Youth Shooters In America
[su_heading size=”30″ margin=”0″] Interview With Youth Industry Leader, Chet Alvord, Of Tactical Solutions[/su_heading]
Story and photographs by Eric M. Saperstein
[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”5″]Y[/su_dropcap]outh shooting in America is flourishing; it’s a sport where the young can compete with seniors, and families can engage in an atmosphere of recreation and competitive spirit unlike that of any other venue. This is where physical attributes take a second chair to skill and attitude. Youth are not only the future of the shooting sports, they are the future of our nation. Kids today will gain the American right to vote in a timeframe that can seem like moments from now.
Tactical Solutions looks for good kids with great personalities and school ethics.
[su_box title=”Meet Chet Alvord” style=”soft” box_color=”#e6041b” title_color=”#ffffff” radius=”4″]Chet Alvord is the co-owner and founder of Tactical Solutions. Prior to firearm manufacturing, Alvord’s business expertise was in sawmills, brokerage, lumber import and export and manufacturing in the western United States, Russia, Poland and Finland. In 1999 Alvord founded CNC Solutions, Inc., a precision CNC machine shop specializing in producing close-tolerance parts for the aerospace, automotive and medical industries. In 2002 he and his partner Dan Person founded Tactical Solutions and have built the company into one of the premier firearm and firearm accessory manufacturing companies in the country.[/su_box]
When we discuss kids, many jump in and shout “Let them just be kids!” We couldn’t agree more! Let them be kids, but there’s absolutely everything right about creating an experience that is fun, educational and develops them for success in life. I had the opportunity to engage with a man at the 2014 NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits who is, let’s say, handling some logistics behind the front lines of the youth shooting movement. His name is Chet Alvord, vice president of marketing at Tactical Solutions, a Boise, Idaho-based firearms manufacturer specializing in perfecting the .22-caliber rifle and pistol for competition shooting.
When we met, I was introducing a young lady named Shyanne Roberts, an up-and-coming competitive shooter who was simply melting with interest when she got the chance to check out the TacSol lineup. Chet quickly engaged her and took a commanding role in the conversation; I was (humorously) brushed aside, giving Shy her first opportunity to negotiate on her own. I smiled and gave her a quick pep talk as I patted her on the back and walked away; I knew he didn’t stand a chance!
Let’s talk with Chet now about his philosophy on the next generation of shooters, the nature of supporting professional youth and how they play a critical role in our nation:
Eric Saperstein When we first met you immediately focused the conversation directly on the youth shooter. Can you explain how this is beneficial? What characteristics stand out that inspire you to support a specific shooter?
Chet Alvord It is very simple. Our country’s youth hold the future for all shooting sports. They are our next voting base to protect our Second Amendment rights. Rights that are under attack daily. When I look at a potential team shooter, I look for good kids, not great shooters. I want positive representatives for our industry. Safe, courteous, humble, appreciative and good students who have a smile on their face whether they win or lose. I will never look at how good or accomplished a shooter they are.
ES While many of us are actively battling a society that is treating shooting competitions as malevolent and pushing to regain the competitive spirit, you presented a code of conduct that included emphasis that winning is not an expectation. What is your position on the pressure to compete and win?
CA Interesting choice of words you just used – battling. I strive to look at educating, rather than battling. What’s a better nonthreatening way of education than letting our youth demonstrate the positives of shooting sports? It is hard to argue with an articulate 10-year-old. Shyanne has an upbeat personality and winning smile, all while sporting her purple pistol and rifle. She is exactly what I am looking for to promote our industry. To answer your question, I believe in competition and that there should always be a winner and nonwinners. I hate to use term of loser because that is not the same thing to me – both are character building. Winning requires work and commitment and character is tested when you don’t win. In terms of building shooting sports, winning is not as critical as many aspects of the competition. I look at competition as a vehicle to teach valuable life lessons. Tactical Solutions holds one of the country’s largest National Shooting Sports Foundation .22LR shooting events every summer. Our attendees are comprised of world and national shooting champions who shoot unbelievable custom pistols and rifles, and yet on the same course of fire we have young families sharing the same stock Ruger 10/22 and pistol. What is fantastic is that you will see these champions willingly helping these new shooters and provide valuable tips and strategies.
ES Kids and politics are a treacherous topic; the mental landmines explode in people on all sides of the subject. Your philosophy is that we are creating the voters of tomorrow. How do you navigate this subject?
CA It does not have to be treacherous, nor should it be. Sometimes we have to look at how we present our sport to the non-shooting public. As an example I use the word firearm rather than weapon. To the layman a weapon is for killing. The word firearm is a less threatening term and does not have the assault-gun stigma. Little things like this are important in discussions about shooting and youth. We have no reason to make excuses about our industry, however, we do need to spend time educating the nonshooters in our country. It is important to state that this is not passive education; we have to be proactive rather than reactive.
ES What is your most inspirational moment in youth-shooting sponsorship, or better yet, which of your shooters influenced you the most and how?
CA I hope I take away or learn something from every individual I sponsor. I know they put a smile on my face. We have a growing team of great people like kids from age eight to a kid age 73. Honestly, I am proud of each and every one of the shooters we help. I don’t know if there is one who has influenced me more than another. I have sponsored juniors who have gone on to become world champions and some have careers in the shooting-sports industry. I am happy to say that all the people we sponsor are or will be successful and happy in life.
ES What is your vision of the shooting sports in 20 years? What are the most relevant steps you are taking today to help ensure that we reach that goal?
CA I pray we still have shooting sports in 20 years. I have fears that if we, the current shooting population, are not proactive in educating the public about our industry shooting sports, we may be doomed. We can’t be complacent and believe that the NRA alone (while they do an amazing job) is going to get it done. We need to get off our collective fannies and educate everyone in a positive and nonconfrontational manner. We are facing a well-financed powerful lobby that states every firearm is for killing. They do not understand our industry. I hope that the shooting base of great kids we are building will help the long-term effort to protect our Second Amendment rights.
• • • •
A pragmatic takeaway? I find myself caught in the mindset that we are entangled in a war, a revolution, fighting for our rights. Mr. Alvord challenged my terminology, embodying the methodology of education and the exchange of knowledge over the more combative verbal tactics. As we study the field on which we campaign for our liberty, let’s formulate a plan where we educate our families, friends and neighbors. While I just paraphrased from the Art of War, Sun Tzu understood the value of diplomacy. The Youth Shooters of America are our ambassadors; it is incalculably valuable that they represent the shooting sports and our rights with poise, integrity and tact. Preparing them for this challenge is the responsibility of the firearms industry. ASJ
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Eric M. Saperstein is a master craftsman who owns one of the nation’s premier handcraft studios. He is gaining ground as a photographer and filmmaker, and works with AOV-TV to provide creative services to the shooting community, artists, corporations and individuals. While he is amongst the last of the 18th-century craftsmen, a modern artist, author and creative director, he is also accredited in the information technology arena, with experience in process engineering, change coordination and software development lifecycle management.
He is a lifetime shooter, pro-Second Amendment advocate, county coordinator for NJ2AS, a life member of the NRA and author. He is the social media/PR director for Shyanne Roberts and General Defense Outfitters. Saperstein brings nearly three decades of firearms, small business, corporate and marketing experience to the board of Youth Shooters of America, a newly formed organization dedicated to “Leading our nation’s youth shooters to embrace and achieve a lifestyle that embodies liberty, discipline, values and success.”