Blind? There is a gun for that, too
We find ourselves in front of a white door with a doorbell in the middle of a residential area in the south of Groningen, camera in tow. It is the entrance to the shooting association in Groningen, which can be found in a basement underneath a shopping centre. Upon entering, fluorescent lights illuminate the long corridor. It smells like a gym. At the end of the corridor, there is a café house full of well-filled trophy cabinets.
Albert Koster, ACLO front desk staffer and member of the shooting club, gives the course. ‘Students are taught how to shoot in five weeks at a shooting range. They receive tips on how to keep their breathing under control and try out different guns and pistols.’
In the right direction
Essentially, these are all air guns, but if the coaches have confidence in the shooters, then they are allowed to fire a .22 calibre during the last part of the course. Are air rifles not dangerous? ‘The air pressure of 20 bar which allows the pellets to blast out of the gun is enough to take someone’s eye out’, says Koster. Before he hands me a gun, he first asks me what the most important thing is during shooting, ‘Safety first’, I nod. Most importantly, this means that you have to keep the barrel of the gun aimed in the right direction at all times.
It turns out to be pretty difficult to hit the tiny black targets in the distance. Knees straight, hips pivoted, gun on your shoulder, look down the barrel, finger on the trigger. Shoot. Miss. My elbow was sore from shooting lying down, and my hand was shaking so badly from the gun that I hit the ceiling. I have a newfound respect for police agents, biathletes and the blind. Even those that are visually impaired are welcome at the Groningen shooting club.
Specially designed for the blind, there is a device (which costs 400 euros) which replaces the scope on the gun with a special viewer. Through headphones, you hear a beeping sound. This sound becomes higher in pitch if the barrel of your gun is aimed at the target. It is an official European discipline and those taking part in the ACLO course can try it out.
I put the headphones on, shut my eyes and move the gun back and forth. The beeping sound indeed becomes higher and lower in pitch, but not once do I hit the paper target. A failure? Not at all. Even Koster, with more than 17 years of shooting experience ,admits that he has never managed to hit all 50 of the targets. ‘That is what is so good about the sport; you always have room to improve.’
The ACLO shooting course begins again next academic year. Be on time with signing up, because there is always a lot of interest in the course.