Young Brandon Whitmore spent six months preparing for Saturday, when the 11-year-old would square off on the indoor shooting range alongside seasoned cops.
"It’s fun," Whitmore said, after his first round of firing BBs from an air rifle at tiny bullseyes 16 feet away.
For the officers from the Gainesville Police Department and Hall County Sheriff’s Office, the fourth annual 4-H Cops and Kids Target Challenge was a chance not only to interact with youth, but maintain their friendly rivalry among the two law enforcement agencies.
"There’s always some competition involved," Hall County Sheriff’s Deputy Travis Turner said.
The police officers and deputies may have been taking aim with lightweight pump-action air rifles, but Saturday’s competition didn’t differ much from their regular firing range exercises, Turner said.
"The pressure’s the same," Turner said. "You don’t have the kick and the noise, but the principals (of shooting) are all the same."
About 35 kids ages 10 to 14 turned out Saturday for what has become a popular event, said 4-H Shooting Sport Coach Sherman Pass.
"We started this as a way of showing the public that our kids can be safe with guns, and there’s no better way to do that than with law enforcement," Pass said. "The officers enjoy it, and the kids really enjoy it."
Saturday’s competition was part of the 4-H Project S.A.F.E.: Shooting Awareness, Fun and Education.
"For every hour we spend on the firing lane, we spend an hour in the classroom," Pass said.
The coach said he had been "revving up" the kids during the week, telling them the sharpshooting officers were "coming after them."
"I’ve got a lot of new kids who are a little shy at first, but as the day progresses, they get into it. All in all, they enjoy it."