Five miles outside the Plattsburgh State campus, at the local rod and gun club, student-athletes of the PSUC Marksmanship Club, armed with smallbore .22s and air rifles, compete in the Mid-Atlantic Conference. In the largest rifle-only conference, Plattsburgh competes against both NCAA-sanctioned teams and other clubs, including Yale University, SUNY Maritime and Pennsylvania State University.
The Marksmanship Club, in their second year on campus, concluded MAC regular-season action Feb. 11 with a match against the United States Coast Guard Academy. A second opponent, Norwich University, canceled due to inclement weather. Their final match, the MAC Championship, is scheduled for Saturday, March 3, on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“We’re doing very well for a young team,” coach Peter Visconti said.
A decorated shooter who was a part of four MAC championship teams at St. John’s University and Law School, Visconti has previously coached at the high school, club and collegiate levels.
Visconti and his daughter Betsy, a Plattsburgh alumna, began laying the groundwork for Plattsburgh’s team in 2014.
Three years later, in January of 2017, the club was formally recognized by the college and began competition.
A close partnership with the Plattsburgh Rod and Gun Club has afforded the Plattsburgh team the luxury of competition and practice ranges, shared rifles and equipment at little cost to the program and college. Grants from the National Rifle Association and The Friends of the NRA have been used to buy ammunition, targets and shooting jackets for the club.
The marksmen shoot both air rifle in the standing position and .22-caliber small-bore rifles, similar to the ones used by biathletes at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, in prone, kneeling and standing positions. Twenty shots per round, for 60 total, are tallied and matched against the rival team.
Although only the club’s top scorers are counted in competition, over 20 members actively attend practices and matches. With all equipment provided and experience not necessary, the club has continued to grow since its inception.
Freshman Justin Yeaple’s only experience before joining was shooting bb guns a few times. He rode with the team to a competition at MIT as an alternate and extra hand. He was thrust into the lineup when teammate Kristen Seager was hospitalized for a non-gun-related accident and was unable to travel with the team.
“Coach was like, ‘you’re shooting’ and I said, ‘ok, great,’” Yeaple said with a laugh.
Other students, like Seager, joined the program with previous experience. Seager competed for three years at Valley Stream South High School.
“I find it to be a great stress reliever,” Yeaple said.
“When you just want to blow off steam, you can come shoot,” Seager said, echoing her teammate.
Looking ahead, Yeaple’s goals are to keep up with his teammates, improve at the standing position and see that the club acquire a left-handed .22 rifle. Yeaple and teammate Christina Dunn, both left-handed, must use right-handed rifles which makes getting into a comfortable and efficient position more difficult.
The vice president of the club, Mike Buck, joined the club when it first started and now, as an officer, he finds it important to attract new members, spread awareness about the club, the sport and combat the flurry of negative attention that surrounds guns.
“There is a stigma that guns are inherently evil, but it depends on the people,” Buck said. “I want to eliminate that stigma.”
Email Kenny Bates at firstname.lastname@example.org