IF YOU think shooting is just for country types in tweed jackets or the criminal fraternity - you’d be wrong.

And the third annual National Shooting Week, which began yesterday, hopes to change those kinds of preconceptions.

More than 100 shooting schools and clubs are opening their doors to give people an opportunity to try what the British Shooting Sports Council claims is one of the most exciting and inclusive sports in the country.

It’s a sport which welcomes all, regardless of age, gender or disability and National Shooting Week is a Government-backed initiative, organised by the British Shooting Sports Council (the umbrella body for shooting sports).

News of gun crime and illegal guns has sometimes overshadowed the fact that shooting is an Olympic sport at which the UK sometimes excels. At the 2006 Commonwealth Games shooting accounted for 23 of the UK’s 116 medals. However our shooters were out of luck at the Beijing Olympics last year - so give it a go now and you could be discovered as a shooting star for London 2012!

“The week gives an opportunity for all the misconceptions about shooting to be put to one side. It also gives people the chance to understand that this is a sport that can be for everybody,” said Gerry Sutcliffe, Minister for Sport .

Organiser Rob Gray said: “More than one million people take part in UK shooting sports. It is accessible, affordable and addictive. We’re hoping that people from all walks of life will try shooting for the first time during the week. It is one of the safest sports in Britain and teaches people to respect firearms.”

The week is aimed at people who have never experienced target shooting before.

Complete beginners who would like to give it a shot can find out where their nearest shooting event is during the week by going to www.national shooting week.co.uk.

* Shooters mainly use three types of gun - shotgun, which are smooth barrelled for shooting moving targets like clay pigeons; rifles which fires a single bullet and air rifles or pistols.

* A clay pigeon is a circular disc, made from pitch and chalk, measuring 110mm in diameter. It is brittle enough to break when hit but strong enough to be spun in the air at up to 90mph. They are launched from traps - dervived from the days when live birds were used.

We had a go...
WHEN it comes to shooting I’m more of a Calamity Jaine than an Annie Get Your Gun.

After missing with my first few shots, when I finally did manage to shatter a clay (with more than a little assistance from our instructor Huw Stephens) I decided to quit while I was ahead and save wasting any more cartridges.

However son Tom and his French exchange student friend Jonas Roubira, both 13, took to handling a lethal weapon with aplomb on our visit to Barbury Shooting School, near Wroughton.

Maybe it’s too much time on XBox but they were soon scoring many more hits than misses.

Huw was an excellent teacher - patient, encouraging and altogether charming or, in the boys’ parlance “really cool”.

He’s managing director and runs the school which his family took over a couple of years ago.

He said the sport was popular with “anyone and everyone”.

People shooting there include fire officers, housewives, Honda workers . . . oh, and Sir Seton Wills, the former majority shareholder of Swindon Town Football Club.

Many people are introduced to it through corporate events and then decide to take it up as a leisure activity. Huw said cost-wise as a hobby it probably compares with golf or following a football team.

Barbury Shooting School, which runs a variety of events and classes and is open to members (who enjoy discounts) and non-members, isn’t planning anything special for National Shooting Week but does run taster events.

For more details see www.barburyshoot.com or telephone 07872 666154.