BOY SCOUTS SHOOTING PROGRAMS
The Boy Scouts of America is one of the nation’s oldest and largest youth development organizations. It’s also a strong proponent of the shooting sports, with participation in its shooting-related programs steadily on the rise, thanks to support from Federal Ammunition.
For more than a century, the group has instilled the importance of character, values and citizenship in its participants, while teaching them about conservation, outdoor activities, sports, science and a variety of other subjects.
Frank Reigelman, BSA’s team lead for outdoor programs and properties, says shooting sports have been part of the scouting experience for most of the group’s history, with opportunities designed to allow youths’ skills to grow as they move through the scouting program.
“We have a progressive lineup of disciplines that begins with BB gun and moves into rimfire, shotgun and larger caliber firearms,” he says. “Cub Scouts start in the second grade with basic BB gun and archery. Boy Scouts, which begins at the end of fifth grade and goes until participants’ 18th birthday, offers rifle and shotgun merit badges. Our coed Venturing program, designed for young adults ages 14 to 21, has even more opportunities in centerfire rifles and pistols.”
Badges Of Honor
The merit badge program, which allows scouts to earn awards based on activities within an area of study, is a cornerstone of the Boy Scouts’ educational system. Of the more than 135 merit badges currently offered, shooting sports disciplines are enjoying a surge in popularity—and the momentum shows no signs of slowing down.
“Our shooting merit badges are extremely popular, and consistently rank in the top tier of topics,” Reigelman explains. “For example, in 2016, rifle was the 14th most popular merit badge, with 41,440 earned. Overall, it ranks 30th on our all-time list, with more than 1.4 million merit badges earned. Shotgun is a newer badge, but is already number 61 overall, with more than half a million merit badges earned.”
Reigelman says safety is the main focus of shooting education, followed by firearms fundamentals and skills enhancement.
To earn a rifle merit badge, for example, Scouts must address a variety of safety and gun ownership questions. They must also identify the main parts of their chosen shooting platform—options include modern rifle, air rifle and muzzleloader—and demonstrate their proficiency in safe handling, cleaning, sight adjustment and marksmanship.
Hunting is also a part of the curriculum. Scouts must explain how hunting is related to the wise use of renewable wildlife resources. They also need to obtain a copy of their state’s hunting regulations and explain the main points of those laws, including any special rules dealing with guns and ammunition.
Although national in scope, the Boy Scouts’ shooting education framework relies heavily on local and community leadership. “There are more than 260 local councils,” says Reigelman. “And each one typically has its own shooting sports committee.”
According to Reigelman, summer camps are a cornerstone of shooting opportunities. “The majority of councils have a Scout camp in their territory, and that’s where most of the triggers get pulled,” he says. “More than 1,600 day camps and resident camps offer shooting programs. Over 500 offer rifle and shotgun, 400 offer blackpowder and 645 camps have archery programs.”
An increasing number of camps provide additional shooting opportunities. “A growing number of Boy Scouts councils are working with instructors to open ranges on weekends to allow scouts to target practice or participate in shooting competitions, hunter education programs, workshops and other activities beyond the traditional merit badge program,” says Reigelman.
To make shooting sports accessible to as many youths as possible, cost to participants is kept to a minimum. “Through the support of manufacturers including Federal Ammunition, we’re able to keep expenses and fees low, so it’s very affordable for scouts and their families,” Reigelman says, noting that such partnerships also allow the Boy Scouts to secure enough ammunition to make their programs possible in the first place.
In fact, for just the Boy Scouts 2017 National Jamboree and its Marksman High Adventure Camps at West Virginia’s Summit Bechtel Reserve, Federal Ammunition allocated 525,000 rounds of 12-gauge ammunition, 67,000 rounds of 9mm Luger, 11,000 rounds of 223 Rem., and 21,000 209 primers.
And in 2010, Federal Ammunition provided custom-printed shotshells for the BSA’s 100th anniversary National Jamboree. Federal Ammunition is now the Official Shotshell of the annual event.
“We go through a staggering amount of ammo each year,” he says. “Having local leaders buy 18 million rounds of .22 shells locally a few bricks at a time just doesn’t work. Having a program where councils can order their ammo for the year and have it shipped right to individual camps is huge.”
Along with industry support, Reigelman says local volunteers are critical to the continued growth of the Scouts’ shooting programs. “Having enough local instructors to run our courses and ranges is a pinch point limiting future growth,” he says. “We welcome anyone interested in helping out to contact their local scouting office.”
By lending their support, volunteers help the Boy Scouts of America continue its century-old mission to build the nation’s future leaders by combining education and values with the fun of character-building activities including the shooting sports. For more information, visit scouting.org.