The Air Rifle program we have today, in 2015, as it exists, had its genesis in a meeting of the Arlington-Fairfax Chapter (ARL-FX) of the Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA) Board of Directors (BOD) somewhere in the spring or summer of 1994 or 1995. Ernie Padgette, President of the Virginia Shooting Sports Association (VSSA), proposed to the BOD that they finance an outreach program to engage youth shooters. The program was to be a smallbore training exercise open to all junior shooters, regardless of membership status. The ARL-FX BOD approved an annual budget of $3,000.00 to support the program. Five smallbore rifles were purchased, and a quantity of .22 ammunition, to begin the program.
Trainers and coaches were enlisted, and became NRA certified, from among the ARL-FX members and the program began to take form. It quickly became obvious to the first group of trainers and coaches that the goals of the program could more readily be met by converting what was originally designed to be a smallbore program, to also include an Air Rifle program. That was accomplished within the first year of the program.
Bucky Sills headed a program to convert an existing tractor shed into an air rifle facility. This was accomplished using volunteer labor. Over the years, the program grew and began to engage an ever expanding group of young shooters. The program was available to any young shooter who wanted to learn.
From its inception, the program was intended to be what it is; an outreach program to engage and teach young shooters. No fees were charged; and the program was open to any and all who wanted to join. No membership requirements were levied, and the program was open to the general public by design.
In 2013 the Chapter started looking at an extensive expansion project to convert the small ‘shed’ shooting facility into a 25 lane, state of the art indoor shooting facility. The Facility was finally completed in late spring 2015.
The Air Rifle program has grown beyond all recognition; and has been successful beyond all expectation. Today, it stands as a testament to what can be accomplished when volunteers set out to do good things. The incredible accomplishments of the individual young shooters, over the years, speaks for itself and for the Arlington-Fairfax Chapter.