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FRANKLIN -- It was standing room only -- figuratively and literally -- on Sunday as the Franklin Revolver and Rifle Association held its semi-annual introduction to shooting event for first-timers.
The class filled to capacity in just a couple of days after a notice was published, said Helen Swingle, who coordinated the Sunday class. The class began with an hour of classroom instruction before moving on to the firing range where club members served as mentors, providing their own guns for the first-timers to shoot.
"I wanted to learn," said Paul Cakl, of Vernon, who attended along with his wife, Pearle.
He said he knew some basics, like where the gun is pointed, "but I thought that when you picked up a gun, you automatically put your finger on the trigger. No, you hold outside (the trigger housing) until you're ready to shoot."
Pearle Cakl said she was anxious about shooting but found the afternoon "a fun experience. It wasn't as bad as I expected."
She did admit to having some initial problems with proper sighting.
"I kept both eyes open, instead of squinting one eye and looking down the barrel with the other," she said.
Once her coach explained proper sighting, she said she did much better.
"The first 40 shots, I just fired," she said. "The last 10 were much better."
Overall, she said, "I got 12 on paper."
Her husband said he grew up with very protective parents, noting, "I wasn't allowed to even have a two-wheeler," so the idea of shooting a long gun or hand gun was foreign to him.
Friends however got him to go shooting -- rifles and shotguns -- a couple of times and he then went to hunter safety courses, getting a hunting license.
"But I never went hunting," he said. "I think target shooting is more for me, things like cans, bottles and clays."
He said he and his wife expect to get a handgun for themselves.
"It's a fairly inexpensive sport," he said. "It really is a lot of fun."
Swingle, who has served as president, vice president and secretary of the club, said the first learn-to-shoot day began more than 20 years ago and was a "gals and guns" day, just for women.
That evolved into two events a year, one ladies-only and the other a mixed group.
Now the two days are both for men and women.
"We get a lot of husbands and wives," she said, "but we also get fathers and daughters, mothers and sons. We've even had grandmothers and grandkids."
The club itself is more than a century old, formed in 1911. The current site was first occupied around 1930 in a former quarry at the intersection of Buckwheat Road and Franklin Avenue and is the last open-air pistol range in New Jersey.
While it's called "open air," the shooting is from a three-sided building that has sound-proofing to muffle the gunfire noise. There is also an overhang to prevent stray bullets from going into the air.
Swingle said currently there are about 150 members of the association, although membership has been as much as 200 individuals.
The club has members from throughout the state and neighboring Pennsylvania and to join requires a thorough interview process, a New Jersey firearms identification card and mandatory membership in the National Rifle Association.
"We have a great bunch of members," she said. "It's a fun group who enjoy the sport."