Thirteen-year-old Varun Garg squints, takes a deep breath, sets his sights on the target board 10 metres away, and after what seems an eternity, squeezes the trigger. The pellet, fired from a Baikai Russian-made air pistol, whizzes through the shooting lane and hits the board way above the bullseye.
“Never mind, you will do better next time,” bellows the trainer from across the foyer, declaring a “ceasefire”. Varun, father Sanjay and around 20 other eager, not-so-sharp shooters put down their guns for a well-earned breather on Day One of their “exciting new pursuit”.
For the aspiring Jaspal Ranas of Calcutta, there’s a place at last to have a blast — The Big Bang, the air rifle and air pistol shooting range at Space Circle. The 10-lane range, with “lux-precise illumination” and “perfect shooting ambience”, conforms to standard specifications and can hold national-level meets, according to instructor Sukanta Banerjee, former national record-holder in open-sight air rifle.
“This is the first shooting range in Calcutta to be set up by a private sports and recreation club and is a natural progression of our philosophy that sports should drive a club,” says M.J. Robertson, CEO, lifestyle division of Sanjeevani Group, which owns Space Circle, off VIP Road. The Big Bang, with firepower ranging from ISW Indian-made air rifles to precision German pellets, seems to have made an instant impact. Banerjee is “overwhelmed” by the early response and says the sport can put an anxious mind at ease. “It’s a yogic sport which improves concentration and relieves stress at the same time. And when you hit the target, it gives you a sense of achievement, much like scoring a goal or sinking a putt,” smiles the instructor, even as he demonstrates the correct recoil position to a young girl wielding an air rifle for the first time.
“It’s a cool experience, and I am already addicted to it,” gushes Navin Kanodia, otherwise a regular at the bowling alley, who was trying his hand at an air pistol for the first time. Kanodia, who is into interiors and wrought-iron furniture, feels the range could enthuse youngsters to take up shooting as a career sport.
The club management, too, harbours such hopes. “Besides giving the members a new experience, we are providing a platform for budding talent. With shooting gaining in popularity, today’s youngsters are keen to take up the sport in earnest, and we want to give them every opportunity by way of special advanced training programmes,” observes Robertson.
The club, which has imported the target-illumination technology from Germany, is applying for affiliation to the National Rifle Association of India. The range offers open-sight air rifle and air pistol shooting at the moment. “We plan to add the .22-bore rifle to our facility soon, which is a rider to host a state meet, on which we have set our sights,” says Banerjee, amidst the click-clack and slap-bang of flailing pellets.