HARTSBURG — Among the echoing cracks of rifle fire, Mike Tanner quietly coached his son, Jake Tanner.
“Breathe normal. Six minutes down. Relax,” Mike Tanner said while rubbing his son’s back.
Jake Tanner was motionless as he concentrated, and his father recited the five fundamentals of shooting right behind his shoulder: B.R.A.S.S. — breathe, relax, aim, sight, squeeze.
“I tell him that each and every time,” Mike Tanner said.
Jake Tanner was participating in the 10- to 15-year-old division of the Show-Me State Games rifle shooting competition Saturday at Ammo Alley in Hartsburg. The competition consisted of three sessions, and shooters fired 10 rounds per 10-minute session.
For a child's attention span, that could be too much time and too few rounds. On average it takes up to 30 seconds to align a single round through constant, tiny adjustments.
This means the young shooters must master the patience and concentration of an adult. Once in a while, however, their adult-like composure is set aside and their younger side slips out.
“Patience is a real benefit playing this game because you have a specified amount of time. You use every stitch of it,” Ammo Alley owner Doug Alley said. “It’ll seem like an eternity to those kids that’ll look around and go, ‘I’m already done.”
Moments later, Alley burst out laughing when he discovered his son, 16-year-old Landon Alley, had been on Facebook via cell phone during the competition. It seemed like Landon Alley finished shooting before the others and had grown impatient.
Although children have a shorter attention span than adults, Doug Alley said not to underestimate young shooters. The day before, 8-year-old Rayven Lage scored higher than half the adult male shooters during her first shooting session.
"She was smoking the men," Alley laughed.
Besides shooting, Jake Tanner competes in wrestling, baseball and football. Compared to those latter sports, shooting focuses mostly on staying as relaxed as possible. Tanner said it's sometimes hard to transition from the action-packed sports to shooting.
“I’m patient most of the time. I mean, unless I’ve had like a soda or something,” Jake Tanner said, and the parents in the room laughed at the dreaded combination of children and caffeine.
During the past two years, shooting has helped 10-year-old Evan Snell in areas beyond the shooting range.
“He has a really short attention span anyway, but his patience has improved,” his father, Jason Snell said chuckling. “When Evan was done shooting, he played with the brass cases and built little pyramids. I think he had more fun playing with them than he did shooting them, actually. But that’s OK.”
While Jason Snell proudly spoke of his son's shooting, Evan Snell watched cartoons on his mom's phone.
Wearing a T-shirt that said, "Warning: extreme awesomeness," he sat in a chair in the lobby swinging his legs and wiggling in his seat. After the rest of the shooters finished, the door to the range opened, and he sprang out of his chair to greet fellow-shooter, 11-year-old Madison Koppinger.
As the two friends joked and ran out of the lobby, they transformed from mature marksman back into care-free children.