Choosing a rifle that compliments the age, experience, and size of your colorguard can be complicated business. Where do you start? What options are available? What if your group has a unique variety of spinners? What if the school board doesn’t approve of the equipment?
When I first began spinning rifle I was in 7th grade marching band. The rifles we had at our disposal were old, chipped, and about 34” long. I have always been short, and in middle school, most of my friends towered over me. Handling a small rifle came easily in middle school as the size complimented my short stature. But the rifle was light as air, making our tosses sloppy. We were only a parade band, so it wasn’t the biggest deal. When I got to high school though, I was blown away by the talent I saw our seniors carry with their equipment. I longed to spin the big rifles, and ordered one immediately. But my program spun 39” weapons.
The rifle was almost as tall as I was and impossibly heavy. I felt clunky. Out of control of my equipment. Frustrated. The piece of wood I could so easily spin in middle school all of a sudden became next to impossible. When The Cavaliers rehearsed at our school that summer, I was overcome with jealousy because they spun and tossed so effortlessly. I wanted that. With a lot of hard work and practice, I eventually gained the strength to toss quads with more ease, although it never fully felt “effortless.” The rifle was just too big for a shorty like me, I thought.
By my senior year I was tossing 5’s with ease and 6’s with effort, but the road to that success was paved with a myriad struggles and frustration, both internal and external: I had grown stronger, but some of my teammates, who were fine with the triples they were given, did not. As a result, our rifle line was adequate, but never spectacular. We had incredibly knowledgeable coaches, but equipment that, to some extent, hindered our ability to grown.
As a coach now, I take care to pay attention to the size and experience of my rifle line, and train smart. A student under 5’ tall will naturally have more difficulty spinning something almost their height. Is it impossible? No. But it can setback the level of success a group can achieve. Some programs can successfully place 39” rifles in the hands of their members. Some cannot. When choosing a rifle perfect for your line, it is important to account for the age/stature of your group, their level of experience, and the space they take up on the field. This is not to say that every year you need to change the style of rifle used, but adapting your decision to your “average” rifle line will be the best decision in the long run.
Jared Littleton is a tech for the Avon Cadet guard and an instructor at the Music for All Summer Symposium. He weighed in with some tips and principles when introducing rifle into your ensemble. He focuses specifically on cadet aged members. With his collaboration, we were able to create a series of considerations for selecting the perfect rifle or “non-traditional twirling prop” for your group:
How old/tall is your group?
How experienced is your group?
How big is your rifle line?
What are you looking for in a strap?
How much care and prep will you want your group to put on their rifles?
Help! My school doesn’t support weapons as a part of our pageantry!
Choosing a rifle to compliment your group doesn’t have to be a pain. But it does require knowledge of what will be best for your guard. DSI offers rifles that will fit your needs and are customizable. At the end of the day, there is no “bad” choice, but an ineffective choice could be the difference between an adequate guard and a spectacular one.
Danielle Geier lives for pageantry and the marching arts. Passionate about colorguard, she has marched since she was in 7th grade. She marched with the Morton High School band program for a total of 6 years, including 3 years in their circuit-level winterguard. She was a 4 year camper at the Music for All Summer Symposium and marched in the 2009 Bands of America Tournament of Roses Parade Honor Band. She went on to attend Murray State University, where she studied English Education, was an active member in the MSU Racer Band, and was devoted to her sisters in the Sigma Alpha Iota music fraternity. She marched with The Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps in 2010, 2011, and 2014 as well, earning a bronze and gold metal during her tenure. She has teched, choreographed, and directed for Marshall County High School, Calloway County High School, Bethel University, and Morton High School. Geier currently resides in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where she directs the Waukesha North Northstar Marching Color Guard and the Waukesha United Winterguard. She is also a staff member at the Music For All Summer Symposium.