Well, everyone, I know much of the country is experiencing spring already, but up here in the Northeast, the temps are finally rising above 50 degrees semi-regularly. The plowed-up snowbanks in my front yard have gone from 6 feet high to knee-high, and we finally have bare patches in the yard. Spring is here! That means ho-hum things like raking and cleaning, but it also means that (for us common rank-and-file who don’t go to a rod and gun club or indoor range) that there’s no wading through thigh-deep snow for 100 yards to set up a target at a sandpit. No digging through snow to try to collect all your empty brass. No worries about ricochets off crusty, granular snow or ice. No trudging back out to collect your targets. In short, it’s the best time of the year if you’re a shooter!
You do go out and practice with your SHTF guns, right? Right? For guns that you’re going to NEED to work in an emergency situation, it’s imperative that you are confident the gun will go “BANG” and cycle every time you pull the trigger. It’s imperative that you know you can hit with it…and not just during calm, windless days shooting at targets over a known distance from a bench. Get out there and shoot from improvised rests. From offhand. Prone. Sitting. Be sure to get wingshooting down with your shotguns – being able to hit birds in the air is a great skill for someone looking to forage for food. Learn to shoot your handguns well – they are much harder to master than a long gun. In short, the time spent dusting off the SHTF guns and running a few rounds through them will pay off. Get some professional training, too. It will be worth every penny, I can promise you that!
Take your kids with you. Be sure to impress upon them the utmost importance of being safe and respectful with firearms – but let them know they are not the evil machines the media insists they are. Remind your children that they are tools to keep yourself fed and safe, and only as evil as the person holding them. They are nothing to be afraid of; they are everything to be respected. Drill the 10 commandments of gun safety into them (and yourself!), and be sure to tell them WHY each of the gun rules ARE rules, so they understand why they must know these “commandments” and how it could effect them or others, and not just memorizing meaningless lines. In case you need a refresher, here are the gun safety rules everyone should know by heart:
#1: Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction AT ALL TIMES. Or, as Jeff Cooper once wrote, “Do not point the gun at anything you do not wish to destroy.”
#2: Keep the firearm unloaded when not actually in use. Children, curious visitors (welcome or not) and others are naturally drawn to firearms. Give the gun a visual and physical check (then do it again!) to ensure it is empty before you pass it to another person. Check it again upon return. Keep the gun’s action open when not in use.
#3: Don’t rely on your gun’s safety. These are simply mechanical devices, and can fail. Usually when you least expect them to.
#4: Be sure of your target and what is beyond it. Bullets, regardless of caliber, carry tremendous power and momentum. A mere .22 Long Rifle bullet can travel a mile and a half. A .30-06 is still LETHAL at that range, and will travel much further. Bullets can still scoot a long ways after penetrating through a target, as well.
#5: Always use the proper ammunition for your gun. Know the caliber of your firearm, and only use ammunition that is in good shape (no corrosion or case splits) specifically marked THAT caliber for your gun.
#6: Keep the barrel and muzzle free and clear of any obstructions. Mud, insect nests, too much oil, dust, a stuck bullet: All of these things can and WILL blow your gun up if not cleared from the barrel. Firearms can run tens of thousands of pounds of pressure behind a bullet. If something obstructs that bullet, that force needs to go somewhere, and it’s not pretty.
#7: Store guns and ammunition seperately, out of the reach of children and careless adults. Use gun locks if possible, or even better, a safe.
#8: ALWAYS treat EVERY gun as if it were loaded. ALWAYS. Accidents happen. If the gun is treated as if it was loaded, it will be pointed in a safe direction, and nobody will be injured.
#9: Never shoot at a hard, flat surface or water. Be sure your backstop is adequate to stop bullets when target practicing. Bullets ricochet beautifully off water and hard surfaces. Once that happens, you no longer have control over where that bullet goes.
#10: Shoot sober! No alcohol or drugs in your system. At all.
My boy Andy and I, seven years ago with the first .22 round he fired, out of the “Chipmunk” rifle my dad bought for me when I was 5. Here is Andy now, at 14 years old, (he’s as tall as I am now, for perspective) shooting little tiny groups a long ways away with my brother’s HS Precision-stocked Remington 700 SPS:
Yes, he has a .22 revolver in a holster on his hip. He’s been trained to be safe (gun never gets loaded until he’s on the firing line, and we both check it to be sure it’s empty when he steps off the firing line) and I trust him. Plus he loves it. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.
If you bring your kids with you shooting and teach them safety at a young age, it will stick with them, and you will have a wonderful shooting partner to go with you eagerly to the sandpit to target practice. It’s always one of my favorite things to do with my 14-year-old son, and that’s because I know he’s safe and I don’t have to stress about him picking up guns and misbehaving while I’m stapling new targets up downrange, for instance. It’s a good thing….if you don’t have kids, bring a neighbor or spouse or co-worker you trust to not be an idiot with a firearm. Shooting is always better with a friend!
Be sure to also show your shooting compatriots to respect the land they are shooting on. Pick up your brass and shotgun shell hulls. Don’t leave targets scattered about, riddled. Bring a trash bag along and clean up the debris the other jerks before you left behind. If we can show more people how to be respectful and safe (and not just with firearms), there is hope for our future yet.
So get out there! Ammo is getting easier to find (to an extent), so let the moths out of your wallet and buy or load a few rounds, and get to the range on a nice day for some quality time with yourself and people you care about. It’s good for your soul, and it makes you more confident with your SHTF gear. How can you go wrong?
When was the last time you got to the range? Did you bring the kiddos or family? What did you shoot?
Stay safe out there!