Hugh Hambric demonstrates one of the shooting positions those who compete must learn. He’s in his second year as collegiate team rifle coach at NMMI. Chaunte’l Powell Pho to
Hugh Hambric said that while he may grow old, he’ll never grow up. He’s spent the majority of his life shooting guns, which to him is like child’s play.
Hambric’s father was in the Marine Corps, and he said because of that he was exposed to guns and shooting as a child. At the age of 16, he joined the Devil Pups, an organization affiliated with the Marine Corps and aimed at teenagers seeking to build their character and become successful citizens. He grew up in southern California and his particular Devil Pups chapter would meet at Camp Pendleton in San Diego.
During this time, Hambric was actively involved in the Southern California Jr. Rifle League. He said they competed all over California and even in national matches in Ohio, shooting small bore rifles as well as high power ones. One of his fondest memories during that time was learning how to shoot in competitions.
From there he was drafted into the Army. In Europe he said they shot against all the other NATO countries and while on tour in Vietnam, he was the designated marksman for Special Ops, long-range recon and patrol. After his stint in the military, he moved back to California and eventually moved to Roswell in 1985. He said the contrast between the two areas is what convinced him to make the city his new home.
“There’s low crime and good weather here,” he said. “And in California, I didn’t care for the four-hour commutes and back.”
Moving to Roswell signified a new phase in his life: coaching. For him it was the next logical step.
“That’s the next step from shooting, is coaching,” he said. “I’m sharing my lifelong experiences with others. Teaching them how to shoot and how to compete. … Us old guys that know how to do this, if we don’t teach it, it’s going to be a lost art. And to speak the truth, if I didn’t know how to shoot I wouldn’t be here today.”
He added that he would instead “be fertilizing some rice paddy in Vietnam.” Shooting for him was not only hobby, but also a life-saving skill that he feels is important to teach.
Hambric said he was approached years ago by NMMI to coach the rifle program. He said that ordinarily, an active duty serviceman would coach the rifle team. The issue with that is the free rifles the team uses are very specialized for target, and many of the coaches were used to shooting M-16s and had never shot target rifles before, he said. After lending his expertise and essentially aiding in getting the program off the ground, he was asked by one of the school’s colonels if he’d be interested in coaching the team. He of course agreed and they’ve had great success during his tenure. Last year they won their division and were invited to go to Fort Benning, Ga., home of the Army’s advanced marksmanship unit, but with only two weeks’ notice, it wasn’t possible to get funding for the trip.
“That’s a long way to take a team, especially with guns,” he said. “Getting guns through airport security is not easy.”
Hambric also does a lot of work with hunter education in Roswell. He said he teaches the course with a retired police officer and that having a program like that is crucial in this area.
“It’s very important,” he said. “We teach gun safety and firearm safety in the home. It’s real important to teach kids the proper way and the safe way to handle guns.”
He also teaches women’s handgun classes and he said the very first thing he teaches them is “there is nothing that’s worth taking another person’s life for.” The central message of his classes is to only use your gun if your life is in danger because he said the Castle Law doesn’t apply in New Mexico. The Castle Law allows people to use whatever force necessary to protect their abodes, and he said there are consequences for shooting people regardless of the circumstances. Hambric’s emphasis isn’t on the self-defense aspect of shooting anyway.
“What I teach is competitive marksmanship,” he said. “How to use the gun safely, how to compete and have fun with it.”
After moving to Roswell, he was mentored by Olympic Gold Medalist and USA Shooting National coach Dan Iuga. From him he learned techniques in international-style pistol marksmanship and advanced pistol techniques, specifically discipline and mental management. After learning from Igua and growing as a coach, Hambric was able to expand his local 4-H program. The .22 shooting program would grow to include air rifle, air pistol and shotguns. He was able to coach two shooters up to the USA Jr. Olympic Development team, an accomplishment he’s quite proud of.
Shooting has been a major part of Hambric’s entire life and he continues to stay involved in the sport today. He’s currently a member of the National Rifle Association, USA Shooting, and a life member trustee of the NM Shooting Sports Association. He’s certified as a NM Game & Fish Hunter instructor, NRA instructor in rifle, pistol, shotgun and home firearms safety and personal protection. He’s also helping to shape the next generation of shooting coaches by conducting coach certification classes for international pistol shooting around the country.