Kim Rhode wants shooting sports to be around for her grandchildren, and beyond. That’s part of the reason she’s been such a tireless ambassador for the shooting sports, using her prominence as an Olympic athlete to bring attention to all of the positive aspects that the shooting disciplines offer.
She also knows the disinformation surrounding firearms thrives on ignorance, so getting involved in shooting helps dispel those myths.
When it comes to selecting the right age to get children involved in shooting, Kim doesn’t believe there’s a hard and fast rule. She started very young, but she recognizes that may not work out for everyone.
“Well, I think it’s really up to the parents to decide where their individual child is at, maturity wise. I’ve taken people who were really young and people that are much older and it doesn’t really matter.”
“I think it’s up to the individual, what they’re comfortable with, and what the family is comfortable with. I think, like anything, a parent knows their children best and it’s for them to make that decision.”
Parents shouldn’t push their children too hard, either. Instead, they should let their child approach shooting at their own pace.
“Some kids are meeker, some kids are a little more aggressive, and it just really depends on the individual.”
But for adults that are thinking of getting into trap or skeet, she suggests a more gung ho approach.
“Just to go out to the range and start talking to people. You’ll find that everyone is very nice and welcoming and many possess a wealth of knowledge. You’ll get 10 different ideas on how to shoot one bird. It’s almost too much, because people are so excited and just to want to help you. That’s something you’ll definitely find in the shooting sports.”
Kim thinks that women who want to shoot should just head to range, and the warmth of the gun community will welcome them right in. But if you or someone you know someone who might need a little more support to get out to the range for the first time, she suggests linking up with a group such as the NRA.
**“I think if you’re a lady and you want to get into shooting there’s a million different ways. I know the NRA has several different programs. They have a lot of girls’ get-togethers and nights out. They’re not just talking about shooting, there are fashion announcements of the accessories that go along with firearms and stuff like that.”
“No matter who you are or what your likes are, you’ll always find a niche for yourself, something that will keep your interest.”**
Regardless of age and experience level, Kim recommends getting some help from a qualified instructor.
“The best advice is to get a lesson. Go out and spend the extra few bucks to get a lesson from a pro or somebody who is successful in the sport. Learn the good habits and try not to develop many of the bad habits. You can try to figure it out along the way, but it’s going to cost you a lot of money and you’re going to have a lot more trial and error.”
Kim is also quick to point out that breaking clays is a lot of fun, but misses can be frustrating.
“If you’re hitting birds you’re going to come back and do it again and again. And if you’re missing you’re probably not going to want to continue to do it.”
“So that’s the best advice I can give is seek some expert advice, get some lessons, or even find somebody out there who is very good to maybe give you a few pointers to help you. You’ll find that people are more than willing to do that.”
A Place to Shoot
A good place to shoot and introduce others to shooting is also imperative. Fortunately, there are a number of great facilities throughout the country, like the McIvor Shooting Facility, which just opened in Mississippi on April 6.
The state-of-the-art shooting facility was build by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks and the Foundation of the Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (FMWFP) with support from Rhode’s longtime sponsor, Winchester Ammunition.
“Now with the opening of McIvor we have three amazing shooting facilities located across the state, providing affordable opportunities for all to enjoy,” said John E. Taylor, Chairman of the FMWFP.
It features a 15-station sporting clay range, two skeet ranges with a trap range overlaid on each, a five-stand “Duck Flush” range, 100- and 300-yard rifle ranges, and even a 3D archery range.
“For decades, Winchester has been a strong leader in supporting recreational shooting sports activities as well as working with others to help grow participation,” said Brett Flaugher, President of Winchester Ammunition.
“With more than 50 million target shooters in the U.S., many of them here in the great state of Mississippi, we are very proud to be the major donor of this modern-day facility,” he added. “The McIvor Shooting Facility could not have been built at a better time.”
A Global Community
That sense of camaraderie extends to the international stage as well. Even though they are pitted against one another for the gold, these top athletes have cultivated friendships that have spanned both time and distance.
“When I first started there was more of a language barrier than there is now, and keeping in touch was more of a challenge because we didn’t have Facebook and Instagram and all these really cool things.”
“Now, you have a lot of the competitors talking to each other. So there’s a lot of camaraderie that does happen that I think you don’t see in a lot of sports. We’re still competitors out on the line, but we’re able to be friends when we step off that line.”
The founder of the modern Olympic games, Pierre de Coubertin, was a former French pistol champion.
As such, he ensured that shooting was amongst the nine competitive sports in the first modern Olympic Games held in 1896 in Athens, Greece, with four pistol and two high-power rifle events included in the program.
Since that time, shooting events have been included in all but two Olympic games, the 1904 Games in St. Louis, Missouri, and the 1928 Olympic games in Amsterdam.
The number of events has varied; with a historical high of 21 at the 1920 Antwerp games, down to two at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. Now the games host 15 shooting contests; nine for men and six for women, in shotgun, rifle, and pistol categories.
Rhode believes that shooting sports will be in the Olympics for the foreseeable future because of de Coubertin’s influence, despite the current political climate. And Kim hopes to compete for quite a while longer.
During our talk, the topic of Oscar Swahn of Sweden, who was 72 years and 281 days old when he competed at the 1920 Olympics in shooting, came up.
“I jokingly say that’s not a record I’m going for, but as I inch closer and closer it’s something that crosses my mind. I think the record that I’m going for is more consecutive Olympics than anyone, but at the end of the day it’s really about just pushing the envelope and bringing more awareness about how great our sport truly is.”
“And if me winning seven or eight Olympics straight is the way that we can attain that for future generations then so be it,” Rhode said, punctuating the last part with a good natured laugh.
And to help ensure the future of shooting for those that don’t compete, she is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association (NRA), as well as a member of Safari Club International (SCI).
Always concerned with future generations, she has already gotten her son lifetime memberships in both organizations.