By Graybeard,

One of the stated purposes of TTAG is to discuss the culture of guns. One thing near and dear to my heart is how to pass on a love of shooting to my grandchildren. Well, honestly I’m not wondering how – our children like to shoot, and are helping their children love to shoot. So, instead of getting into some theoretical discussion about techniques, quotes from different experts or other bandwidth-consuming stuff, I’ll take a two-stage approach to relate how my brothers, sister and I came to like shooting, and how my grandchildren are being exposed to it now . . .

We grew up in Texas, our father a veteran of WWII who, as he said, “had an all-expenses-paid walking tour of Europe. All [he] had to do was carry this machine gun and shoot it every once in a while.” Before I was in 1st grade, I remember him letting me try to hold his military-stock Springfield .30-06, which he’d take deer hunting with our uncle.

Some time in our late-elementary to early-junior high years, Dad would take us out shooting with his Colt .22 single-action revolver. We’d head outside the city limits to a bayou and go down by the banks to shoot. What I don’t remember is any sit-down lectures on safety. It was, instead, taught naturally along with sight picture, stance, and pretty much every other part of gun use.

We also got to go to a YMCA boys camp in central Texas that had a .22 rifle range. We’d shoot prone, laying on old mattresses. Safety was taught there as well – a bit more formally – along with listening to the Range Master. It was simple: if you didn’t listen, you didn’t get to shoot. Later, when I was a camp staffer at the ripe old age of 15 or 16, I taught riflery myself.

So it was natural when my own kids were growing up to take them out shooting with my .22. They then got more instruction at their Boy Scout or Girl Scout camps. For our family, shooting and guns are just one of many different activities that are normal parts of life. We were taught – and we teach – gun safety just like we teach power-tool safety, driving safety, water safety or the right way to handle anything that can hurt or kill if you’re not careful. Not in some formal class, but as a part of every-day life.

A good illustration of how this works in our Texas culture was our Fourth of July celebration this year. The members of the church which my oldest son’s family attends got together for an afternoon of fun. The gathering place was the semi-rural home of one of the members who owns several acres with a pasture just behind his house. Different families provided different things; one man had some lumber left over from a deck project they just completed, and he built three portable shooting stands for skeet or trap. Someone else had a multi-gun gunrack to park the shotguns. Others brought shotguns, shells, or clays.

This was all set up just across the back fence from the house – maybe 50′ away from building. As families arrived, children were playing on the jungle-gym near the back fence or running around (and through) the house. Older kids and adults with little to no shooting experience were encouraged to give it a try. An experienced shooter would step up to coach and teach them, explaining safety procedures, how to track a clay, gun mounting or anything else each shooter needed. There was plenty of encouragement shouted from all around.

After three or so hours of this, supper was called. We all gathered for prayer, thanking God for our meal, fellowship and freedoms. After supper, as dusk fell, we gathered again behind the house for a fireworks show that rivaled the one in the nearest town.

For the families and the children, shooting was just another activity to share during an evening of fellowship and fun with our friends. Safety wasn’t compromised, but shooting also wasn’t hidden away from the rest of the activities. We didn’t hold any formal classes, no lectures or drum-beating. Our kids get to see shooting as a fun activity shared with friends and family.

We don’t try to make shooting a part of our life, it just is a part of our lives. It’s how we grew up, just like going to church on Sunday, helping our neighbors, having a fish fry or bar-b-que, and all the other things we do. It just comes naturally.

7 Responses to America’s Gun Culture: One Family’s Experience

  1. sounds good. my guiding principal is it should always be fun for beginners. nothing that kicks hard , ear protection, easy targets.

  2. After I read “we grew up in Texas,” I knew a happy ending wasn’t too far off. Cheers, Graybeard. I appreciate your enjoyment of freedom, and mentoring future generations to do the same.

  3. I really don’t remember my first experience learning about guns, probably because it started before I was walking. Even though I grew up in NJ, we lived in the then rural northwest corner, filled with small family dairy farms. Our house had guns in it, and hunting was a family tradition going back to pre-revolutionary war times. It was part of the family culture. The local high school had a shooting team, and opening day of deer season was an unofficial “holiday” at school as about 1/4 of the students would be absent. In the 10 years from when I started high school (1970) going to 1980, HUGE changes happened in my “neighborhood”. The dairy farms got sold, rapid building of housing developements for new families moving out from “the city” which in my part of NJ was anything east of Somerville. Shopping malls, condos, golf courses, etc. sprouted up like weeds. And in that 10 years we soon lost most of the places we hunted. The “new folks” had never hunted, didn’t much care for guns, would much rather spend their time playing tennis, golf, or socializing at the country clubs that got built. I saw the culture that accepted guns, hunting and target practice die right in front of my eyes. A lot of crap happened between 1970 and 1980 in America, the end of the Viet Nam war, hippification of society, drugs, disco music, bedroom communities being built for folks who sleep here but work 50 miles away, and some dractic changes in places that were self sufficient rural areas turned into crowded suburbs of mega-cities. Had I stayed, I’d have to hide my love of firearms to most folks, save a few old timers that still gathered once in a while to shoot trap or skeet. Even most of those places are gone now.

  4. america has changed since my youth. sometimes it feels like i woke up in a foreign place. but graybeards and bontai joe’s remarks remind me of what it once was. we keep working at it and maybe we can save enough so that our grandkids can grow up good too,

  5. My 13 year old stepson has reached that awkward age where he’s too young to leave home but too old to need me.

    He’s actually a good boy and makes good grades, but his interests are mainly sports and girls.

    Nevertheless, he still jumps at the chance to go shooting.

    This weekend, he went to the range with my dad and me. Up to this point, he’s always been concerned with shooting any guns that kick. He’d always have fun with my AR and the .22 pistols, but didn’t want to try anything more stout.

    I finally got him to try my .308 bolt. He was hesitant at first, but once he got started, he shot up the whole box of ammo. He took the Gatorade bottle that he mortally wounded home to show Grandma.

    He also shot my dad’s .41 mag. The look on his face was priceless.

    Every once in a while, he’ll ask some gun questions and we’ll talk about them. He’s developing a genuine interest.

    I think he’ll be a shooter for life. He should be, because he’ll start with one heck of a collection when I start handing my guns down to him…

  6. Thanks for sharing, Graybeard!

    I too learned about the hobby from my father. I don’t know where my father picked it up, but I have a feeling he got into through friends – being originally a fisherman, he naturally got into other outdoors activities like hunting, which led to an interest in firearms.

  7. Thanks for the kind comments, y’all.

    One thing I did forget about was the shooting team at my high school ROTC. Except I chickened out when the Sargent began talking about push ups. Wish I hadn’t, now.

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