As soon as his mom finished her Diet Coke, 8-year-old Chris Berkshire-Lewis dashed to collect the can and his BB gun.
He placed the Diet Coke on his toy Toyota truck, pointed the BB gun at the silver target from only a few feet away and pulled the trigger. Clang. Chris sets the dented can back upright and realigns his shot from a few steps further back. Eventually he was shooting from the neighbor’s yard, still knocking the can. His neighbor, Shirley would come outside with a glass of iced tea and watch. Chris could shoot for hours.
Driving 25 minutes to Powder Creek Shooting Park, Chris’s mind switches from his homework to the comforting sound of his tires rolling over the gravel road that leads to the shooting range he spends almost every afternoon.
Parked in an unmarked parking spot, Chris unloads his boxes of shells, eye protection and ear plugs. Deaf in one ear from his first year of shooting, Chris always makes sure to wear ear plugs. He heaves the SKB 885 — his competition gun from the trunk, and then the Winchester Model 12, his grandfather’s 102 year old shotgun. Chris insists he can’t miss with it.
At practice, he shoots four disciplines: trap, skeet, sporting clays and five stand. Chris leans forward in his left cowboy boot, steadies his shotgun in its hold point and shouts the signal for the bird to be released: “Pull!”
He doesn’t think during this part — there’s no time to. If Chris convinces himself he could miss the shot, he will. But his muscles remember to follow the gun to the bird slicing through the air and when exactly to pull the trigger.
“That’s the whole thing about shooting,” Chris says, “It’s all a mental game.”
Last year, Chris’s accuracy was sitting in the low 80s — meaning he was shooting 80% of his targets. Now he’s moved up to 95%. This is what colleges are looking for, shooters like Chris. His short term goal is to shoot in college. Long term, Chris wants to shoot in the 2024 olympics.
Since he started competitions two years ago, Chris has won 2017 State competitions in sporting clays, trap and skeet as well as scoring first in the Sunflower games in all three disciplines and twelve small competitions, all with cash rewards. In 2018, he won eight small competitions and the Kansas State sporting clay championship and the 2018 FITASC championship.
Over the last two years, Chris has won over $4,000 in prize money. The cash goes to paying off his ten thousand dollar competition gun and the shotgun shells — the biggest expense in shooting. For a deal, a box of 25 shells costs five dollars. In under 30 minutes, Chris expends 200 shells. To pay for it, he teaches kids how to swim at the YMCA and picks up lifeguarding shifts.
“I would always rather be shooting outside than playing Xbox inside,” Chris said. “I’ve just grown up doing this.”
Video by Dalton Reck
Photos by Luke Hoffman
Infographics by Grace Padon