Gun Devils Shooting Sports targets student excellence

On the range, ASU students learn firearm safety while aiming for higher goals

Gun in hand, a student walks up to the line. After loading the shell, they check to make sure the safety is off and they cock the gun. They aim at the target and fire. BANG!

Gun Devil Shooting Sports is an ASU student organization dedicated to educating students about firearm safety while also competing in clay target shooting programs.

Within the organization, there are different disciplines students can choose from which either fall under the jurisdiction of the Association of College Unions Internationals or Scholastic Clay Target Program

During the first semester, students practice and learn firearm safety, then they compete the second semester. Students on the shooting team are charged $125 per semester to be trained, have access to equipment and ammo, and cover entry fees in competition.

Jim Tweedley, a certified shotgun instructor and advisor, has been the head coach for Gun Devils for 10 years, teaching students firearm safety and training them to compete. 

"It's a mental sport where you need discipline to learn how to overcome nerves and take on the the task at hand," Tweedley said.

The club practices at the Ben Avery Clay Target Center in Phoenix, about 45 minutes from the ASU Tempe campus. There, students practice firearm safety and training and Gun Devils offers firearm storage in an arsenal at the range to team members who live on-campus.

Requirements to shoot include being legally permitted to possess a firearm (which entails not having any felony convictions), having a "sound mind," being on good-standing academically with ASU, obeying the rules and following safety procedures.

To obtain a concealed weapons permit, the law requires a minimum age of 21 years old to own a handgun while the legal age to buy own shotguns and rifles is 18 years old.

If students don't own a gun, Arizona Department of Gaming will loan them one.

Students rely on grants, the team's trust accounts and annual fundraisers to help fund their expenses, such as their clay sporting tournament the Gun Devil Cup, which is a registered National Sporting Clays Association event. 

The cost is lower than most shooting programs, Tweedley said. UA's WildGats shooting club charges $130 per year and $75 per semester, but this doesn't include travel expenses, entry fees and apparel. The UA students also must pay for the rounds in practice. 

Macy Kienbaum, a freshman majoring in graphic information technology, is a multi-target shooter with Gun Devils and has been shooting competitively since 8th grade. 

Kienbaum, 18, grew up in Washington and legally owns three shotguns she competitively shoots and hunts birds with. She was 6 years old when she first shot with a shotgun and 10 years old when she shot her first turkey and got her hunting license.

Kienbaum said she enrolled at ASU specifically for the shooting program. 

"The program offers more hands-on learning and an independent atmosphere," Kienbaum said.

Kienbaum lives on campus with her husband who she met through Gun Devils when she was a part of the organization before becoming an ASU student. She is currently training to qualify for the USAS qualifier match and eventually the Olympic team.

Madison Hyatt, a junior majoring in special and elementary education, joined Gun Devils as a freshman and is now the vice president of the team.

The 20-year-old lives off campus and legally owns two shotguns for competing that she stores in her own safe. 

"My competition gun is made by an Italian company that makes guns for women," Hyatt said. "Everything mechanically and structurally is the same, except where you put your hand on the gun to pull the trigger is smaller." 

Hyatt practices up to two times per week. Last year, she won 2nd place in American Trap at the ACUI Nationals. Last week, she won 2nd place for sporting clays at the 2018 ACUI Upper West Coast College Championships.

"My mom used to not want us to be around anything that resembles guns, including toy guns, until she realized my little brother would make a gun out of anything," Hyatt said.

Her brother, Ryan Hyatt, is a freshman mechanical engineering major who is also on the shooting team.

Matthew Killeen, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering,  won four state titles for SCTP tournaments and is competing to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

Killeen has been a shooter competing in multiple disciplines with Gun Devils since his freshman year and participates in registered shooting competitions to earn money.

"The most I've made from one registered shoot was $90," Killeen said. 

Tweedley said he has seen college students be offered job positions because of all the planning and budgeting they do for Gun Devils' fundraisers and the leadership experience they get in a community setting.

"This is an opportunity for students to be involved in sports, earn extra money and build their college resume," Tweedley said.

 Reach the reporter at or follow @masaihunterTV on Twitter.

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