editor’s note: Oleg Volk is a professional photographer specializing in the shooting industry around the nation. Feel free to contact him at olegvolk.net.
Author’s note: A big thank you to Eric Saperstein for the introduction to this awesome crew.