Fancy starting your own airgun club? Mark Camoccio begins a mini-series showing you how to start your own shooting club!

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It’s a curious thing, but I’ve spoken to quite a few people over the years who have bemoaned the fact that they simply don’t have a hobby, or passion for anything in particular. By contrast, I feel so lucky to be involved in airgun sports, and thinking back to that milestone of persuading my parents to buy me an air rifle, in 1979, and the world of pleasure that has followed as a result, it’s no exaggeration to say, it was a genuine life-changing moment.

OK, it borders on obsessional at times, but it does keep me off the streets, as my good old dad would say. Spreading our passion to others, and passing on the baton to youngsters coming through, is of paramount importance, and the setting up of an airgun club is a fantastic way to spread the word. It’s a world of fun, too!

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Admittedly, it’s hardly the most ideal time, with the dreaded ‘C’ word playing havoc with our fun, but things will level off, and despite the doom-mongers enjoying their negativity, normal-ish life will eventually return. It always does!

So, just how do you go about setting up a club? Well, having gone through the process, when I first moved up to Lincolnshire from London, a good while back, I’ve learned a fair bit along the way, so get a nice hot cup of tea, pull up a chair, and let me explain with this new mini-series.

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I soon discovered that my new rural community was something of a black hole where outdoor airgun clubs were concerned, and after a tour of the ‘nearest’ and even a conversation with the local police force, I realised that it was down to me to get creative. Incidentally, the police were extremely helpful and even provided a booklet of the firearms clubs and organizations in the vicinity, but with little in the way of airgun options, the idea to start one began to gather momentum.

Once you decide to take the plunge, the first obvious step is to look for a suitable venue. Spreading the word in the local pub is no bad thing, but there’s no real substitute for cold calling a few high-profile farmers and significant landowners in the area, and you need to expect to put some time in. Maintain a professional, low-key approach, too, which means don’t turn up in full Rambo kit, camos and a huge Bowie swinging from the hip. Be ultra-polite, and expect plenty of refusals and rebuffs. Don’t take offence, and keep plugging away. Try to stay positive, and persevere. A rural community makes things slightly easier, and I was lucky striking gold quite early on, with a local farmer, only too happy to help the shooting sports. He’s a shooter himself, an extremely nice bloke, and doesn’t even want rent for the large field that we now use. Blimey – lucky or what!

This is a significant point, because if you are to pay a sizeable rent, then the clubs membership will need to be correspondingly large to cover it. Our club has chosen to stay fairly small, so not to irritate the farmer with too many vehicles, but we can afford to do that.

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Local gunshops are perfect places to advertise the club, since it is in their interest to generate customers in the long term. The more members you have, the more chance there is of business for them. It really is two-way traffic, but shooting magazines will normally be only too happy to carry a mention of a new club, as well as have them listed in a register/website once in existence. Villages and local shops/newsagents often carry adverts in the window, and again, for a few quid, this can be a cost-effective way to drum up membership. Keep the advert simple and welcoming, and you could be surprised at the response.

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One key aspect of a shooting club, without which it’s a non-starter, is insurance! Something to consider right from the start because it could be a ‘chicken and egg’ situation. Reassuring the landowner that all members are insured is of the utmost importance, and there are two ways of doing this. At a push, members could take out their own individual policies, such as BASA, or BASC, covering them wherever they happen to shoot. However, whilst I would always recommend that all airgun shooters take out individual policies to cover themselves wherever they go, in reality, for the purposes of running a club, the task of having to keep a check that everyone’s insurance is renewed and valid at any time throughout the year, is a logistical nightmare.

You’ll need cover for guests on the day, too, so a group policy for the club overall is by far the best option, and specialist policies are available from several sources; the National Smallbore Rifle Association (NSRA) I believe run a policy, as do the the British Field Target Association (BFTA), although the BFTA would expect you to be more geared to FT and possibly holding competitions. Our club use Blue Fin Insurance, a company that offers dedicated policies specifically for shooting clubs. Having used them for the last few years, I can personally vouch for the suitability of their tailor-made documentation. The policy requires us to set a maximum on the number of members, but if this is ever reached, and we wish to become larger, we just pay a nominal fee on a ‘per additional member’ basis. Keeping a note of shooters in attendance on the day, keeps things all above board for the records

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Next month, I’ll take you through documentation and other aspects to consider along the way.