Gun sport is fun for the whole family.
More than ever, Mum, Dad and the kids are picking up rifles, shotguns and pistols to enjoy competitive shooting, social plinking and hunting.
Some even dress up as cowboys (and girls), buckle on their gunslinger rigs and take on wacky Western aliases such as Kaimai Kate and Bald Eagle to shoot .44 or .45 revolvers in what is known as Cowboy Action shooting – an increasingly popular discipline.
Kids with parental supervision attend shooting ranges from as young as nine and senior shooters still bang away into their seventies.
Sons and daughters learn the sport alongside Mum and Dad on approved ranges and under the supervision of qualified range officers.
They all take part in a well-established pastime which focuses on safety, respect for firearms and courtesy to fellow shooters.
The shooting experience is both social and competitive.
It caters for those who are content to have a once-a-year go at a duck on the wing with a side-by-side shottie, to an elite handful who squeeze the trigger between heartbeats.
Some shooters spend years honing their skills and go on to represent New Zealand internationally at Olympic and Commonwealth Games and world championships.
World class pistol shooters such as Greg Yelavich and Alan Earle, both of Auckland, regularly score highly in international competition.
Mr Yelavich, for example, who competes in the 50 m pistol, 25 m centre-fire pistol and 10m air pistol events, has won more Commonwealth Games medals than any other New Zealand athlete.
Some shooters are good keen outdoors types who relish deer stalking, pig hunting and game bird shooting – ducks, pheasants, and geese.
Others are happy to get their basic firearms licence, plink at targets on a range, or whack a few bunnies down on the farm.
Many Kiwi shooters take part in the various disciplines administered by two of the sport’s main bodies, the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) and the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC)
This includes mainly pistol shooting and the popular three-gun shoots comprising a series of challenges using rifle, pistol and shotgun.
ISSF shooting is mainly done from a bench at a set of fixed targets with a 200mm black diameter, usually 25m away.
IPSC shooting is more active, as a holster-certified shooter on the move draws and tackles a series of targets, usually placed through a tight course of safety barrels, judged on accuracy and time.
Rifle shooters have several disciplines to chose from, including .22 precision target shooting, deerstalker ranges, black powder events and service rifles (including everything from British .303 bolt action models to the latest semi-automatic military rifles (ARs) from makers such as Colt and Armalite – so-called “black guns.”)
One of the most popular events on the Auckland rifle shooting calendar is the Auckland Swiss Club’s annual Any Rifle Any Sights competition, shot over 300m at the club’s Silverdale farm and which attracts about 100 men, women and youngsters.
When they can find enough outdoors space some enthusiasts – usually in remote open areas of the South Island – shoot high-calibre specialist rifles over 1000m and even out to 1500m.
Pistol shooting has grown in popularity, with more than 3000 licensed pistol shooters belonging to clubs all over the country and affiliated to the sport’s governing body Pistol New Zealand (PNZ).
Because firearms ownership in New Zealand is a privilege and not a right, pistol ownership and shooting in particular is strictly regulated by law and by a memorandum of understanding between the police and PNZ.
Pistols may be used only on police-approved club ranges and cannot be used for hunting.
Most pistol club ranges are outdoors but Auckland has indoor ranges at Howick and Central Shooters Inc, in the central city.
At Central Shooters, which has been in operation for about 20 years, members shoot a range of approved hand-gun calibres, mainly .22 and 9mm, as well as .22 rifles, over 25m.
The club, for example, encourages young shooters by hosting and providing range officers for an annual scout shoot which sees between 400 and 500 scouts shooting .22 rifles.
New members are encouraged and Central Shooters, in association with the Mountain Safety Council, enables new shooters to learn all aspects of safe firearms handling, and sit the test for an initial firearms licence – which when issued allows the holder to own shotguns and sporting rifles.
Those keen to take up pistol shooting then go through a period of regular supervised range shooting where they are assessed for attitude and aptitude, safety awareness and suitability to apply through the club for a pistol licence.
There are a number of additional legal requirements which must be met before and after a pistol licence is granted, all of them centred on safety, security, regular range shooting and consideration for fellow shooters.
The same applies to other specialised licences required by collectors and those who shoot military style semi automatic rifles.
Some clubs boast two or three generations of family shooters, most of whom have come up from nippers squinting behind a trusty bolt action .22 rifle.
Regular and competitive shooters tend to reload their own centre-fire ammunition – it is time consuming but cheaper.
A youngster can get into shooting with a good .22 rifle for about $400 and ammunition is cheap – usually less than $50 for 500 rounds. New centre-fire pistols range from about $1000 to more than $3000.
Good shotguns and higher calibre centre-fire rifles usually start about $800 and up to many thousands of dollars for enthusiasts with money to burn.
Why not give it a go? Believe it or not, shooting is very relaxing.
And a vigilant shooter looks at Hollywood “hardware” more critically.