Thousands of newcomers nationwide will get the chance to try their hand at shooting next year, thanks to a Government-backed initiative organised by the British Shooting Sports Council (BSSC), the umbrella body for the UK?s key shooting organisations.

At a parliamentary shooting exhibition in the House of Commons on Monday, the BSSC?s president, Lord Shrewsbury, announced the launch of the first National Shooting Week (26 May to 3 June 2007). The initiative has the backing of Government, as well as that of all the major shooting organisations, and will offer people the opportunity to try shooting for free, including Olympic and Paralympic disciplines, when the nation?s shooting grounds and ranges open their doors to the public.

Bill Wiggin, Conservative MP and vice-chairman of the British Shooting Sports Council, commented: ?This is an exciting opportunity for people to see and try shooting for themselves. The sport includes a wide variety of disciplines ? there really is something for everyone. With experts and professional advice on hand, this initiative should see many more people take up responsible sporting shooting.?

Significantly, National Shooting Week also received the backing of sports minister Richard Caborn, who was unable to attend the event but gave his support. Mr Caborn said: ?Offering people a chance to try Olympic and Paralympic sports may inspire future 2012 medallists. Britain has a strong track-record of Olympic shooting success.?

The initiative is the brain-child of Robert Gray, campaigns director of the Countryside Alliance, who was instrumental in securing such widespread support. He told ST: ?I?m thrilled with the response. All BSSC member organisations have played such vital roles in getting it this far. There is a lot of work ahead, however, and it can?t happen without the support of shooting grounds and ranges across the country, as well as the gun trade, but I?m confident that together we can raise the profile of shooting sports in 2007.?

For details, visit www.nationalshootingweek.co.uk