So, you decided that target shooting, or hunting is something you are interested in taking up. If you are reading this, chances are you may not have ready access to a shooting range or hunting opportunities. You may live in a city far from the bush and do not know anyone who can help you get started. Not to worry, there are many avenues of entry into the shooting sports and hunting. Please read on and find out!
If you have a friend or family member that hunts or shoots targets, they are often a good place to start. Either way, there are some compliance, licensing, and firearms storage requirements that you need to be aware of. License and compliancy regulations are different between the states and territories. For a state and territory specific rundown on how to obtain your shooters license, click here.
To know more about firearms storage requirements, click here.
The TIKKA T1x MTR in either 22LR or 17HMR is a great rimfire rifle, ideal for beginners and seasoned shooters.
Clubs are a great place to start.
In Australia there are several major shooting and hunting bodies that serve the community by providing nationally and internationally recognised shooting competition for everyone male and female from adolescent to adult. The major ones are:
Club membership is relatively inexpensive; consider it like an insurance policy that guides you in the right direction. In fact, membership of some shooting bodies can provide liability insurance as an added benefit.
Clubs also go out of their way to attract new members and you will generally find introductory events for new comers are a common attraction. These events are a great place for those wanting to learn about firearms safety and the basics of shooting. Sessions can typically run from two to three hours and involve a thorough safety overview, hire of firearm, ammunition, eye and ear protection and mentoring from experienced, licensed shooters. Although booking in advance is mandatory, you do not need a firearms license to attend introductory events. They are open to individuals and families and even kids (minimum age is 11 in some states and 12 in others) provided they are accompanied by a parent or guardian.
You do not have to attend an introductory event; you may have already decided to skip that step and join a club. Either way, I encourage you to join a club that is convenient to where you live. Clubs are generally affiliated with or belong to an overall state or national shooting body, for example Field and Game Australia, SSAA, Sporting Clays Australia and others. Some national hunting bodies such as the Australian Deer Association (ADA) also run hunter education programs where you can learn to hunt deer and butcher the venison you harvest.
One other decision to make about where to start is what to start with. Do you want to pursue the shotgun disciples, shoot a pistol, or learn to shoot a rifle first? Whatever you choose, joining a club and taking advantage of its mentoring, insurance policy and overall guidance is certainly the way to go.
Regardless of what type of shooting style or disciple you start with, there are some fundamental items of equipment you will need, and they relate to safety and protection. The following are all as important as each other and are not listed in order of priority.
|Hearing Protection: Once your hearing is damaged that damage is irreversible. Unlike a broken bone that can be set and plastered while it repairs itself to become even stronger, our hearing cannot be repaired. Imagine how difficult life would be with either poor hearing or no hearing at all, it is not a happy thought.
Hearing protection can be divided into two categories, internal (plugs or electronic devices) and external (ear muffs). Either way, you just CANNOT shoot rifles, shotguns, or handguns without hearing protection. To do so is not just careless, it is irresponsible and borders on personal recklessness.
|Consider those around you when shooting, take responsibility for your own actions and ensure observers are wearing hearing protection. Also consider babies in the womb, it is best for expecting mums not to be in proximity to the noise and muzzle blast of firearms at a shooting range or when hunting in the field. Be aware of kids and pets, even if it means halting activities if distance or hearing protection cannot be provided to young observers.
Pictured at left are electronic earmuffs and earplugs made by Sportear and distributed locally by Beretta Australia. This range of electronic hearing protection provides excellent hearing protection for sport shooters and the Ghost Stryke electronic earplugs are the author’s personal choice for all of his hunting activities at home and abroad.
|Eye Protection: If you are like me and you wear spec’s, you will be wearing them when shooting. Although modern guns and most factory loaded ammunition are inherently safe by design, that does not mean mishaps cannot occur, particularly with careless ammunition reloading practices.
Shooting glasses and even quality sunglasses afford eye protection. When shooting at night or in poor light, shooting glasses come into their own.
Pictured at left are Beretta’s Performance Shooting Glasses. These are available in a choice of lens colours and provide 100% UVA and UV protection. The wide, polycarbonate injected lenses come in six colour options and provide high-quality eye protection. The glasses assist the shooter by providing great contrast when acquiring targets in various weather and light conditions.
First Firearm Choice:
Safety First! Before we talk about options for your first firearm let us talk about the MOST important aspect of shooting and hunting; safety. Experience is a great teacher and when I look back on my own introduction to shooting and hunting, I am glad that I had a dad and uncle who could shoot and loved their hunting and fishing. In my day, most kids like me had rural family links and at age five I was hunting rabbits with my dad and a single shot 22 rifle. Dad drummed safety into me long before I even fired my first shot. The lesson he taught me was as simple and as important then as it is today.
1. Treat all firearms as if they are loaded even when you know they are empty.
2. Never point a firearm at anything you do not intend to shoot.
3. Never place your finger inside the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot.
4. Never ever rely on a firearm safety mechanism. The first safety is you!
When you join a club and before you can apply for your license you will need to complete a firearms safety certificate and more on that and the licensing and compliance requirements can be found here. So now, let us consider your first firearm.
If you are getting into the shooting sports by following a family tradition then your entry may be rifle, shotgun, or handgun. For the sake of simplicity, I am going to talk about entry via the rifle journey and I can think of no better rifle cartridge to start with than the humble but venerable .22 Long Rifle commonly referred to as 22LR. The little 22 rimfire is no new comer and its roots go back to 1884 when the Union Metallic Cartridge company established it as a standard based upon earlier developments by themselves and others. The 22LR is chambered in more rifles and handguns than any other cartridge, rimfire or centrefire, and to say it has stood the test of time is a major understatement.
|What the 22LR has going for it as a “learning to shoot” cartridge and as a small game hunting cartridge is significant. As a learning cartridge its recoil is almost insignificant and muzzle blast is minimal (although hearing protection must still be worn). This means the shooter can focus on his/her breathing, stance, trigger control and concentration, without enduring the recoil and noise of more powerful centrefire cartridges.
The 22LR has an extensive range of readily available ammunition choices, probably more than any other rifle, pistol or shotgun cartridge. Finally, the 22LR can be unbelievably cheap to shoot. The low cost is important because like most things, “practice makes perfect” and while there are many specialist 22LR ammunition offerings for rimfire benchrest competition, those expensive options are not required by most of us.
So, now that we have established the 22LR as the cartridge we are going to start with, all we need to do now is decide on a rifle and scope if we are not starting with open sights. Beretta Australia distribute great 22LR rifle options from two established brands, SAKO and TIKKA. These brands represent not just quality and precision but also have warranties that guarantee your shooting enjoyment. It also distributes Sellier & Bellot .22LR ammunition.
At this point you need to decide whether you want open sights, optics or both. Remember, like most things in life, you get what you pay for. Let us use a couple of quality examples, one from TIKKA and the other from SAKO.
TIKKA T1x MTR 22LR and Burris Droptine 3-9×40. A great way to get into shooting and a lifetime investment that will not break the bank.
The TIKKA T1x MTR (Multi-Task Rimfire) is intended to be used with a telescopic sight. The example above from a SSAA review features a “Bunny Buster” package from Beretta Australia. The package includes a TIKKA T1x MTR plus:
• Burris Droptine 3-9×40 B.Plex
• Burris Rimfire Rings
• Nextorch 1000 Lumen Flashlight
• Hy-Skor Bipod
• Tikka Gun Bag
• Spare 10 round magazine
• Tikka Bolt Knob
• The Outdoor Connection Tikka Raptor Sling
The rifle and all the extras are available at the time of writing as a package with a saving of almost $250. The T1x MTR does not come with open sights, it is “aimed” at shooters who specifically want to shoot with a telescopic sight only. The rifle represents great value and a lifetime investment in fun.
SAKO QUAD SYNTHETIC
The SAKO QUAD series of premium rimfire rifles represents a range of choices to suit all rimfire hunting and target shooting tastes.
Like the TIKKA T1x MTR, the Sako Quad Synthetic also has a synthetic stock, blued barrels and a black rubber recoil pad. However, the SAKO offering has some premium attributes such as optional length of pull butt stock spacers and interchangeable barrels.
Length of pull is distance from the middle of the trigger to the end of the buttstock. Because men and women come in different shapes and sizes there is no such thing as a one size fits all rifle stock. The ability to tailor the length of pull to the shooter provides more comfort, less fatigue and most importantly a more exacting shooting experience.
Optional barrels can be purchased giving the shooter the ability to fire 22LR, 22WMR and 17HMR all from the one rifle. The adjustable sights on the SAKO QUAD make it open sight ready straight out of the box and a scope sight can be added right away or later or not at all depending upon your requirements.
Whichever way you go, consider joining a club to receive the mentoring and guidance necessary to ensure your safe and enjoyable introduction to shooting.