The program consists of many possible merit options. The badge may be earned in "air-rifle," "modern cartridge," or "black powder" disciplines. Each with its own set of achievement goals. Southport teaches "modern cartridge" using .22 caliber rimfire rifles. Minimum requirements include general firearm safety, proper handling and use, as well as demonstrated competency on the range. The program is embellished to help scouts determine what firearm they want, for what purpose and even purchasing options. It covers compliance with the laws of both Illinois and Wisconsin, particularly with firearm ownership and transport.
The course also includes dealing with peers who want to "see your gun." It covers such diverse topics as identification of rimfire vs. centerfire ammunition, appreciation of wildlife conservation, cleaning up after yourself and being respectful of other on the range and in the field.
Each scout must be able to reiterate the lesson material and demonstrate proficiency in both the prone and bench-rest positions, firing five 3-round groups and then five 5-round group within the diameter of a quarter at 50 feet!
Earning the badge requires 16-20 hours of instruction, including both classroom work and live-fire range time. Where the BSA program recently required only merit badge counselor training and a good background in rifle shooting, instructors must now hold the NRA's formal "Certified Rifle" credential as well. The club provides the necessary equipment, including single-shot bolt-action .22 caliber rifles, ammunition, eye and ear protection, targets and range time.
Photos by T. Keisman
Southport Masters regularly sponsors the Boy Scout Rifle Shooting Merit Badge Training program. The program is run by volunteer member instructors who are registered merit badge counselors with the Three Harbors Council of the BSA.
The club will sponsor two or three groups annually. Although most scouts earn this badge at summer camp, the Soutport program caters to those who cannot participate or did not passthe required marksmanship tests at camp.