In the basement of Wilderness Way in Soldotna last Thursday, eight girls were taking their best shots.
Paper targets were set up at the end of an indoor 16-yard shooting range and the girls, as part of a Teens on Target class taught by Elaina and Ted Spraker, were peeping through scopes on the gas-powered semi-automatic rifles, lining up the crosshairs.
"Everybody ready? Get your clips all loaded," Ted said. "It's supposed to click; watch your barrel. Now remember fingers off the trigger. Take a couple breaths."
"Pull the trigger real slow. Try not to wiggle," he instructed.
Pellets fired through the air, the shots sounding like loud claps as they hit the targets.
"Always take your finger off the trigger," Ted prompted after the round of shots. "The range is cold, let's go look."
The girls tramped down to retrieve the papers, bragging rights to display in the makeshift classroom on the other side of the range.
"Check this out -- I got three bullseyes," said Mickey Mahan-Hamill, a 14-year old freshmen at Kenai Central High School.
The 8-week Teens on Target course gave the girls lessons in gun safety, cleaning, loading, shooting and even an educational moose hunt, like an amped-up Girl Scout troop.
With grants from the National Rifle Association, 4-H shooting sports and Safari Club International, and use of the range in Wilderness Way, the Sprakers were able to offer the class essentially for free to the small group of girls.
This is the first time they have gotten a group of teenage girls together to teach proper gun handling, something important to the couple because they have a daughter of their own, Elaina said.
They started the girls on Daisy rifles, then moved to shotguns and revolvers before the semi-automatics.
Elaina said she wanted the girls to be comfortable with revolvers because that's the gun she and Ted gave their daughter before she went out in the world.
"There's nothing more dangerous than giving someone a handgun that doesn't know how to handle them properly," she said.
And the different types of CO2 air guns were a good learning tool for the girls.
"This is a great way to train them and not be intimidated by high-power rifles," Elaina said.
Vicky Tachik, a 15-year-old Soldotna High School sophomore, said she can't wait to shoot with actual firearms.
"I wish they were real guns but we're not there yet," she said.
Vicky said she liked learning how to clean the gun as well as learning how to shoot it from the ground on her belly.
"It's just really fun. I like it when I get the bullseye right on the dot," she said. "That's my goal to get it on the bullseye."
Shara Leaders, 15, also a sophomore at Soldotna High School, said she wanted to take the Teens on Target course to "hang out with a bunch of girls and get more target practice."
There's also another perk that comes with gun education for Shara.
"I get to compete with my Grandpa," she said.
Some of the other girls in the class wanted to learn more about guns to go hunting with their families.
Denali Goodwill, a 15-year-old Soldotna High student, said she wants to go hunting for rabbits and spruce hens.
Jessica Paxton, 14, a freshmen at Kenai Central High School, said she hopes the class can help her get a hunting license.
"I wanted to go deer hunting with my dad but I don't have my hunting license and this will help me do that," she said.
Jessica said she likes shooting pistols the best.
"I feel so in control. I feel, like, really powerful," she said. "I feel like more in control than the boys even though they have big biceps I'm the one with the gun."
"Never trust a guy with a gun, that's a girl's job," Vicky chimed in.
"What she said," Jessica added.
Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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