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By David W.

I was kind of an awkward child growing up. When I was a small child I was bullied by a rooster, defended by a goat, half swallowed by a cow, chased by a goose, and once lost a fight with a cat. As you may be able to tell, I grew up on a farm. Being a farm kid, I ended up in the Boy Scouts, but due to a tussle involving my mother and a soccer mom over whether or not kids should get badges when their parents do the work instead of the kids, I ended up in 4-H. Now, a lot of people would say “Duh, farm kid, 4-H, kind of obvious”, in truth, 4-H isn’t just for farm kids these days . . .

4-H covers a lot of things that don’t require huge swathes of land. Everything from cooking to writing to photography these days, perfect for the average suburbanite kid whose idea of a back yard is a quarter of an acre of manicured lawn.

One thing that’s relatively unknown to the average person about 4-H are the shooting sports. TTAG covers old guys with guns, women with guns, training courses for old guys with guns, gear for old guys with guns, videos for old guys with guns, guns for old guys with guns. Basically there is this whole old guys with guns vibe going on. The “Next generation of shooters” is talked about like a hypothetical or mythical creature.

The truth is, they are already here. They are already shooting, they are shooting different types of guns, and in some cases they have been shooting longer then some of the esteemed TTAG writers have. Kids as young as 9 years old can join a shooting sports club for 4-H, have the 4 rules, along with many other safety and accuracy and cleaning based information taught to them by state trained instructors.

I went to public school, I met some suburbanite kids, and I can tell you, kids these days, they don’t need freedom in most cases, they need responsibilities.  And I don’t mean a dog.  Not a cat either.  Right now you can have your kids, your nephews, your nieces, your grand kids, and any other kids who parent or guardian would be willing to have their child taught gun safety, and unlike Eddie the Eagle, they learn to shoot.  And shoot accurately.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “So all they do is shoot?” Well, that’s not all really.  See, another one of those responsibilities things that comes from 4-H is basically how to talk to people one on one. I’m a college student in a small college, and I can tell you, people can’t talk to people these days. Have them do a speech and it seems like every other word is ‘like’, or ‘um, or ‘dude’.

In 4-H shooting sports, you have all this information given to you, are trained in either shotgun, rifle, pistol, archery, reloading, hunting, muzzle loading, or living history, and then expected to pick one aspect of that discipline and make a project out of it.  Not homework per se, more like an “explain this to a person who may not have any idea what anything is” type project. It might be anything; how a cartridge works, how different types of actions work, how people in the 1600s on the frontier lived…anything.

I knew a guy in my Shooting Sports club who built a Muzzle loader.  Now, I’m not saying he ordered a stock, an action, a trigger, a hammer, a butt plate, and then put a barrel and breech plug on it and called it a day.  He did nothing more then buy a barrel and breech plug, and built the rest from scratch.  Everything from the stock, to the action, to the trigger, was home made by him. Now tell me that isn’t cool. A 17 year old on a summer break built a gun, almost entirely from scratch. He had plans for a barrel and breech plug, but his mother vetoed the idea due to the fact a home made muzzle loader can turn into a home made pipe bomb if you screw up.  What have you done this summer?

Now, hopefully, a lot of this may seem interesting to the “Old guy with guns” demographic.  And that’s good.  One of the best parts about 4-H shooting sports is the fact that you are probably needed.  All you have to do is be state certified.  Now my dad was in his late 40s when he got certified.  When he did it in Ohio, he went to a weekend camp.  He was trained on how to teach kids everything about gun safety, and how to accurately shoot.  A few of you might be thinking about how the NRA trained you to train others, and that should be good enough.  It might be good enough for adults, but is it good enough for kids?  That’s the main reason its state certified.  You’re taught about how to, well, teach children, instead of adults.

So, the next time someone asks you what you did to help gun rights stay for the next generation, would you rather answer “I got in an argument at Starbucks with a snooty hipster” or “I trained 12-year-old girl how to shoot skeet”?

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  1. Well Written!!! I do believe that the focus on most gun forums tends to maximize shooters who are older, and not take younger, responsible shooters as seriously.. I have seen plenty of flame spraying towards inexperienced shooters just trying to learn more on various forums, and while some of it is just the anonymous nature of the internet bringing out the inner a___holes in some, a lot of it just ostracized or discouraged eager younger people. The tendency of the “good ole boy” club that is a lot of the gun community to do this shouldn’t be ignored. I do know that there are a lot of good “old guys” out there, but there’s also a lot of cranky “I cant be bothered types out there too.. It’s vitally important we embrace the newer generation of shooters, as they are our future advocates in the rights of gun guys everywhere..
    TTAG is a rare exception for the most part of this rule…. 🙂

  2. Seems to me that 4-H is a little more free-form for projects than the basic Boy Scouts’ tie knots, go to a jamboree, get a badge thing – albeit, I was in the scouts. On a side note, I’m do both: I instruct my 11-year old daughter on shooting and I also engage in conversation with closed-minded liberals (is that an oxymoron? is it ironic? both?) about guns.

    None-the-less, it sounds like 4-H might be a good after-school activity for the budding gun enthusiast, and may be something to consider if my daughter wants to quit gluing glitter to purse decorations in girl scouts – I swear my kid’s GS troop is like a Stepford Wives training center at times.

  3. wow ok i gotta say love the timing on this article. I just last week was volunteering as an adult leader at my counties week at 4-h camp. I was teaching fishing to be exact. Everything said in this article is dead on. 4-h is great it teaches kids responsibility and how to get along with others. I can’t say enough good things about it and camp specifically.

  4. Nice. My only concern about 4H is that it’s controlled by the US government, specifically the USDA, which has already used its power of the purse to change 4H practices in the past.

  5. Great article! The next generation is definitely out there, even in CA. I shot trap for 4 years at my high school, competing at the state and national level. My senior year (class of 2012) there were over 500 shooters at the CA state shoot. And we had kids on our team as young as 9 years old.

    One or two of those 9 and 10 year olds could probably hit more clays than many TTAG readers too!

  6. I’m a 4-H shotgun coach and my 12-year old son is in his third year with 4-H. The most outstanding part of the program is the sportsmanship and responsibility of the kids. After bad experiences with church league basketball (where the coach was teaching kids how to elbow and trip without getting caught) and soccer (injuries cheered by parents), I was pleasantly surprised to see the 4-H kids in real competition (no participant trophies here) helping each other to improve their scores and demonstrate the class and maturity that is missing from ball sports. The biggest problem at our range, and a problem for other 4-H clubs, is the “country club syndrome” where the old farts don’t want the kids on the range, because they think the kids are a danger or irresponsible. In fact, I am safer with these kids than most adults at any given range, and our kids don’t leave shells or trash on the ground like the “range gentry” (this should be a separate topic). Our kids are not all honor students or perfect angels, but all of them understand the importance of safe gun handling and that there is no horseplay on the range. This program is a great way to expand the gun culture safely and teach kids about responsibility and sportsmanship that they won’t get in other sports.


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