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Shooting for awareness: Campus club aims to hit their target

Amidst the orange-checkered field of cracked clay pigeons, melodic popping of shotguns firing and scent of gun powder, resides the UNF Skeet, Trap and Shooting Clays Club.

Thomas Coates, a UNF political science and business management senior and assistant coach for the club, has been handling and shooting shotguns for over two years. In fall 2009, he and fellow shooter Joseph Lentz founded the shooting club.

Their goal is to let the community know guns can be used in positive ways and to dispel the negative connotation associated with them by raising their weapons and safely firing away.

“It’s great for team-building, personal development and growth, confidence and competition,” Coates said. “And they [the community] like that we are using these weapons in an organized way, rather than getting into trouble with them.”

The club consists of about 10 members, both male and female, who practice three to four times a week at the Jacksonville Gun Club alongside the Jacksonville University team. JU actually offers a credited course called “Introduction to the Theory of Wingshooting.”

Coach David Dobson is head coach for both the UNF and JU shooting teams. The teams go head-to-head by competing against each other once a year.

“We have competition aspirations for this upcoming year,” Coates said. “We plan on shooting against other schools, and hopefully we will make it to nationals in Texas next year.”

Lentz, a UNF transportation junior and shooting club president, said the main goal right now for the club is to get everyone registered with the National Skeet Shooting Association so they can compete in more tournaments on an individual level and as a team.

All members of the club are personally funded and must own their own shotgun to be able to practice with the team. Aryn Mooney, a UNF public relations senior, joined the club at the beginning of this semester.

“My dad actually got me into shooting,” Mooney said. “Then I started dating Joseph [Lentz], and I thought it would be really fun, so I joined the club. At first, I was using one of my dad’s guns, but I just bought my own.”

The pre-owned shotgun she bought cost her $1,000, which she said is on the low end of the spectrum. Shotguns range from $1,000 to $15,000.

“It is a semi-automatic, so it doesn’t have much recoil, which is really nice,” Mooney said.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation awarded the club a $5,000 grant this year, which helps greatly when it comes to purchasing practice supplies.

“We are poor college kids, so this grant is huge for us,” Coates said. “The NSSF is the end all be all when it comes to the promotion of youth and collegiate shooting programs.”

The club has come a long way in its short history at UNF and hopes to gain more student interest as each year passes.

“We had our first club fest this year, and I was shocked at how many people were interested in the club,” Coates said. “Most people had no idea the shooting club even existed.”

All students are welcome to join and learn more about gun safety and shooting techniques. Coates and Lentz are discussing the idea of holding monthly meetings at the Gun Club, so interested members can get a hands-on learning session from the shooting club members and Dobson.

“We are open to everyone who is interested,” Lentz said. “But handling guns can be dangerous, so we want to make sure people who practice with us know how to use a gun, even if they don’t know much about the sport itself.”

Coates said the club has a lot to look forward to this coming year, including T-shirts featuring the club logo and adding more competitions to their agenda.

“Clay target sports are the fastest growing collegiate sports right now,” Coates said. “If other schools don’t have shooting teams now, they probably will soon.”

Coates said when he started the club, he never expected to have a full-time coach or even funding. As for UNF having a credited course in shooting, Coates said, “It may be a while, but I would love to see it happen.”

For more information or get involved, contact [email protected] or The UNF Skeet, Trap and Shooting Clays Club Facebook page.

Aryn Mooney’s Gun:
Beretta AL391 Shotgun
Uses 20 gage shotgun shells
cost: around $1,000
weight: Around 7 pounds
barrel length: 28 inches

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