Starting early with firearm safety

John Andrasi, with the Straight Shooters 4-H Club, was recently named one of the Outstanding 4-H Leaders of 2018 with the Berrien County 4-H Youth Program.

During the day, John Andrasi is a senior technician in the Washer Development Lab at Whirlpool Corp., but on nights and weekends, he is teaching kids about shooting sports. 

Andrasi has been a 4-H leader with the Straight Shooters 4-H Club for about 18 years. In November he was named one of the Outstanding 4-H Leaders of 2018 in Berrien County.

“It’s really good for the kids that they have something like this. We try to have them learn by doing. We get out here with the kids and it’s a lot of fun teaching, sharing what I know and it’s fun to watch them as they grow,” he said.

The Straight Shooters 4-H Club meets at the Watervliet Rod and Gun Club 2-4 p.m. every second and fourth Sunday of the month. Most of the kids in the club are from the north Berrien County area, but it will accept anyone who wants to join. Right now there are about 12-16 kids, ages 8-18. 

“All the 4-H kids shoot for free. We also have firearms we can loan them. Not having a firearm doesn’t stop them from participating. If they want to shoot, come on out,” Andrasi said. 

He and his wife, Donna, live in Benton Township and have three grown children. 

Herald Palladium Staff Writer Alexandra Newman sat down with Andrasi to talk about how he got involved in 4-H and all the things he does outside of it.

When did you get involved with being a 4-H leader?

It would have been right around 2000. I started bringing my oldest son out, then later on my younger son. But actually we got started in 4-H when my daughter was young. She did rabbits. One time she had like 400 rabbits. I’ve always been into hunting and shooting since I got started at Boy Scouts. Then when the boys got older, they’d always been around firearms, we found out they had shooting sports here. 

Of course, like any 4-H leader, the leaders said “hey, can you give us a hand?” Then I was helping out all the time, so I went to take the volunteer training through 4-H, then training for the shooting sports instructors. For 4-H I’m certified in riflery, shotgun, archery, muzzle loading and hunting and wildlife. 

What would you say is your favorite part?

We go to the state shoot every year and it’s fun watching their scores and watching them get better. I think that’s the best thing, watching them improve and being able to help them along the way. The kids, they feel better about themselves. When they get out here and they don’t have a really good groove and you talk to them about trigger squeeze and breath control, how to get a good sight picture, then you see them start doing better. It’s just a feeling of achievement that they’ve learned something and you’ve helped. 

And the friendships you build with the other 4-H leaders and the friendships you build with the kids.

Do you plan to keep being a 4-H leader for a while?

Probably. Well, Bill and Keith started this club and their kids are out of it and they keep coming. My youngest has been out for about 10 years and I’ve still been doing it. It’s a lot of fun. 

What do you do outside of 4-H?

Through the NRA I’m a certified range safety officer here at Watervliet. I’m also certified for pistol and shotgun instruction, and personal protection inside and outside the home. I’m a volunteer hunter education instructor for the Michigan DNR. Also, I’m the county coordinator for Berrien County. On top of that I’m the chairman of the Southwest Michigan Friends of the NRA. I’ve been doing that for about 15 years. 

I got involved with the Friends of the NRA through 4-H. We put in for a grant through the NRA and got a gun safe, rifles, ammunition and safety equipment for the kids. Which really helped the club. Through the friends of the NRA, the 4-H Club has benefited a lot, particulary a lot of archery equipment. And the Watervliet Rod and Gun Club has benefited. The NRA Foundation, which is the nonpolitical side, raises a lot of money and over 50 percent of it goes to programs for the youth, like the 4-H shooters program. 

I bet that’s something people worry about – kids with guns – and in today’s atmosphere, but I think teaching them about all the safety is good. 

That’s one of the things I see as a benefit of 4-H. We teach the kids all of the responsibility that goes with handling firearms. We teach them when you’re out on the range, with live ammunition, there are rules that have to be followed. They learn that, but we have a lot of fun. There’s even games you can play. But when you’re on the range you have to buckle down, be serious and pay attention. 

There’s also a lot of college scholarships out there for shooting sports. Having that you were in 4-H shooting sports for X number of years can be a nice thing to get a nice scholarship to college. 

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

I probably couldn’t have gotten the award if it hadn’t been for a lot of help from a lot of other people. Everybody in the club, we all work together to get things done and they deserve credit too. I think everyone here is an outstanding 4-H leader. 

Contact: anewman@TheHP.com, 932-0357, Twitter: @HPANewman