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Reader Tony A. writes:

My father passed away this January 1. As is common with many sons and fathers, we had our share of conflicts. We loved each other, sure, but plenty of scar tissue was left on both sides. One thing we did do where there was no conflict was rabbit hunting. Dad had a gift for being able to sneak up on rabbits and put me in the perfect position for when they bolted. He was a beagle, pointer and retriever all in one . . .

Time passed, I grew up, and he grew old. Health issues finally took him on New Years. The last coherent conversation I had with him was at 3:00 a.m. at the hospital about a week before he died. For a few brief, wonderful minutes, he was there. Of all things, he started talking about hunting for rabbits. It was a gift to me, and I knew it.

A few weeks ago I was at my parents’ house, and Mom asked if I would please take Dad’s shotgun, as he would want me to have it. I didn’t even realize he still had one, let alone his old rabbit gun.

I now have two boys of my own, one is 16 and the other 11. We went into the bedroom and we took the case out of the closet. I pulled the Remington 1100 out of the case, checked the safety and held Dad’s gun for the first time in well over 30 years.

Looking at the boys I asked, “What’s the first thing you do with any gun you touch?” In unison they said, ‘Check to see if it’s loaded.” Proudly, I said, “That’s right!” and pulled back on the bolt handle. A shotgun shell launched from the receiver and flew in front of the boys, landing at their feet. I looked into the receiver and there was another shell waiting to be pushed into the breach. Mom said that the gun was loaded all those years, probably since the last time we hunted. Wow….

Seeing the look of shock on my boys’ faces from seeing the shell fly up and land on the floor made me realize that they understood how dangerous a loaded, unsecured firearm was, and that this was a lesson they would not soon forget. We discussed this, and the need for safely securing your guns, all the way back home.

Thinking about this incident a few days later, I realized that this may have been one of the greatest gifts Dad could have given me. Five months after his passing, and he just taught my boys a lesson in gun safety they should never forget.

Thanks Dad … I miss you.

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  1. A valuable lesson for sure, and a gift of a family firearm too. They’re lucky to have a token from their grandfather that has so many stories.

  2. The traditional family has always been the primary keeper of the flame for the second amendment. When you break it up and put people on welfare , tell women the police will protect you so you don’t need a gun or a man for protection or provider, this is how our rights are undermined.

    Thank god for the keepers of the flame before we came into this world. I took my daughter to the range for the first time 3 years ago. Now she thinks guns are fun. Soon she will learn they are very important as well.

  3. they understood how dangerous a loaded, unsecured firearm was. The author and his kids would have loved my Grandparent’s and Great Uncle’s guns and house, loaded guns about the house galore. The author’s Father and his loaded 1100 was not as unusual as many people would think.

  4. That’s a nice story, but please keep in mind the first rule of gun safety is always to point the gun in the safest direction. The second rule is always to keep your finger off the trigger, and the third rule is to keep the gun unloaded until ready to use (and always check to see if it is loaded).

    • No offense, Bill, but I’m not familiar with the firearms safety rules you stated. These are the ones I was taught:
      1. Treat every firearm as if it’s loaded.
      2. Never point a firearm at anything you are not willing to destroy.
      3. Always be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
      4. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are on target and ready to fire.I

      If you intend to use a firearm to defend yourself, your family or your home, then keeping it unloaded until your ready to use it will put you way behind the reaction curve.

      • Mike, all those rules are good ones to follow, but they are not the primary rules. What I paraphrased were the first three NRA rules that I am required to teach all NRA instructor candidates (I’m an NRA counselor). We emphasize the first three rules in that order because if the only thing someone does is point a gun in a safe direction, then an accidental discharge will harm nobody. By contrast, checking to see if a gun is loaded while not observing rules 1 and 2 first can result in a fatal accident. I’m sure Tony A. was implying he followed the first two rules, but when instructing, this information cannot be omitted, for it is critical. Many students these future instructors will teach have never handled a firearm before, so they may not reason this out even though it seems obvious to the rest of us and of second nature. It must be demonstrated, explained, and constantly emphasized. If their students remember nothing else, they should remember and follow these first three rules, but especially rule number one.

        • Agreed. It’s all well and good to treat every firearm as if it’s loaded, but if your true first rule is the one about keeping the gun pointed in a safe direction, you can deal with the “loaded” rule second in a safe manner.

          Might be sacrilege to a few people, but long before I ever heard of Jeff Cooper (and possibly before he ever codified his rules), my great grandfather had already taught me rule #1 as keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. For one thing, all of the guns in his gun closet (and the whole house for that matter) WERE loaded.

      • That’s pretty much what we go by in the Military. Some very minor word differences but the same structure.

  5. Father’s are like that. My Dad passed in 2013. His Colt Mustang sat loaded in his desk drawer at home for years. At his funeral, my Stepmother wanted to make sure I had it. First things first, clear it. My teenage son was with me. That .380 rd bounced off his desk and rolled off onto the floor. Small moments in time we’ll never forget.
    Thank you for sharing your story and reminding me all the things my Dad said as well. They are practically identical.

  6. My son. a grown man, and I were rabbit hunting 4th of july. We also have scars between us. But they seem to diminish or vanish completely when we take the field together.

    It was common in the older generation to not lock their guns empty in safes. I grew up in houses full of loaded guns. And none of us ever had an nd or died because of the guns.

    • So true. My Grandfather, WWII Pacific War Veteran, lived in Hialeah, Florida. Growing up as a kid he had loaded guns in every room of the house. We got THE lesson on guns in the house, and never messed with them. They were his and his alone, and not for us kids to mess with. Period! Somehow we survived the old revolvers scattered about the house, the 12g in the closet, the 1911 in the nightstand, and we didn’t care. Grampa’s house was a place to eat, play in the garage, and enjoy being there. My how times have changed.
      Just imagine where we’ll be.

  7. I’m thankful I have always had a great relationship with my dad. I wish I could spend more time with him, but I’m on the wrong side of the country right now. He taught me about firearms from a young age, and we went hunting for many years until work took me elsewhere.

  8. I had the great, good blessing of having a father with whom I had few conflicts. Mercifully, they were never serious enough to leave emotional scar tissue. A man of modest means, everything he owned was always cared for but well used-up by the time of his passing. Except for his bird gun. In the late 1930’s, while still scraping his way out of the Great Depression, he saved enough money to buy an L.C. Smith 16ga double-gun with modified and improved barrels. Throughout his life, that gun was his prized possession. It was the one thing of material value he could leave me. I cherish it to this day.

  9. IMHO the lessons given to us by our passed fathers only take place when we listen!

    They may be gone but their heritage is you and I!

    What a wonderful story!

  10. I’m sorry to hear of your loss, and I completely understand the good times spent hunting and outdoors. My father and I are really close and most of our time together is spent hunting, fishing, or talking about the two. Lol Everyone is different and taught different but I was raised in a house where at least 2 firearms stayed loaded and easily accessible at all times Browning Hi-power on his nightstand and a Browning BPS loaded with buckshot right behind the doorway. There are 3 of us kids, we knew where they were we were just taught VERY early on gun safety and not to mess with them.

  11. “grandpa kept it loaded? coool…”
    the ramifications of that discovery will leave a residue that will cling for life.
    good story, reinforcing that guns are normal. nice to be reminded of that when one is often surrounded by alien weirdos.

  12. I never met my grandfather, he passed away before I was born. He left behind a 1972 Winchester Model 70A that he bought second hand. My brother and I knew it existed, but it was in Idaho, on the other side of the country, and my father refused to claim it because he didn’t want guns in the home while we were growing up. My father’s position on firearms changed post-aurora/Sandy hook, and when he went to visit his mother last he finally brought home the Winchester, and with it 20 rounds of .30-06 that my grandfather hand-loaded 40 years ago. He also found a couple of reloading die and a note written in pencil detailing his reloading formula. We found out that my grandmother gave rest of the reloading equipment to a former pastor decades ago. I’m glad the rifle is finally back in use, it’s a connection to my past, and a man I never knew. If/when I go hunting for the first time, I’ll be carrying my grandfather’s rifle.

  13. I was at my local pawn shop today. I was looking at an Ithaca single shot lever action. I hit the lever and it kicked out a fresh 22 lr shell. Don’t even trust retailers about loaded or unloaded state of a gun.

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