Some of the most special moments of a young boy’s life are the time he spends with his grandfather.
Whether it’s hunting, fishing or just sitting on the front porch swing listening to stories, time with grandpa is special.
And for 11-year-old Jadon Daniel, time with grandpa is extra special. The time he has spent with his grandfather, Bruce McKelvey, has resulted in him becoming one of the best target shooters in his age group in the nation.
Daniel recently defeated 72 competitors to win the national championship in his age group in the National Muzzleloader Rifle competition in Friendship, Ind., using not only the lessons learned from McKelvey, a former Alabama and Tennessee state champion himself, but with a rifle his grandfather constructed.
“It’s really amazing,” Daniel said of winning with his homemade rifle. “Other guys went somewhere and bought stuff, but mine was put together with his bare hands. It’s like going skydiving and knowing it’s going to work perfectly because you’ve made it yourself. When that gun goes off, it’s like you just landed on the ground.”
Daniel’s national championship was a result of a grandfather passing down his love of target shooting and gun manufacturing to his grandson. McKelvey first caught the shooting bug almost 40 years ago and has been competing in — and winning — shooting competitions ever since.
“I went to a rifle match in 1974 with a group of guys I worked with and got introduced to competition shooting,” McKelvey said. “It’s like an addiction. Once you find something you really love, you want to keep doing it. Some guys get addicted to golf or basketball, mine was shooting.”
In addition to being a champion target shooter, McKelvey has manufactured guns out of his garage at his home a few miles north of Florence. He said he has manufactured more than 50 guns, each one normally taking between six months and a year to construct.
“You can’t buy guns like this,” McKelvey said of the guns he has made. “I’ve got to purchase the material I want to build the gun with from suppliers all over the United States. I can put about $3,000 into manufacturing a gun.”
So it was no surprise that Daniel became interested in his grandfather’s passion at a very young age. He first shot a normal rifle at age four and shot his first muzzleloader rifle at the age of six.
“He’s always been around me anytime I was shooting and he wanted to do everything I did,” McKelvey said. “So I took the time to show him the right way to do things. We work as a team. I help him load and clean his gun, and coach him.”
Daniel and McKelvey spend hours on a homemade shooting range in a field behind McKelvey’s house, with McKelvey teaching his grandson everything he knows about not only shooting, but loading and cleaning the muzzleloader as well.
And McKelvey proudly noted that Daniel loaded and cleaned his own rifle at the national competition when most of the other competitors in his age group had someone else do it for them.
“It makes me unbelievably proud when I see things I taught him being put into use,” McKelvey said. “When he shot his first 50 with five X’s (a perfect hit on the target), we high-fived and hugged for about five minutes. He shot a perfect target and did it at the competition level. He’s getting a wealth of information and applying it a such a young age.”
And Daniel does not lack for confidence when it comes to shooting. Already a muzzleloader rifle national champion in his age group, Daniel has his sights set on much bigger things.
“I plan on going to the Olympics,” Daniel said. “They don’t shoot these type of guns, but the shooting is very similar. I can kick my age group’s butt at shooting and I want to keep it up.”
But while winning national championships is nice, it doesn’t compare to just spending quality time with his grandpa.
“I really enjoy being with him,” Daniel said. “He’s taught me everything he knows about shooting and I owe all my success to him.”