By Heather Horn '06
The sawdust-coated basement of Castle Hall, formerly home to the shop classes, is now the permanent residence of the Air Rifle team. Punahou's new indoor ten-meter range is a welcome improvement upon the concrete slab and gray tarp setup on Rocky Hill where the team resided for the past four years. That concrete slab was actually the remains of a beautiful, covered, landscaped rifle range that served Punahou's JROTC and marksmanship teams from 1953 until it was torn down in the early eighties. Since then, the rifle teams have been nomads. Some of those years were spent commuting to McKinley High School's range, which still hosts the .22 caliber Smallbore (Riflery) team. Others were spent in the Punahou ballet and exercise room, carefully avoiding shooting through the temporary plywood covers protecting the wall of mirrors.
Air Riflery, or more correctly, Sporter Air Rifle, as the discipline practiced in Hawaii's statewide high school league is known, is the entry level for competitive Olympic style target shooting. It's a come-as-you-are shooting sport. Student athletes use minimal, basic equipment and do not use specialized shooting attire. This helps keep the cost down and makes the sport available to schools and club programs. Competitions that lead to national level championships are established and Punahou teams have captured several national individual and team medals. Just last year, the Punahou Gold team earned the title of Three-Position Sporter Air Rifle National Scholastic Champions. Three Punahou marksmen, Simone Riford, Jon Onaga, and Heather Horn, have been honored and nationally ranked among the 2005 National Rifle Association President's 100. The basement of Castle Hall will make a fine place to finally display the Air Rifle team's awards.
The ILH air rifle season runs from mid September to late October. The 2005 Hawaii State Championships were held on November 1st. Matches are hosted on Saturdays at the St. Louis High School range. Perhaps the new Castle Hall range will one day host formal match competition. It will be nice for Punahou to have a "home field advantage" for the first time in decades.
Sporter air rifles are simple pneumatic pellet launchers, using a .177 caliber hourglass shaped lead or steel projectile. Targets are placed 10 meters from the firing line on wood and steel stands at three heights that correspond to the three positions of prone, standing, and kneeling. Each target has twelve bulls eyes a little larger than a quarter. Two are used for "sighting in" to adjust the aim of the rifle. Ten bulls eyes are used for record scoring. A perfectly centered shot earns the competitor ten points. Matches are scored in 300, 600, or 1200 point formats.
Most ILH matches are a "quarter course," or 300 point format. Competitors are given a one hour block to shoot ten record shots in each of the three positions. At the State Championships, competitors shoot a "half-course," twenty ten point shots in three positions for a total possible score of 600. The current state record is 557 points, and is held by Vicci Yau, Punahou class of 2002.
You may have seen the article about the Punahou Air Rifle Team in the newspaper recently. Punahou swept the Boys and Girls State Championship titles on November 1st. Although the quest for a State Championship began seriously a year ago, moving into Castle Hall was the last moral boost and practical advantage the team needed to win. The Castle Hall basement range is now the proud host for two very large trophies.
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