Middleton’s Bramante brothers gear up for shooting competition at Bay State Games

Joshua Boyd

When it comes to the Reading Rifle and Revolver Club, competitive rifleman Brendan Bramante, 15, is quite happy with its safety record, even compared to the club’s nearby neighbor, the Burbank Skating Rink.

“Right down the street is a hockey rink, where a few years ago [2002], there was a Peewee hockey game going on and one guy killed another guy during it,” said Brendan, referring to Thomas Junta, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the beating death of Michael Costin. “The Reading Rifle and Revolver Club has a clean slate — no one has ever gotten hurt from a gun injury there.”

“Some people view shooting as ‘Oh my god, they’re shooting guns,’” Brendan Bramante. “People have to let it go. [Rifle clubs] teach responsibility and safety [with a gun].”

Accuracy and technique are also taught. Both Brendan and his 13-year-old brother Jamie Bramante are bringing their .22-caliber rifles to the range at the Reading Rifle and Revolver Club on Sunday. There, they will try to fire their way to Bay State Games gold — even against one another.

“We compete individually,” said Jamie, an incoming Masconomet High School freshman who has been shooting recreationally and competitively alongside his brother for three years.

“We’ve gone up against other rifle clubs,” Jamie added.

The boys were attracted to the sport by their uncle, Sal Bramante, a longtime rifleman himself.

“I’ve been in it since I was 12,” said the 34-year-old. “I basically just showed up to the gun club and became a full member. A rifle club is a good program to teach kids respect for firearms. If more kids got involved with programs like that, I think there would be a lot less accidents and worry about guns.”

Sal has competed several times, including at the 2007 National Service Rifle championships. He also used to take part in the Bay State Games as a youngster, and is glad to see his nephews moving into this level of competition.

“It’s definitely a higher level, and it prepares them for other things,” said Salvatore.

Shooting itself brings one to a higher level of self-consciousness — every infinitesimal movement counts, some for you, some against you.

“What I am doing affects how I shoot,” said Brendan. “If I know my feet aren’t exactly where they are supposed to be, it could pull me over to one side. Or if I’m not leaning back enough, or not leaning the right way — it’s a whole bunch of different things, and you have to control all that.”

This leads to a level of self-discipline that Brendan is attracted to, which keeps him addicted to the sport.

“I like being able to control the variables,” said Brendan, who is entering his sophomore year at North Shore Technical High School, with a concentration in the machine shop. “If you’re not focused 100 percent, where everything around you completely disappears — the person next to you, the person behind you— if you lose focus, you don’t shoot as well.”

Jamie said that their coach at the Reading Rifle and Revolver Club, Bob McCorey, brought up the subject of the Bay State Games to the brothers. They both hope their skills in the three positions (prone, or laying on the ground, offhand, or standing, and kneeling) will be up to par against a tough, experienced field.

“My strongest would be my offhand — I’ve almost gotten a perfect 100 [in a round of 10 shots],” said Brendan. “In offhand, have yourself parallel to where you’re looking. You take one breath, get a good line and then you shoot. It’s very hard to stand perfectly still with a 10-pound gun.”

With so many strong shooters off to college, Brendan said that there’s the chance that either he or Jamie could take home a medal. That’s their hope — after all, you can’t go into any competition without something to target.