A close-range look at the shooters at Madurai Rifle Club

Spurts of rifle cracks break the otherwise calm Race Course Road area on weekends. Closer to the action, you feel the warm air and shock waves under your feet after every shot. The instructor continuously chants orders to the practising shooters.

“Stand straight, loosen your body, and hold your weapon straight!”

With rifles crooked between shoulders and fist, shooters of all ages steady, jerk back, and hit the target, all in the blink of an eye at the serene Madurai Rifle Club (MRC).

The members of the club have broken records and created records that have remained unbroken for many years.

“The five state records created by members of the MRC remain unbroken,” says S. Velshankar, club secretary.

The three position record created by Mr. Velshankar at the State meet with 545 points remains unbroken even after six years. Similarly, the two-year-old record of Sarvesh in air rifle contests (both peep sight and open sight) remains unmatched.

G. Varsha of Velammal School started shooting four years ago after admiring her father’s shooting skills. She gathered half a dozen gold medals at the State and national competitions. The fear of board examination seldom holds her back. Now a tenth standard student, Varsha spends two to three hours coaching every Sunday.

“Once you enter, it is a different world,” she says. “The sound of shots rings music to the ears. The coach is behind you and whenever I err, he sees to it that I correct my mistake and not repeat it.”.

S. Madhumitha, a plus-one student, turned out to be a bright prospect as she reached success within a year of practice. “Continuous, concentrated and committed practice keep me going places. I never miss even a single training session,” she says.

The eighth standard student V. Ketharani has won half a dozen silver and bronze medals in State and pre-nationals. All play with a burning passion to make it on par with Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and Abhinav Bhindra.

“First, shooters should learn to stand in a place. During competitions, they have to stand in a single position for almost one and a half hours. If they change their positions, their target might change and result in winning or losing,” says S. Velshankar.

He says, “In course of time, shooters would develop concentration, courage and confidence. These factors help children in their academics.” Clubs like the MRC came about thanks to G.V. Mavlankar, first Speaker of the Parliament, who brought a bill to build up a second line of civilian defence well trained in rifle shooting.

The bill enabled every State capital to have rifle clubs. In 1954, the Madras Rifle Club was inaugurated, followed by clubs in Coimbatore and Madurai in 1955 and 1956 respectively.

In Madurai, the civilians were initially trained at Civilian Rifle Training Centre in the Pasumalai Police Range before shifting to Nagamalai Range, where they were trained with government weapons.

In 1971, MRC conducted the ninth Tamil Nadu State Shooting Championship competition that won the club its own range, besides earning a reputation from K.K. Shaw, the then Governor of Tamil Nadu.

Impressed by the talents showcased at the meet, the Governor directed the then Madurai Collector, Lakshmikanthan Bharathi, to allot land for the club. Soon, the MRC got its own range amidst acres of greenery in the Race Course area.

In 1994, the club got its 50 m range with 16 lanes. S.V.K.M. Ramalingam, honourable senior coach, constructed the new range. Members next bought weapons with their own contributions to participate in trap and skeet events.

To widen its reach, the club introduced student memberships for both college and school students. Now, it has about 220 student members.

The club offers sixteen 10 m air-rifle and pistol ranges and a 50 m rifle range. It plans to install electric pulleys at the 10 m range and construct a 25 m pistol range.

MRC is conducting a State meet between August 15 and 19. Around 300 shooters from 10 units of Tamil Nadu are expected to participate. The competition will feature about 45 events under different categories. The Tamil Nadu Shooting Association is sponsoring the event.

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