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By PA Deacon

“I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.” When it comes to firearms, training at the range or browsing gun-shows might be the best way to learn. But that may not always be possible. Cost, time constraints, and, most important, knowledge gaps, are real challenges.

I didn’t grow up around firearms and never learned about the proper shooting technique, firearms maintenance, and all important gun-culture.

As an adult, I sought out the people, places, and outlets that gave me the information I was looking for. What’s the difference between .223 and 5.56? Google it. Will I like shooting a single action .45 Colt? Ask a friend who owns one to take a trip to the range. I had, and still have, lots of questions. All I need to do is find the answers.

Range Day

Sometime around 2009, a couple of friends invited me to the range. I had never been to the range or even held a firearm, but I had enough sense to agree to go with them.

I wasn’t nervous when we arrived at the range. Why should I be? People shoot every day.

When we walked into the waiting area, I heard the muffled echo of shots from the range. I had not expected to hear that. Mostly because I didn’t expect anything. I realized pretty quickly that if I had questions, I should ask. If not, follow the instructor’s lead. They were all relaxed and so was I.

Once we found our lane, my friend took his rifle out of its case. It was big, wood, and looked worn. He told me it was a Garand. He bought it from something called the CMP. He mentioned that we’d also be shooting his Berretta handgun. I knew of that gun. “The Army uses that, right?” I said.

My friend walked me through everything I needed to know before shooting. I settled in and got ready for my first shot from the Garand.

That’s it? I expected a lot more. Of course, at the time I had no appreciation for how the weight of a rifle, the size of the cartridge, and the type and amount of powder would affect something like recoil. My friend explained it all to me. Lesson learned.

The Berretta was just as fun. The three of us took turns. While one of us was on the line the other two would talk about our shot placement and watch others in their lanes. I saw someone practicing their draw from a concealed holster. I could not have known then, but it would only be a few years until I was doing the same.

We capped off the day with dinner where my friend discussed the firearms we shot; the pros and cons of each, the costs, and comparisons. I asked about the Civilian Marksmanship Program and why it started. Hmm. Seems like an important program, I thought.

Within ten years I would have my own firearms collection and a growing understanding of the right to self-defense. And it all started with an invitation to the range and my willingness to learn.

A Quiet Example

Without a firearm of my own, I didn’t go back to the range for a few months. It wasn’t until I met a “gun guy” from work that I considered owning a firearm.

My co-worker moved to D.C. from the Midwest. He already had an impressive firearms collection back home, but due to changing D.C. laws, he wasn’t yet comfortable bringing them East. He was a hunter, so he brought his bolt action as well as his 1911. But it wasn’t his guns that interested me. It was the way he talked about hunting, firearms, and how he researched answers to his questions.

He and I didn’t talk too much about his firearms though. But he set a quiet example. I started thinking about firearms as I would any other tool in my house. Fun, interesting, and sometimes expensive, firearms increasingly took up more of my free time.

My Thanks

My friends didn’t intimidate me with their superior knowledge, or push me to go to the range. But they were open to teaching me.

As this series will detail, my interest in firearms is much bigger than any interest in collecting cool shooters. My understanding and appreciation of firearms has changed over the years. They were once a passive thing – but not my thing. Now firearms represent something more.

I didn’t get here overnight. It has taken almost ten years to appreciate what firearms are, what they are not, and why they should be important to me.

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  1. I did not grow up with guns, and didn’t get into firearms or shooting until I was 30 years old, but I have found that I REALLY enjoy shooting. I went to my first trap shoot with a few people from work about a month ago, and found out that I have been missing out on some great fun.

    • Kevin,

      When I was a child my father had a .22 caliber pump-action rifle, a .38 Special revolver, and a .30-30 Winchester lever action rifle. I remember shooting the .22 rifle and revolver exactly one time throughout my childhood and teenage years. And I remember shooting that .30-30 lever action rifle for the first and only time in college. So, while we had firearms in our home, no one ever offered to immerse me in shooting nor gun culture.

      And, even though I purchased my own .22 caliber semi-auto rifle and 12 gauge pump-action shotgun in high school, I did not shoot either of them very much, either. I did not become intensely interested in firearms until a couple decades later.

      I think the main thing I was missing was mentoring and a shooting buddy. I can only imagine the same situation for you.

      • I grew up in Sacramento, CA so guns were not a popular thing growing up. The only person I knew that had a gun growing up was my grandfather. He was in the airforce and carried a revolver when he went out metal detecting for gold in the woods. My father never owned a gun, and the only reason I originally got a gun was because we bought a house in rural CA and we started getting big black bears coming to my house and stealing the trash. While I didn’t care that much about the trash, I was away at work all day and my wife was at home with my newborn daughter…so I figured it best to get a gun. My father in-law gave us a 1895 Chilean Mauser in 7mm…….damn nice gun. Then I figured that I had to learn to shoot it if I was ever expected to use it on an intruder bear……It was far more fun than I ever imagined it would be, and have since purchased more guns and have made shooting a regular hobby. I now learn everything I can about guns and enjoy them every chance I get. I have even gotten all of my friends to purchase guns and go shooting as well.

        • I also grew up in Sacrament CA. I knew many kids who hunted. But my family never wanted me to having anything to do with guns. I think the Mulford Act my have had something to do with it.
          And there were other reasons why kids never learned about their gun civil rights in California.

          “Ammiano was instrumental in getting rid of San Francisco’s High School competitive .22 cal rifle teams, and worked to put an end to the junior ROTC program in San Francisco’s High Schools. Ammiano supported the ban on allowing gun owners to carry an unloaded gun in public. “Whether a gun is loaded or not, it’s still an act of intimidation and bullying,” Ammiano said.”

          Its interesting how homosexuals like Tom Ammiano who have no children like to interfere in the education of other peoples children. That is what homosexuals do who are socialist progressive in their political orientation.

      • I didn’t grow up around guns either. One of my friends from high school invited me out to go shooting when we were college students (age about 19). He and his dad had just bought .22 rifles. They both had Marlins (model 60 and a bolt action). I loved shooting, and I loved the Marlin 60. I bought my own Marlin 60 just a few years later.

        Twenty-five years later, and my collection has expanded dramatically (though I’ve only been into handguns and ccw for about seven years).

        Sadly, my friend who introduced me to shooting died suddenly from a rare health issue at age 23.

        Thanks for introducing me to guns Jim. You are still missed, and appreciated. We will meet again in the presence of the Lamb.

    • I think you’ll find that most “gun people” are welcoming and eager to share their knowledge to anyone who approaches it with an open mind…

  2. Here is an incredibly interesting question that is directly an element of this article: what does it mean when someone says, “I grew up with firearms.”?

    At first blush, I would say that I grew up with firearms since my father owned three firearms — each of which I shot one time during my childhood — and I purchased my own .22 caliber semi-automatic rifle and cheap 12 gauge pump-action shotgun as a teenager that I shot a few times.

    Upon further thought, though, I would say that I did not grow up with firearms since I knew pretty much nothing about brands or types of firearms, knew nothing about the pros-and-cons of calibers, knew nothing about different types of ammunition, and knew nothing about firearms laws. I guess it is all relative.

    My current opinion is that someone who “grew up with firearms” has to mean that they actually shot a fair amount and knew a little something about different brands, models, ammunition, and very basic legal considerations. Simply having a couple firearms in the home while growing up doesn’t get there.

    • I’ve wondered about that phrase too – generally, I’ve interpreted it to mean the subject learned about guns and how to use them as a young child.
      That said, no one is born knowing how to shoot – so we as POTG owe it to the next generation of shooters (and voters) to teach them properly. Look for opportunities to teach the next generation, especially if their parent is less than qualified to do it themselves (we’ve all met someone like that).

    • I can say I grew up with them. From my first target practice with Dad’s BB gun at 5 to now at 65. I killed my first rabbit with his .22 at 6 and continued to shoot from then on using pellet guns on varmints to shotguns and .22 for birds, rabbits, and squirrels. I still have those guns, but moved on to antique style muzzle loading rifles, muskets, revolvers and single shot pistols in both flintlock and cap lock. And I started my kids off at 5 shooting so they grew up with them also.

    • I think that “back in the day” there were a lot less guns around…particularly pistols…my dad was a veteran of the union strife back in the 30’s…and it was not unusual to see one hanging off that big ol’ heater that was usually found under the dash of those old cars…somewhere along the way he switched from a nickel plated .38 a .25 cal auto which he took me out to shoot at an early age..I still have it…a somewhat curious piece that featured a hidden, snap-down trigger…that and grandpap’s old 12ga were all we had in the house for years…although there was a never ending stream of toy guns…some of which i’ve been able to re-acquire on ebay…it was just a question of time before I was able to graduate to the real thing…but a love affair was borne…

    • My father was born and raised in the Allegheny National Forest near Warren, Pennsylvania. Everyone in town there hunted–and still does. When I was in seventh grade, we took my grandmother home to be buried. I stayed with extended family.. There was a glass gun cabinet in the living room, two rifles and a shotgun on the wall of the boy’s bedroom I stayed in, and a stack of guns in the back corner of the closet. I think that is what is meant by “growing up with guns.” (It certainly wasn’t my experience at all.)

  3. I inherited a few firearms in 08/09, and thought I should be proficient with them, so off to the range. Jump cut to now: I’m a certified RSO and instructor, my collection takes up 2 rifle safes and one pistol safe, and I’m the guy my friends come to for instruction, cleaning, research, and light gunsmithing. In about a decade I’ve formed friendships, learned a lot, and definitely figured out what I like and what I’m good with, but unfortunately I’m not into only this or that… I like variety. AR? Love both of mine, but I’ve got this old Savage .22 single shot that when plinking cans strung in a tree I can finish by cutting the strings. CZ75 pistols? Yes, please! But I’m almost as accurate with my El Cheapo Star BM. Old stuff? 1943 Winchester M1 carbine, Nazi marked FN High Power, 91/30 (‘cuz ya gotta have one!)… I wish I liked ONE CATEGORY at least! But, no… it’s a dangerous hobby. They keep following me home.

    • everytime I pick a garand I expect someone to start yelling at me..kind of soured the appeal of that one….

  4. My parents were gun neutral, didn’t own any, so I only ever had Nerf and whatnot as a kid.

    After video game shooters became more like CoD and less like Contra did I get interested in the real things.

    Hitting an 1200 yard headshot in Battlefield makes you research if it’s that hard in real life too.

  5. The only experience I had growing up with guns was when I was about five, I found my dad’s gun cases. I asked what they were and he said “those are my guns. If I ever catch you playing with them, I’ll beat your ass.” And that cured my curiosity of them up until I was late teens. I started watching Survivorman and getting into knives and survival gear. It was, in my mind, a natural progression to want to get into guns. I asked my dad why he never wanted to take me shooting or anything when I was younger. He told me he wanted for me to come to my own conclusions and not push anything on me.

  6. I didn’t get into it until after high school. A saw a friends hunting shotgun and wanted my own. Nowadays guns and ammo is pretty much all I spend my disposable income on.

  7. I started life on a farm in WV. We had shotguns and rimfire rifles because every farm had them. My father and my brother and I hunted along with other members of our extended family. There was also the matter of pest control.

    None of the people that I learned from and grew up around where POTG. Guns were tools.

    I had an intense interest in firearms and history even as a young child. My father didn’t actively support my gun lust but he didn’t impede it, either. Guns were tools.

    Fortunately we had contact with family and friends who were more into guns and history than my dad. Guns could still be mail ordered then and between Sears, the CMP and vets bring backs I could experience everything from H&R .22 pistols to M1s, Tommy guns, ‘GI’ .45s, the list goes on and on.

    I’m in my 60s now and it is still a passion, guns and history.

    • lot’sa war trophies back then…and german 8mm’s were highly prized…neighbor kids dad had a jap 7mm that he let us play with…never saw any ammo though…still remember that flower [chrysanthemum?] on the top of the receiver…

      • Yes, you were able to handle a Japanese Arisaka rifle chambered in 7mm Jap caliber, complete with the chrysanthemum stamp.

        Ammunition is exceedingly rare even via the Internet!

        • It’s 7.7mm Jap.

          Ammo isn’t common (or cheap) but is available (Norma and some others make it, and reloads are readily available at gun shows [caveat emptor]). is your friend here.

        • In those days hatred and prejudice against the Japanese was still very strong. A living thing, almost. Anything ‘made in japan’ was considered inferior. Japanese rifles were considered junk and people kept them as trophies, not as shooters.

          I was a grown man with kids of my own before American gun writers started to give praise to the Arisaka.

  8. Grew up with parents being relatively gun neutral, but no firearms in the house. I’ve always been interested in firearms though. Both mechanically and politically. Got my first gun at 19 (my mother was not amused) and have since converted my immediate family all into gun people. I now shoot competitively and build my own guns whenever feasible.

    • There is a great deal of satisfaction in building and competing with a gun you built yourself. My first flintlock pistol I built I took 3rd place in the CT State Muzzle Loading matches back in 83. My Hawken rifle I built also won or placed in many matches, including bringing home turkeys at local turkey shoots. Also took my first deer with it.
      Now looking forward to building more antique long rifles, smooth bores, and pistols.

      • I haven’t dabbled in building antique rifles… yet. I’ve mainly been involved with precision rifles, CMP, and modern arms. I’m currently getting into reloading, but I definitely want to try maching/building a repeating flintlock when I get the tooling up.

  9. I shot my dad’s 22 rifle and 22 sixgun as a kid. And shot what I guess was a 410shotgun as a Boyscout. Really no emphasis on guns(dad had a NRA sticker on the door)but I vividly remember going to the gun show in Kankakee’s Civic Auditorium-NOW a “gun-free” zone. Gun culture? Nah but guns just seemed “normal”. I did everything on my own and still do. I have friend’s who shoot but they live far away(and they’re unreliable). As I’m turning 65 I only care I’m armed and competent…

  10. I grew up with only Fudd rifles and very occasional hunting trips and .22 plinking.

    Did not personally own (though I could borrow from family) anything more than a browning A5 shotgun and a Bersa .380 thunder before Obama was elected. Now the proud owner of 22 firearms and counting.

    The POTG I’ve met are extremely willing to share knowledge, teach, and mentor in a respectful way. I’d like to thank the guys and gals that have helped me and let them know I am actively recruiting new shooters to show them how much fun this hobby can be.

  11. I’m one of the new breed. I got my introduction through Rainbow Six and Delta Force. Once I left the Pooples Republic of Drugafornia, I started my collection.

    • “I’m one of the new breed. I got my introduction through Rainbow Six and Delta Force.”

      You and others of your age becoming interested in guns through those games are the future. And there are far more of you than the Leftists realize.

      Those games are the ‘gateway drug’ to an addiction to freedom…

  12. I grew up with firearms. My dad was a Marine in the Korean War. When he came back he had his 1911. He got my brothers and me each a Savage 22/.410 Over/Under before we were in Kindergarten. We have always been shooting. My son grew up the same way, plinking at the range with 22’s, shooting Trap when he was old enough to shoulder a 20 gauge youth shotgun (which by the way kicks like a mule!).

    My daughter was dating a guy who had emigrated from France. He bluntly told us that he did not like guns. He had been raised that way, always told that guns were bad and scary and evil, etc. One time we took him out to the Trap club. After the first round he was hooked. Having done it once, he understood. There was no going back to that original mindset!

    Want to help the sport out? Take friends to the range with you. Teach them the truth about guns, gun ownership, etc.

  13. i had a similar experience. i liked guns as a kid so our dad took us shooting to try to get us into hunting like he is. I believe I either shot a 12g or a bolt action .270 at about 8 years old. after the first shot, i was no longer interested in shooting. it took about 10 years for me to pick interest back up again. i always knew alot about guns from video games then would look them up, read, youtube, etc.. Then i got to where i could actually BUY some and could pick what i wanted rather than just shoot what was available. That, of course, made a huge difference. Got into competition, started reloading. And just last month i made my first suppressor purchase. what drew me back into guns was really the mechanics of them. Especially all the different operating methods used by different manufacturers. Them damn Germans. Wow. One of my favorite video channels is ForgottenWeapons. It’s so interesting seeing all these different designs to address the same problems. Ian’s breakdowns are awesome as well.

  14. The USG taught me to use M-16 and M-9 at the tender age of 17 when I enlisted. i first shot guns in the Boy Scouts at 14. It’s better to start young before the media and schools drill into your head how bad guns are.

  15. I remember granddad being a huge gun nut. He had boat loads of stuff AKS? Yep! SMLE? Mark 1- Mark 256. Everything in between. Dad didn’t have any in our house that I know of. Well fast forward to a year or two ago I had just picked up a SCCY CPX2 9mm from Rural King (it was on sale for like 149 or something like that). Dad starts travelling for work, mom comes up to visit the grandkids and mentions the issues they were having in the old neighborhood. Bunch of teens and various assorted criminal types trying to break into houses and how she was kinda scared as she didn’t have a big dog anymore. Well me being the good son I am went and got her that SCCY outta my gun box, taught her how to run it, cleaned it, and gave it to her with 2 full mags of Hornady Critical Defense. Now she lusts after my AK and wants my help picking one out for her very own.

  16. Parents were neutral to anti gun. But I grew up on GI Joe and 80s action movies sooo….it was gonna happen one way or another.

  17. It was all my son’s fault. He had a thing for guns (in pictures), so about twelve or more years ago I got a break pump air rifle for plinking in the back yard. Then my ever competitive daughter had to join in the fun.
    It wasn’t too long after that that I bought a .22 Savage bolt action, and was taking the boy to the indoor range to shoot. Handguns naturally followed. And yes, the daughter got her special trips too). I bought a 9 mm, and then a used 12 gauge Wingmaster. (I ran into a stock smith at the trap range who fitted it to my then 14 year old (but tall) son. I eventually just gave it to him, since he was a natural–and I wasn’t.) The list of guns has gotten longer since then, but it seems the list of “I want one of those” keeps well ahead of the pace.

  18. Those of us who grew up without guns in the household I think are the ones who most appreciate these firearms blogs. My childhood experience was gun-neutral. As a little kid growing up in NYC, no-one except a criminal had a gun. On the other hand, every one of us had as many toy guns, knives, bows and arrows with suction dart ends, etc. as we could convince our parents to buy. My parents, who were quite liberal politically, had no problem at all buying these toys that “could put your eye out.” Boys will be boys, back then. We then moved to the ‘burbs, and some of my friends’ parents had guns in the house, both for hunting and for personal protection. As an adult, I moved to other parts of the country that were decidedly more gun-friendly, got to know more people who owned guns, usually for hunting. They were all good people. Married a woman from a rural Southern background who grew up in a house filled with guns, but never learned herself. We were offered a handgun more or less as a wedding present but declined (we lived in FL at the time and concealed carry was then illegal.) Parenthetical note that some of you will understand – when as an outsider you marry a Southern by the Grace of God woman and are offered a taste of real moonshine and a handgun by her family, you have been accepted, your Yankee birth forgiven, at least most of the time.

    I did not fire a real gun until age 59, when after an experience that could have become a “workplace violence statistic” I decided enough was enough. I went to a rental range and got my first lesson on a Glock 17. The gun did not go off by itself. It did not fly out of my hand. The bullet hit the center of the target and the trainer kept moving the target out until I started to wander at 10 to 15 yards. He suggested I take the CCW class. I did, got the permit, and took more lessons. Like others of you, I was hooked. I did not buy the Glock but did buy others. Now some years later as we approach retirement, my wife has suggested that she should learn. This is great news and I think she will like the Sig 238.

    For people like me, it was/is difficult to even figure out how to get started. I am sure I could have asked the hunting people I knew, but honestly it seemed weird. Like a 40 year old virgin asking what to do. And I was not interested in hunting. Gun stores with ranges and trainers are few and far between even in gun-friendly states and the anti-gun propaganda grows every day. Anything the NRA, GOA, ranges, etc. can do to make introductory lessons available and publicize their availability, is critically important to introduce newbies to gun ownership and safe gun use.

  19. I didnt grow up in a gun house and never did any kind of hunting until i was a grown man. My first exposure to guns and hunting was thru friends at work. Occasional recreational shooting led to joining a gun club and then on to 15yrs of USPSA matches. Now that i am retired, recreational shooting of pistol, LR rifle and shotgun sports is my golf. I tried that to but it always gave me a hangover.


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