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My son will be three in September. Recently, he’s been asking about my gun. “Where is Mommy’s gun”? and “I like Mommy’s gun” and “Can I shoot Mommy’s gun?” While I’ve already taught him about gun safety – and continue to do so at every opportunity – I figured it’s time to begin more advanced firearms eduction. Shooting Mommy’s gun? No. We start at the very beginning. I decided it was time for him to help clean my concealed carry gun . . .

No one freak out! I removed the magazine and cleared my Springfield XD .4o S&W sub-compact. The ammo was nowhere near the gun where we were working on the floor. M’kay?

As I got out the tackle box containing my gun accessories and cleaning supplies, I could tell he was excited. He was jumping around like he was about to wrestle puppies. I explained that we still don’t touch Mommy’s gun unless I say we can and waited for him to calm down. I broke down the Springfield amongst an assortment of “ooooos” and “ahhhhhs.”

Once I had the gun in pieces, I knew which one he’d notice first. He didn’t disappoint. “Oh! Mommy look! A spring! A spring!” The excitement made me smile. I dipped a toothbrush in Hoppe’s #9 and told him to brush the spring like he brushes his teeth. As I watched the grime come off the spring in his hands I knew I was creating a future gun owner.

“Mommy this is a good smell!” he pronounced. Yes, son, it is. My father used Hoppe’s when he first revealed the guts of a gun when I was a little girl. To this day, I can’t clean a gun without Hoppe’s, nor would I. It smells like “gun” to me; bringing back those irreplaceable feelings of parental camaraderie.

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Once we got the spring cleaned, we moved onto the bore. This was my son’s favorite part. I explained the function of the bore and handed him a bore snake. “A ‘nake! A ‘nake!” he said, repeatedly. I applied a few drops of Hoppe’s to the snake, sat back and watched him pull it through the barrel, making sure he put it through the right end. He couldn’t stop. He kept smiling and kept asking me “this end, Mommy?” and “I’m cleaning Mommy’s gun!”

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There are lots of times in parent’s life when you know something special is happening. When your child is learning a new life skill, or experiencing the simple joy of living in the moment. Like when my daughter fired her BB gun for the first time. Or when my three-year-old’s tiny hands slid down the oiled barrel of my gun next to mine, entranced by the mystery of its solidity, strength and power. Equipping our children with the firearms knowledge and skills they need to protect themselves and their children from harm is our job. But more than that, it’s our pleasure. And, sometimes, theirs.

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56 Responses to Sara Tipton: Teach Your Children Well

    • Yeah, I would not be at all surprised if someone somewhere wasn’t literally shitting their pants over this. Good on her for taking the time and doing the right thing. F the haters.

  1. And Sara, just wait until the little ones are saying “Where is Mommy’s car?” and “I like Mommy’s car” and “Can I drive Mommy’s car?”

    That’s when you will know the true meaning of fear. You will also know the true price of insurance. And you will long for the days when all they wanted to do was to shoot Mommy’s gun.

    And don’t get me started on college tuition.

    • @Ralph
      Hey Ralph, let’s give this lady a break already! She’s get into the rest of this stuff a in due course!! LOL! It was the first things that crossed my mind too right after the memory of teaching my sone and daughter firearms safety and cleaning!
      With me however it was ” Where’s Daddies plane?” , “I like Daddies plane.” and my favorite ….. ” Mommy, when can I fly Daddies plane?” daughter is 14 months older than our son. They could both shoot by age 6 , hunted with the family by age 8, and each had their own rifle by age 12. At 14 my daughter was a qualified pilot and certified at 16, my son qualified and certified at 17.
      Sara is doing it just right! The uber left can raise there kids to be wusses if the choose. Anybody who thinks this is “bad” parenting dosnpt gave a clue as to what their talking about.
      Good job, Sara!!

    • “wait until the little ones are saying “Where is Mommy’s car?” and “I like Mommy’s car” and “Can I drive Mommy’s car?” ”

      One might have to wait quite a bit less time to witness such things as “I can do Mommy’s gun” and “I know where Mommy’s gun is.”

      What children of that still very young age need to be learning is Boundaries and no middle ground.

      Firearms can of course be inculcated for normalcy at age 3, but responsibility cannot be as reliably conferred. The ‘cool factor’ of springs and Hoppe’s had best be secondary to things such as reverence and restraint, almost trepidation. A child of that age cannot think that it’s “ok”, much less “cool”, to touch an adult’s firearms.

      I had my own .410 single shot at age 4, could field strip it and reassemble and chamber the ammo and hit anything the caliber was capable of, but it was stored empty, I literally could not get to the ammo, and knew to NEVER EVER touch an adult’s gun – until about age 7 (or else life-preserving beatings could ensue). These Boundaries prevented potential tragic incidences as well as any physical correction as well. The boundaries were enough. Toy guns abounded in the interim. Firearms weren’t ‘cool’, .. they were Firearms.

      Marinate.

  2. I do remember the inability to say the “sn” sound – as in “I’m hungry, can I have a ‘nack?”.

  3. I totally can’t wait for the article when he goes to school and they ask him what he want’s his Mom to come in and do for Show and Tell ( unless they have stopped that also in schools), and he says I can have her show you how to clean her gun. That would be a real trip, though I’ll bet he also knows not to talk about Mom’s gun with other people.

    • Show and Tell is banned in most schools because it could expose inequality among children. In some localities, children are given featureless white blocks to show and tell so everyone is the same.

      • Show and Tell ….. Banned? Give them a white box to discuss? What socially inept, introverted, damaged, and emotionaly desturbed, Social Engineer came up with the reasoning for that action do you suppose? More importantly, then found like minded people to agree with them and implement it as policy?!
        Home schooling and Charter schools start to come out looking better at education more and more.
        I think I and my children came from a better time and place if this is to be considered normal and correct policy. Kinda reminds me of the premis for the movie “THX1138” with Robert Duvall. LOL, who would have thought?

  4. When my daughters were little, they would watch me clean my handguns. I would casually talk about the 4 rules of safety. Sometimes, I would hand them an empty pistol to see how they handled it. If they touched the trigger, I would take the pistol from them and tell them they can’t go shooting until they followed ALL the rules.

    Also, from time to time, I would see if they could rack the slide. This gave me a good idea if they strong enough to operate the pistols, also.

  5. Not that you need my advise, I would suggest a point or two on who “we” discuss Mommy’s gun with. Grabbers will use the thinnest statement to make trouble for you with. Mom of the year trophy for Sara.

    • @Sammy
      A sad but true state of affairs to be sure.dont know many places any more where this kind of caution must be taken. Alaska …. maybe New Mexico. A sad comment on our skewed and twisted culture to be sure. I second the motion for the Moms Troghy!

  6. When my middle daughter was about that age, I heard her little voice call down the stairs one night (after she was supposed to be asleep) “What’s that smell? Gun oil or shoe polish?” Two smells every kid should associate with their father, I think.

    • ““What’s that smell? Gun oil or shoe polish?” Two smells every kid should associate with their father, I think.”

      There’s a smell I associate with my dad, and it ain’t gun cleaners or shoe polish…

      “Barking frogs”, my ass, er, his ass…

  7. Opinions are like assholes, but when it comes to solvents I require my little ones to wear gloves. My eldest (8 in Nov) has been able to break down (mag free and cleared…) and “clean” my EDC for 2-3 years. I still give it a once over, but she’s surprisingly proficient.

    The four rules are critical, but safety in general is nothing to scoff at. You can find children’s latex gloves on Amazon.

    • I am glad that Matt touched on this topic. The solvents that we use can be bad for our health. Of even greater concern, there is lead residue in your firearm (unless you are shooting all copper bullets or “range clean” bullets totally encapsulate the lead bullet in copper). As I understand it, children are much more sensitive to lead exposure than adults.

      If your children help you clean your firearms, at the very least wash their hands (yes, YOU wash their hands) thoroughly with dish soap when they are finished. And then wash their hands again. Even better, purchase latex gloves sized for children.

        • Thanks for the clarification, but does ANYONE actually use real latex gloves anymore? Nitrile gloves are tougher, more comfortable, and easier to get your hands on these days.

          It’s like calling a random soft drink a “coke” (or so I thought.)

          Again though, and I don’t mean this sarcastically, thanks for the clarification. I fully expected to be eviscerated for pointing out that the chemicals and metals involved aren’t good for kiddos.

        • Latex provides a much better tactile ‘feel’, nitrile a much better barrier.

          My observations on gloves comes from years of chemical lab work that included some real nasties.

          Think along the lines of ‘Methyl Ethyl Death’.

  8. I have some vague memory of the thugs and thugettes at whatever Child Protective Services was called in whatever state it was having a cow when a father posed his child with a scary gun, I think I have several such memories, actually.

    Whether or not involving your child in that particular chore is a good idea or not is your business. When you post it online for all the world to see, CPS (or whatever they are wherever you are) may decide it’s their business also. Some of them are wonderful, sensible, caring people. Some of them are not. All of them, are, however, empowered to initiate action that results in your child being removed from you. If you catch their attention, it will be unpleasant, however it turns out,

    • They do seem to have the common thread of few if any checks and balances for any of their actions. It’s not that I think that they don’t serve a valid and even positive service within most communities. However, there are it seems a fair share of incidents where boundaries are overstepped simply because of a precived politically correct but unsupported attutiude within the it’s structure. There is far to much latitude allowed in there response to either rumor or what they precive to be “questionable parenting”. Way to big of a catch all with no legal foundations.
      Maybe I’m wrong but I’m thinking … Not likely.

  9. Nice article. My kiddos are basically grown now, but still have some of those moments, to my complete surprise. I wish my mom had your attitude about firearms. Her only comment was, “Not in MY house!”

    Naturally, my father, myself as the oldest of 4 boys, and my brothers all said, “Sure, mom” and did it anyway, at least in our college years during summers home. I did not grow up in a firearms-friendly place. I recovered, though the traumatic memories are such today that I think I’ll need to go out and buy another old rifle or maybe order that K31 Swiss I’ve been wanting. Damn, but being an adult with some means is fun.

  10. My son has known about my guns since the age of two and has been going to the range with me since the age of three. He’s now seven and enjoys his day out with dad. He has always been allowed to hold the guns when given permission, and I’ve never refused him.

    He often helps me clean the rifle after the match. He pushes the cleaning rod up the barrel while I handle the solvent (Sweets 7.62).

    Last weekend on a 400 metre telescopic sight match, he sat beside me acting as my spotter with the binoculars. He was impressed I could hit the figure 12 (16″w by 24″h, with a 5″ bullseye zone) with no dropped shots with my Franken-Mauser.

    • You should get your son shooting. A couple of months ago I watched an eight year old girl shoot a 60 round match @ 600 yards with full-power .308 loads. She scored 553 out of 600 possible points.

  11. Just my opinion, but I think a 2.9 year old is a mite too young to indulge him, or herself into the working and cleaning of any precision instrument. A friend of mine who I see often has a 4 year old. There is no way I would let this kid (a boy) have anything to do with anything fragile, expensive or breakable!
    I realize that everybody’s children are not the same, but there’s not really a need yet to teach a 2 year old (OK, he’s almost 3) all about guns. If he was my kid I would start him out on the alphabet and the three R’s, before going into the inner workings of a firearm.
    Of course, he’s NOT my kid, so I have no right to tell you what to do with YOUR kid, I can only suggest.

    • It’s a friggin’ Springfield XD. It’s not fragile, and there are no parts a 2-yr-old sitting on the floor can destroy. It’s got four pieces when field stripped, any of which would survive a three-story drop onto concrete.

      Geez, man. It’s a gun, not a Christmas tree ornament.

      • And I suppose you would advocate taking him to the range when he’s 3 1/2?? Maybe shoot a BAR, or AK on full auto when he 4.
        As I said. all children are different and have their own learning capacity. As soon as a child learns how to clean and field strip a handgun, you can bet you bippy they’ll want to shoot that gun, whether the parents are home or not. And sooner or later they will find a way.
        I also said I don’t have the right to tell anybody what to do, only suggest. If you don’t want to take my suggestion, I’m fine with that.

        • Could I suggest you teach your kid the way you want, and let others teach them the way they want.

        • If you kid’s mental development is falling behind so badly, I think you’d better see to it instead of telling everyone else to fall behind so you don’t look bad.

          These are simple parts and a simple task. Sure, there many adults who can’t handle it, they’re welfare cattle. She’s not raising welfare cattle.

          This woman is an excellent argument in favor of cloning. You’re not.

    • I think it truly depends on the child. I have four kids. There are things I did with one of my kids when he was a certain age (six year-old mowing the lawn, for example) that I would NEVER let the others do at the same age. I think it depends largely on the personality of the child and the patience of the parent.

      I liked how Sara indicated she waited for her son to “calm down” from the excitement of getting to help clean her gun before getting started, for example. If it were me, and my kid didn’t settle down, it would have been a clue to me that perhaps now is not the time.

      One of my kids helped me change spark plugs at age three. Some of the others I wouldn’t have trusted at that age with anything more than a Fisher-Price(TM) toolset.

      So, I think parents who are involved in the lives of their children can make that call on a case-by-case basis with each of their kids.

  12. Good job Sarah! Love the story. My teenage daughter loves to shoot but does not seem interested in cleaning guns or her room. My fault I am sure.

  13. I’m about to give my oldest the combination to the Glock safe. He has not diassembled and reassembled the gun even though he knows how to shoot it. This sounds like a good idea.

  14. It’s the reverse for me. I didn’t grow up in a firearms tradition. I got my interest in firearms on my own. Now I’m teaching my father how to shoot and clean.

  15. Sara,

    Great story and great job. I have two sons whom are now grown (both engineers) and both love to shoot safely. I began their training at the age of two in the backyard with a pellet pistol and some soda cans. They actually began shooting handguns before long guns. I kept a .45 beside the bed all the time and exposed them to it from the time they could crawl. We always talked about the safety aspect and the danger aspect but they were encouraged to be involved. My stance was that anytime they wanted to “look at dad’s gun” they were to come get me. I would drop whatever I was doing and devote my entire attention to them. We would go to the gun, they would tell me the safety rules and then we would unload the gun. At each stage I would ask them if the gun is safe and we would proceed to make the gun safer by removing the magazine, the round in the chamber and then locking back the slide and inspecting the barrel. I would then ask them if they would like to hold it—of course they wanted to hold it! We always kept the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Yes, they were allowed to dry fire it. After a few minutes, they were ready to put it away so we would lock and load the gun and put it back on the counter.

    It was important to remove their curiosity and to make sure that I always made time for them and not shove them off so that the curiosity would be satisfied and they would not sneak in to see it on their own. They understood very early the difference between toys and the real thing. After a few times of looking at it, the curiosity was satisfied and they moved on to other things. They learned to shoot very early on and we have never had a problem. Now, they teach others how to shoot and be safe.

    Good luck!

  16. I highly suggest getting mini goggles or something because some of those chemicals can be very nasty in the eye, even the powder.

  17. I miss the smell of Hoppe’s. Loved it as a kid when I helped my father clean his guns, but it makes me ill now. Hate getting old. But I did love it as a kid.
    And Sara, it sounds like your doing a great job.

  18. Donald, Hoppe’s #9 is a bore cleaner. It is almost ubiquitous in gun care and most people that have been raised within the gun culture have scores of memories associated with it’s distinctive scent. (So much that they actually make an air freshener to hang in your car)

    It has a base of ethanol and kerosene, is made by Tri-Pac Inc. for Hoppes, a division of Vista Outdoors, and can be purchased just about anywhere that guns and/or ammunition are sold.

    At least that’s what the MSDS sheet and a cursory Google search told me.

    • Boy, I wish I had thought of that as a kid. But, I suppose I’d have missed out on my bride of 48 years now, I had to teach her to shoot.

  19. Well done Sara. Very much the same for my child at that age. He’s 35 and is teaching his children. I remember him at about 3 years old, sitting in my lap, big old headphones on his little head as we together shot a .357. His eye’s were as big as saucers with a huge smile on his face after the boom. A few years later, he would help me drag my dear from the woods behind the house, hang and butcher it. With that kind of education, I never had to worry that he might “play” with a gun. He knew exactly what kind of power and danger it could bring, but he also learned that he loved shooting too.

  20. The same approach should be used for all new to guns. Learn gun safety. Learn safe gun handling. Take it apart, put it back together. At least 5 times. Then, maybe, move on to shooting.

    I hope this makes the Moms Demand Action Folks’ heads explode.

    My son fired my 1911 for the first time when he was 5. Aside from serious limp wristing, he did fine. :-p Drove my truck for the first time when he was 7. Yeah, it’s a manual transmission. I have no respect for a grown damn man who can’t drive manual when a 7 year old kid can do it just fine… I just taught him to TIG last weekend. Been riding my motorcycle for years… He turns 18 in a week.

    • Agreed—kids mature at different rates, but I tend to think it is the parents who control that rate in how they teach their children and how much time they spend with them. My boys could plow a field and grade roads, drive a forklift, shoot straight, clean guns, etc. when they were under 10 years old. I made a deal with my younger son that if he could build his forearms to a certain diameter, he could have a Sig P220 .45 ACP. You better believe he worked his arms off to get that gun while he was still a young teen. Today, I think many are waiting for the government and the schools to teach their kids for them instead of teaching them themselves at home. We home-schooled both our boys and now both have finished college, one with a master’s. Both are engineers; the younger is a mechanical engineer for Cummins Diesel and the older is a computer engineer for Telecore. It’s all in how you bring them up. Teach a kid to shoot, hunt, fish, camp, be a responsible citizen and contribute to his community and you have something to be proud of.

    • Dustin I grew up on a Farm and I remember using both legs to push the clutch pedal, basically standing on it. EVERYONE should know how to use a manual transmission and to shoot safely. Took the NRA hunter safety course when I was 10 or so to hunt and put food on the table. I turn 58 this year and you can push the clutch pedal till it stops and the gears still grind. 1950 Farmall Super Cub, Dad restored it and it can wheelie still and is used every winter for plowing and land escaping in the spring. mrpresident2016.com

  21. my son is turning three this month and as an avid fire arm enthusiast ive been wrestling with the idea of teaching him soon. seeing someone teach a three year old about cleaning guns has made me decide. this week ill be receiving the parts to a rifle build and i will involve my son. thank you for sharing the involvement of your son.

  22. Amazing job and great to see other parents teaching their children important life lessons at an early age.

    I have a 6 year old son and took him to my best friend’s/his “Uncle” Rio’s land to watch me shoot for the first time. He watched us shoot adhesive bullseye targets on an empty 5 gallon plastic paint bucket for half an hour before finally declaring, “Can I try Daddy?”

    I have been teaching him the “4 Rules” since age 3 and let him handle my empty handguns with my permission often.

    I wasn’t sure if he’d be able to handle the recoil from my CZ P-09 in 9mm so for the first shot, I stood behind him and held the gun in place very lightly to see how it reacted.

    He shot the bucket and was very surprised by the recoil (and nearly killed my ears since one of my earplugs fell out) and immediately said “I don’t know if I wanna shoot it again.”

    I took the pistol and shot about 5 more rounds before he asked if he could go again. He ended up shooting about 30 rounds after that, and was a surprisingly accurate little natural marksman to boot!

    As soon as we got home, we went into the dining room (ammo is never taken outside of his mom and I’s bedroom) and after safety checking the gun, I told him if he’d like to go again, he had to learn how to clean it properly.

    Now, every Saturday, guess what the first thing he asks to do for the day?

    “Can we go shooting?”

    Just wanted to share my story, awesome article!!

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