Lots of sports claim they are for ‘all ages’ but what they often really mean is they are a ‘spectator sport’ for all ages. Sports shooting on the other hand is truly inclusive for everybody, in fact it’s a way of life. Most of our members will spend their lives involved with it and generally, even if we take a few years off here and there, we always come back.
Not only can men and women participate on an equal footing, but the shooting sports also turn age into nothing more than a number. At SSAA ranges across Australia there are countless examples of people shooting into their 60s, 70s, 80s and in Frank Harpham’s case, even into his 90s. Aged in his mid-90s, Frank is a life member of the SSAA Bundaberg Branch and attends the range regularly, sometimes as often as twice a week.
Like many of our members, Frank has spent his entire life with firearms. Frank grew up in New Zealand and in 1924, at the age of three, he can recall his father shooting a feral pig. He remembers their dog Roy and the gun – “a massive thing, when you are just three or so years old. The rifle was a black powder .44 Winchester,” he said.
Growing up, Frank became a keen hunter himself and was the proud owner of a number of rifles, including a Winchester .22 and Winchester Model 92 in .44 calibre. Unfortunately, World War II interfered and Frank took on the blue uniform of the RNZAF. After the war, Frank began seriously hunting again. This included bagging an incredible 60-point deer.
Despite illness and moving his home to Australia, Frank has maintained a life committed to shooting. When asked what his most treasured moments in the sport of shooting are, he said: “Oh, without a doubt, stalking a buck to within range and getting off that clean shot before discovery.”
As our members know, shooting doesn’t follow any modern sporting formula. While we refer to shooting as a ‘sport’ in its own right, ‘tradition’ and ‘recreation’ are probably better descriptors. It was a true necessity not too long ago, but is still a part of life for many thousands of people around Australia and indeed the world.
We celebrate our veteran shooters in particular because they symbolise the spirit of shooting. They share experience and their vast knowledge with our community, are usually the first to lend a hand to beginners and are a living embodiment of the tradition of shooting.