COLUMBIA, Mo. — Thanks to successful female sharpshooters like Annie Oakley and, more recently, Olympic athletes Emily Caruso and Libby Callahan, shooting guns is no longer considered a sport just for men.
In fact, it was two young women, Sara Kahrs of Hughesville, Mo., and Erica Kearn from California, who represented the National 4-H Shooting Sports Program at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas in January.
“We visited with industry leaders, vendors and donors about our experience in the shooting sports program and explained how we have benefitted from the program,” said 18-year-old Kahrs, who has been involved in the 4-H shooting sports program for five years.
“I think it's very important to be well-educated about guns, and I think that our program does that well. It teaches you respect for the firearm. It teaches you not to be afraid of guns and how to be safe around them. When you're not around them, I think that's where kids get into trouble.”
Kahrs was nominated to serve as ambassador by Gerry Snapp, University of Missouri Extension 4-H state youth development specialist. “She's a good speaker, and she's a good shooter,” he said. Kahrs has competed with a .22-caliber pistol in the state shooting sports match and was named top female in her discipline last year.
She is one of 3,414 MU Extension 4-H shooting sports participants. These young people choose one or two disciplines and develop their expertise by practicing year-round.
“It's all about you,” Kahrs said. “It's about how much time you put in personally. Only you can put the lead on that target.”
Snapp said that while the 4-H members have fared well at state and national shooting matches, competition results are not the program's primary focus.
“The best measure of success is the personal development of the young people participating in that program,” he said. “Youth in the MU Extension 4-H shooting program develop life skills, such as goal-setting, self-discipline, responsibility and decision-making. They have an opportunity to increase skill levels in pursuit of excellence, build self-esteem, experience the mentorship of caring adults and enjoy relationships developed with their peers.”