Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Bitterroot Marksmanship Club for Youth Education in Darby | local news

Two Darby residents start an indoor youth airgun marksmanship club called the Bitterroot Marksmanship Club.

Organizers David Naber and Joseph Hein applied for the 5013C with the IRS, registered it as a Montana nonprofit, and received Darby City Council approval.

Naber relocated to Darby from New Mexico in September and is acting as a trainer to provide the necessary skills.

His credentials are impressive.

An active duty Army officer for 21 years, he retired and taught the high school JROTC program in Farmington, New Mexico and coached the program’s marksmanship team for 16 years. He is a Level 3 National Rifle Association Coach, has competed in Army JROTC National Championships for 10 consecutive years, and competed in the All Service JROTC National Championships and the CMP National Championships.

Naber said building a competitive youth squad will be challenging.

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“But after years of coaching youth shooters and seeing the benefits this sport can bring to our youth, I know it will be worth the effort,” he said. “We are delighted to be working with both the Rodeo Association and the City of Darby. The opportunities offered to Ravalli County’s youth through competitive marksmanship will be incredible…learned life skills, travel to state and national competitions, and potential for NCAA collegiate shooting opportunities.

Coach Joseph Hein was a competitive shooter for the University of Alaska, the US Olympic Team, and the US Army Marksmanship Unit. Hein is a gold medalist at the Junior Olympic, Junior World, NRA, USA Shooting and World Cup levels. Hein owns Elite Shooting Sports of Montana, a master gunsmith and shooting equipment specialist.

“The Bitterroot Marksmanship Club will provide a wonderful opportunity for local youth to participate in one of the fastest growing youth sports in America,” said Hein. “Kids have the opportunity to train and compete as a team while learning valuable life skills like goal setting, determination and hard work.”

Naber said the Bitterroot Marksmanship Club will be open to all youth in Ravalli County between the ages of 11 and 18.

He said the skills the youth will learn will provide personal growth and opportunities to compete at a high level.

“It teaches respect for firearms and gun safety, discipline, dedication, attention to detail, teamwork and performance under pressure; all the essential life skills that we want to instill in our youth and that will lead to their future success,” said Naber. “This is also a fun program for youngsters where close friendships are formed.”

He said there will be travel opportunities and the club will also get involved in community projects to learn the importance of giving back to the community.

The Bitterroot Marksmanship program would operate under the rules of the sport’s governing body, the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), and shoot indoors at a range of 10 meters (32.8 ft) in prone, standing and kneeling positions . According to Naber, the youth three-position air rifle is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States, with 250,000 youth and 3,000 congressional-sanctioned CMP teams.

Naber and Hein are in the process of collecting participants and donors. Instead of paying fees, young people participate in fundraising activities. Starting costs are about $23,000 for a ten-lane shooting range, target boxes, scopes, stands, sport-class airguns, a scannable targeting system, and other equipment. Additional purchases will be made as the program develops.

Initially, the Darby Rodeo Association will allow the club to use its large warehouse as a 12-lane shooting range, but a self-contained shooting range complex is a future goal.

“We are both very excited about what this can do for children,” said Naber. “I put four girls on college marksmanship teams. Joe loved it. He was shooting for the University of Alaska, and he saw the positive impact that can happen for youth.”

Naber said Montana has three great 501C3 marksmanship teams, Bonner (Hellgate), Belgrade (Gallatin Valley), and Billings (Yellowstone). He would like to add a fourth, in Darby.

To learn more about the Bitterroot Marksmanship Club or to make a donation, email [email protected] or call David Naber at 505-330-4845.

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