Reload. Aim. Fire

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Reload. Aim. FireST. JOHNSBURY- Whether it be a rainy and gloomy Saturday afternoon, or a blue sky and sunny Sunday afternoon, there's one place you'll find sixteen-year-old Reis Towle at. And that's sighting in and shooting his .22 rifle at the Caledonia Forest and Stream Club in St. Johnsbury, VT.

 

Reis Towle, of St. Johnsbury competes in the Young Guns division of the Nation Rifle League for .22 caliber rifles. Reis recently scored in the top four for his division in a nationwide pool of 70 shooters for the month of February. Out of the 70, Reis ranked second in the points race.

"I think about my rankings somewhat," says Reis.

"But most of the time I try and push it out. More than anything it makes me nervous. I really just try not to think about it. I just try and go out there and do it."

The National Rifle League was started in November of 2017, dedicated to the growth and education of precision rifle shooting. It's comprised of four divisions. Open, Base, Ladies, and Young Guns. The NRL22 competitions require shooting from various positions, using a variety of barricades or straight up off-hand shooting.

Once Reis arrives at the range, he's quick to get out his rifle and sight it in with his father, Steven Towle. Once all the leg work and prep work is done with the rifle, it's time to get down to business for Reis.

In the prone position, with the .22 rifle nestled against his shoulder, Reis aims down the range and pulls the trigger, nailing the metallic object hanging down from one of the barricades.

"Getting good hits is probably one of the most fulfilling parts," says Reis.

"Just having that nice PING when you hit a target, that's always the best part."

It's a sound that inspired Reis from a very young age. Father Steven Towle started bringing Reis to the range at the age of four.

"I never really pushed him into precision shooting," says Steven.

"It's just something that I do a lot. This is basically my hobby, shooting competitively. He was with me all the time because I was a stay at home dad for a while. It (precision shooting) was just something I was doing, and he would come with me. And he really enjoyed it."

"He brought me to the range one day and as far as I can remember I just shot," says Reis.

"He gave me a gun, helped me shoot it, and ever since then I just really liked shooting. I always loved the loudness of guns. It was always loud sounds and big flashes that got my attention."

Steven Towle is an active supporter of Reis' shooting. He runs the local competitive shooting .22 league, NEK 22 Precision and is also a competitive shooter himself. And he's also the one who coached Reis when he started learning how to shoot.

"When Reis was younger, I coached him everything I had learned in the military. Once you understand the fundamentals and how to break a good shot, and making a good shot, there's really nothing else to be told. You self-monitor. Reis knows what he needs to do to break a good shot. After that, I really just try to help him with his mental game."

Precision shooting is a sport that requires strategy and technique, and the ability to change up your approach whenever the time calls, something Steven says Reis enjoys.

"This is a technical game, more technical than I think alot of people realize. There's math involved, there's balistics involved, calculations, problem solving. There's decisions to be made on the fly. He enjoys that part of it. But I feel it's like any other sport, it just catches his attention."

This past Sunday, the Caledonia and Forest Stream Club held the New England Regional competition for the NRL22. Reis already qualified for the national competition, which will be held in Utah in May. But he figured it'd be a good time to improve on some of his weaknesses as a competitive shooter.

"I definitely want to improve positional shooting, especially standing or kneeling," Reis said.

"Those are the two I struggle with the most."

When asked about his sons' ranking, and whether or not he could be one of the better top ranked marksmen in the nation, Steven looked with a puzzled look.

"I'm frankly not surprised. He's always been a good shot. I don't think Reis is up there with folks who are training for the Olympics, but I think he could be. Guns aren't a mystery to him anymore. He thinks of guns as a lacrosse player would of a lacrosse stick. It's just a tool to play the sport that he wants to play."