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The giddy 13-year-old boys oohed and aahed as they stared down the black shotgun barrels and aimed at clay targets they imagined whizzing through the air.
“You guys are welcome to test any of these out,” said Dusty Minke, a sales agent for Browning, as the teens elbowed each other for spots at his kiosk. “We’ve actually had a couple of kids who did so good on the test range that they were like, ‘Can I use this for my rounds?’ We let ‘em, and their scores went up — and they’ll hopefully go and buy one.”
It was day six of the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League championship, the world’s biggest shooting-sport event. Minke could see potential customers in every direction, kids as young as 11 who’d tumbled out of their parents’ cars in camouflage T-shirts beginning at 7 a.m.
In 2009, the contest’s first year, it drew 30 shooters. In June there were 5,134, more than 20,000 spectators and sponsors including Benelli Armi SpA and SKB Shotguns. Trap shooting is the fastest-growing sport in Minnesota high schools, and was recently introduced in neighboring Wisconsin and North Dakota. While it may make anti-gun activists uneasy, it’s a boon for manufacturers and retailers that have stoked its growth.