When I tried to get into shooting again a few years ago after a long absence due to health one of the things that struck me the most is how difficult it was to get into the sport of pistol/club shooting.

While I realise pistol shooting isn’t mainstream in any sense, even in Northern Ireland where it’s perfectly legal to do so, the level of difficulty I encountered and indeed the experience I had with the first club I approached honestly had me considering giving up the idea entirely…… it made me think that all sport shooters were like that and if that was the case I’d rather be as far away from that kind of toxicity as possible.

After all, you don’t get that kind of hassle sitting in a hedge waiting for crows do you.

It was of course far from the truth and the majority of shooters here in the province are absolute gems, friendly, patient and always willing to have a friendly chat about firearms or the sport and lifestyle in general.

Hell, even a few of the members at the club I did get to have a bit of craic with were genuinely nice.

The club I did end up joining is an hour drive rather than the 10 minute one it would have been for the local club, but a drive is something I can put up with for an easy life and not to feel singled out.

A few like myself like to just turn up occasionally and take a lane, shoot and go home without competing, others shoot every comp they can while others do a bit of both.

I’ve had a very low ratio of fudd instances while at my club, (apart from that one guy that wouldn’t take the hint that my hands are arthritic, I hold a revolver differently to him while loading and while simultaneously making my female friend feel very uncomfortable, but I digress) and can honestly say it’s a pleasure to squeeze off a few rounds up the mountain and always praise the club in conversation.

But it brings me no real pleasure when I hear the local club I had such an off putting experience with is now heamoraging members and reports say the policy of revoking memberships like it’s fashionable and refusing new ones for years could be detrimental to them in the long term.

Yes, shocking I know.

The truth is the brief time I did use their facilities as a “new member” I was impressed and had hoped I could compete there in some way, which is disappointing considering all I heard after my…… For want of a better word, expulsion.

It also crossed my mind that as a club it could be built on but alas it was made very clear I wasn’t welcome and now have to travel to shoot.

Of course a club can change, but is it silly to hold hope that they will with the same management?

What I’m trying to get at is this, if shooting is to survive in the UK clubs can’t treat new shooters the way I was or many others have been, shooting has to grow and in order to do that clubs have to be inclusive and open minded. This goes for all clubs and all disciplines not just the ones I allude to in this article.

If we want firearm ownership to survive in the UK then we need to make shooting sport as mainstream as possible, we need to get more people interested, get younger shooters that are media savvy involved, encourage evolution and don’t shy away from change.

Yes it’s an uphill battle with the UK press and police agencies pushing the anti narrative at any chance, yes I realise people have been conditioned for decades to think UK gun control was a success but let’s be honest here, it wasn’t and it’s been shown repeatedly punishment of legal owners for the crimes of criminals is myopic and pointless.

Every week I post links to shootings in the UK on my page, every week I say the same thing yet the majority still won’t accept the facts.

A real push needs to be made with getting new shooters, bring friends and family shooting, if you run a club and new blood is knocking on the door don’t be a dick and let them in for a chat.

You never know it might make a new shooter, one more shooter that can bring in more new blood and maybe we can beat the cancer that’s eating away at UK shooting.

One day at a time, one shooter at a time and with persistence we will win.

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