A friend asked me the other day, what I thought we could expect at the federal and state level in the next few months with yet another push for more gun legislation. I’m no prophet, but his question deserved a thoughtful response, so I did think about it, and a few major themes surfaced:
The President knows he doesn’t want to alienate his voting base, which consist of folks who are both pro gun and “meh…” when it comes to guns. Trump is a good actor, playing to the crowd, which means keeping people’s attention by any means. Despite his words, his actions don’t show a person committed to the Constitution – not like you or I, he is a businessman. So while he isn’t an enemy in the Dianne Feinstein sense, he isn’t necessarily an ally. Think what you like about the practicality and effectiveness of bump-fire stocks, he didn’t “cave” on them, he dragged us kicking and screaming to the sacrificial altar and slit our throats. What did we get in return? Did we get Nationwide Reciprocity? Did we get any pro-gun legislation? We got assurances that didn’t amount to anything and a dangerous precedent.
This isn’t meant to be an anti-Trump rant, I mostly like the man, and he has done some great things for our country. If we are honest about it, he was our only choice if we didn’t want Bernie or Hillary. The libertarians just don’t have a viable candidate yet. We need to observe the reality that we don’t, and probably won’t, have strong friends in the Whitehouse or state houses for the foreseeable future. So what does that mean for guns on the legislative level? It means from time to time we are Wiley Coyote flapping our arms frantically after realizing we’ve run off the edge of the cliff.
Actually, we are probably more like Sisyphus… every time we start to make headway, magically some nut job appears, goes on a killing spree, and the second amendment community takes the blame. The firearms community is so busy calling each other posers and arguing Glock vs 1911, fudds vs black rifle folks, that there is no ability to cohesively get behind a pro-gun agenda and push the boulder back up the hill – or at least dig in and stop it from rolling down any further. And if we did, the anti-gun media is there to distort and lie about it. A pro-gun march will be shown in the news as white supremacy rally, a protest against anti-gun legislation will be called hate speech. We are in a pickle here, no mistake. And like our revolutionary forefathers, we will not be victorious if we continue to fight this battle Napoleonically… shoulder to shoulder in a thin line, facing off against a foe with tremendous financial backing from the likes of Bloomberg and Soros, pushing an anti-liberty agenda backed by the UN.
It isn’t enough for us to think we’re accomplishing something by voting or writing our politicians, we have to fight the culture war, and we are fighting it against an enemy who buys ink by the drum. This is also a fight we can’t win by arguing with anti’s on social media. No one has ever changed their mind on an important issue based on an eloquent Facebook post, most of which are comedies of logical fallacies that degenerate into ad-hominem attacks.
We must fight this battle asymmetrically, and NO! I am NOT saying vote from the rooftops! What I am saying is that the entire shooting community must forge alliances, between ourselves and most importantly between our neighbors. We won’t win the hearts and minds of the hardcore anti-gun left, but there is a huge swath of folks in the middle who might be able to be swayed. We have to get these people engaged, take them out shooting, and for Pete’s sake don’t hand them a 12 gauge with 3” magnums or your .500 S&W in some insecure attempt to show them what pussies they are. That is not how we win friends and influence people. We need to make the experience as non-intimidating as possible. If you take them out shooting an AR-15, rather than letting them dump magazines of Wolf into the backstop as fast as they can pull the trigger, which only reinforces the “killing machine” image, lets help them learn about safety and fundamentals. If you don’t know how to do that, take them to an Appleseed shoot, take them to a class by some reputable instructor. Structured environment shooting will help counteract the media’s lies for that vulnerable portion of the population.
Preparing to host the new shooter
There are some things you can do to make shooting a more pleasant experience for the new or “non” shooter. Definitely add some extra hearing and eye protection to your range bag. Ringing ears and brass burns on eyelids are kind of turn offs for the inexperienced. Get some youth-sized equipment too, we need to get youngsters learning their heritage. Foam plugs are difficult for even experienced people to use correctly, I recommend spending a few bucks on good powered muffs – look at the Howard Leight Sports or Pro’s, these can be had for less than $50 each and are well worth it. Steel targets are a crowd pleaser, they are reactive without the yee-ha! factor of exploding targets, and without the maniac killer vibe of bleeding zombie targets.
New and non-shooters typically only have the preconceived notions of shooting they’ve seen on television, so handing them a gun without any briefing on how to use it is a recipe for disaster.
I know everyone has a slightly different version of them, but the original four rules of firearms safety are easy to understand and hard to beat. Any time I shoot with someone I’ve never shot with before, unless I know they have experience, I cover the four rules with them:
1. Treat all firearms as if they are always loaded
2. Do not allow the muzzle to sweep or point at anything you aren’t willing and justified to destroy
3. Finger off the trigger until the sights are on the target and you are ready to shoot
4. Know your target and what is beyond.
With a new shooter, not only are they responsible for following these, you as their host are responsible to monitor them, and keep them out of trouble. Newbies have difficulty with muzzle consciousness – gently reinforce this. A simple “watch the muzzle” will do. Newbies (and even more experienced folks) have immense difficulty keeping their finger off the trigger. You may hate sayings like “booger hook off the bang switch” but these are a friendly and humorous way of reminding the new shooter (who probably hasn’t heard that saying as many times as you have) to keep their finger off the trigger.
If you are hosting the range session, safe foreground, target area, and background is your responsibility. Warn the new shooter about overshooting backstops. Be careful if you are trying to teach proper trigger reset – if your shooter is slapping the trigger, and you remind them to reset it, they may inadvertently pull the trigger again (have seen it multiple times) with the muzzle not oriented at the backstop. Be cautious when starting to teach the details, yes they are important, but ease the new shooter into them.
Other than the obvious safety things, there are a few other behaviors you need to watch for and help correct:
Unbalanced position (leaning backwards)
Failure to get stock weld or cheek weld on long guns (slappy recoil)
Eye too close to optics on long guns (dummy cut)
crossed-thumbs grip with semi-auto’s (slide bite)
Thumb forward of the cylinder (cylinder gap burn – small risk unless running a magnum, which you shouldn’t be doing with a newbie)
If you are one of the fortunate folks who can afford to play the NFA game, I can’t stress strongly enough not to hand a select-fire firearm to someone with no or limited shooting experience.
The newbie shooter will make mistakes, and will make safety mistakes. Guide them carefully.
Set them up for success
Shooting is no fun if the shooter can’t hit the target. Give them targets that are mildly challenging, but not too difficult. You may be able to smack the 1000yd steel all day, but without the fundamentals of a solid prone position, knowing how to use the optic, how to use the bipod to support the rifle, etc… they will just be lead farming and they will get frustrated and bored very quickly.
I know we all have stories about people saying “this gun won’t shoot straight” followed immediately by a more skilled person taking it away and repeatedly making amazing shots with it. While this makes for good gun store talk, it is very discouraging to a struggling shooter. Resist the temptation to “show them how it’s done.”
Don’t make it an infomercial
Don’t ruin someone’s first range trip by making it a political rally. That is a good way to guarantee they will never go shooting with you again. Leave the politics off the range, your job is to introduce them to our shooting heritage, not read them the Declaration of Independence. That said, Appleseed (for example) does a great job with tying shooting into historical, patriotic, inspiring anecdotes.
Short and sweet
If you are an experienced shooter, you may have the stamina to spend several hours on the range, but this can be a lot to take in for a newbie. Keep the range session short, focused on them, and pay attention to when they are showing signs of fatigue – that is a good time to wrap it up and go get pizza or burgers or whatever their favorite comfort food is.
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