friends, right, tight

New shooters get off to a great start with training and experience at Square1 Outdoors. Programs mix practice and instruction well.

New shooters looking to explore what area ranges have to offer can do so through Boy Scouts of America and through Square1 Outdoors. Both pursue missions aided by grants from Friends of the NRA, the next local fundraising banquet for which is July 17.

Grants to support safety and improve marksmanship stem every year from fundraising work done by the nonprofit organization Friends of the NRA.

The area chapter’s next local event and banquet is set for 6 p.m. Saturday, July 17 at Building 4 of the Tupelo Furniture Market at 1879 Coley Road. Admission is $40 per person.

The banquet, complete with both live and silent auctions as well as a number of other attractions, is part of a national network of support for the National Rifle Association Foundation, a group that has raised and awarded more than $267 million in grants since 1990.

“It’s a really neat time, it really is,” said Ty Robinson, a Tupelo resident and volunteer with Friends of the NRA. “It moves quickly. There are a lot of good folks there and it’s a great time for fellowship.”

Though COVID interfered with last year’s efforts, a typical year sees more than 1,100 Friends of the NRA events across the country raise more than $65 million. Half of all funds raised go toward programs with a national scope. The other half go back into their states of origin and are distributed by Friends of the NRA state fund committees. Locally, two examples of the Friends of the NRA in action are Square1 Outdoors and the Boy Scouts of America.

“Friends of the NRA has been instrumental in helping provide, not only equipment, but quality shooting facilities for Scouts and visitors,” said Owen McCulloch, Yocona Area Scout Executive and CEO. “Because of their help, we’re better able to provide the right equipment for the right ages for a safe and fun age-appropriate shooting experience.

Fun for all ages

“We do different shooting experiences for different ages. We offer age-appropriate shooting sports activities for Scouts in grade school up through age 20. In all cases, Boy Scouts of America shooting sports are overseen by NRA-qualified range safety officers and instructors.”

On average, the local scout council receives $1,600 to $2,500 in contributions from Friends of the NRA every year, totaling roughly $10,000 over the past five years. Of this, 100 percent goes to purchase and maintain supplies for the scouts’ shooting sports programs. Through Boy Scouts, youngsters are offered direct experience and quality instruction in rifle, shotgun and archery shooting.

“Through Friends of the NRA grants, our local Boy Scout group has gotten .22s in the past to teach youth how to shoot,” Robinson said.

Another area organization with a focus on youth is Square1 Outdoors, a nonprofit founded nearly 10 years ago with the mission of offering families and young people a safe and comfortable environment to enjoy the shooting sports.

Built with membership dollars and lots of sweat equity, the Square1 range at Sullivan Farms north of West Barnes Crossing Road includes separate, dedicated facilities for archery, handgun, shotgun and rifle shooting. While there is plenty of opportunity for adults to use the Square1 Outdoors facilities, the ultimate motivation is to share the shooting sports with youngsters.

“We’re making a dedicated effort to founding a new wave of shooters in north Mississippi,” David Ramseyer, with Square1 Outdoors, said. “It’s a labor of love, something we’re doing because we enjoy sharing with new people who’ve never tried it. Friends of the NRA has helped us with that mission immensely.”

Receiving contributions similar to those granted the Boy Scout council, Square1 has used funds granted by Friends of the NRA to supply safety gear, rifles and ammunition.

Finding key equipment

“The fact we can bring youth up and have everything we need to share the shooting sports with new shooters is huge, and grants from Friends of the NRA have made a tremendous difference,” Ramseyer said. “From archery gear and air rifles to the full gamut of shooting equipment, it’s helped with everything.

“Personally, having been involved with Square1 from the very beginning and extending to helping teach the shooting sports, I can say the contributions we’ve received from Friends of the NRA have made a world of difference. We’re getting first-time shooters fully involved in our programs, and they’ll be lifetime enthusiasts thanks to the introduction they’ve received. There are times we’ve had kids get into our programs who’ve never shot a gun before, never held a gun, never had any experience at all. Thanks to Friends of the NRA, we’re able to put equipment into their hands to use.”

Tickets to the local banquet are $40 each. They may be purchased at Bar-B-Q by Jim in Tupelo, from any North Mississippi Friends of the NRA committee member or online at www.friendsofnra.org.

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