Three Letters Re: Firearms Questions from a Distaff Newbie

I wholeheartedly agree with your response. For quite some time now, I have been trying to get family members to visit your web site and make the appropriate investment into their own security in a very similar fashion as you did. I always advise those who inquire about personal/home security that appear to be starting from ground zero, like the ‘Distaff’ writer, to add layers to your security. The easiest quick fix is a big canine. I have five (all adopted from shelters and subsequently trained to get along with each other.) Yes, a canine can be defeated. However, a canine will hear out-of-place noises and will sniff out an intruder long before a human will, especially while you sleep or are distracted (watching television, on the telephone,…). Knowing that you have a threat in your presence is the key to surviving a situation. The first few seconds/minute is the critical window of opportunity for someone to get the upper hand. My advice, go get a nice big dog from a shelter who will protect you with his/her life and will be a constant companion. Better yet, get a few. – flhspete

I agree with continual training, especially for adults. No matter how good you think you are, you can be better. The Appleseed Program is great ([sponsored by] Fred’s M14 Stocks out of Shotgun News), as are the more professional programs like Front Sight, et cetera.
But for the children, look at the local 4H clubs, they usually have a shooting class and team for youngsters. (starts at age 6 here locally). Also look at the CMP program, they have youth clubs (and you can get a surplus M1 Garand and a M1 Carbine while supplies last!). And I’m sure there are others like Jr. ROTC, and the Young Marines programs. Train a child up right, and he can hold his own with many adults on the range or in the field.

Not to disagree with you on toy guns, but I was brought up with toy guns as well as my first .22 when I was 8. and my kids have them as well. I don’t think they have any harmful effects, but my kids are taught/trained on the difference between real guns (including BB guns) and toys and obviously on the danger. Airsoft has been a great training aid during the cold and wet season. Amazing how realistic (and expensive) they have become. Toy guns get a bad rap, and its fairly hard to get anything at the local Wallyworld [Wal-Mart], I suppose due to the liberal agenda. Walmart has just phased out real guns here too.
Lastly, one approach that has worked for me with our kids is to control their curiosity regarding guns. Any time my kids want to go shoot, or look at any of the firearms, I stop what I’m doing and go with them. This way they never need to sneak to find one! – Mike the MD in Missouri

JWR Replies: That is an important point about kids being curious about guns. Our approach here at the Rawles Ranch is two-fold: First, we keep all of our guns loaded, and everyone here assumes that they are continually loaded and treats them as such, even on the rare occasions that they aren’t. Second, we don’t try to control our kids’ curiosity regarding gun, we indulge it. Since an early age we have have made it clear to our children that we are always willing to show them how to safely handle, load/unload, and even field strip any of our guns whenever they show an interest. Hiding guns or otherwise treating them as “forbidden fruit” just makes kids curious (and as you say “sneaky”). This has been the root of of many of the rare (but massively publicized) household accidental shootings in modern times.

In response to KB from Mississippi, as an NRA instructor I have to concur with your suggestion about taking an NRA-approved course. I would also offer these suggestions to KB:
-Start with the Basic courses (Basic Pistol, Basic Rifle, Basic Shotgun.) These are the foundation for everything else you’ll do, and cover safety, firearms types and functioning, ammunition types, shooting positions, a basic familiarization course of fire, and different shooting activities to help you maintain and improve your shooting ability. Be sure to take your rifle, and if you don’t have a pistol or shotgun, be sure to let the instructor know. I always bring extras to my classes for those who don’t have their own, or want to try something
different. This also allows a student to make a better informed decision about what gun may or may not be right for them.
-Be sure to take the course with your son, if possible. Many years ago, my Mom took me to the NRA Basic Pistol course to learn more about my Dad’s guns after he passed away. It was the best thing she ever did, for both of us. It is much easier to have a third party teach firearms handling, than someone who has an emotional connection. Trust me on this! (Or better yet, ask my wife!) BTW, my Mom is almost 73 years old and has had her concealed carry permit for almost 20 years!
-Once you have taken the Basic course, I strongly recommend you attend a Personal Protection in the Home course. This goes into more detail about using the gun for personal defense, safety, tactics and strategies for home defense, ammunition types for personal defense, and the laws regarding firearms in your state (this part of the course is taught by a local attorney or police officer.) The course of fire also goes into reloading, shooting multiple targets, and movement. Don’t worry, the instructor will cover everything with you, and won’t make you do anything you don’t feel comfortable doing.
-At this point, you should start looking at more advanced training, such as Front Sight, Gunsite, or Thunder Ranch. I’ve attended Gunsite, and can attest to the quality of instruction one will receive there. As always, there is a cost factor involved with traveling to the big name schools, but there are also some outstanding instructors who travel the country teaching the latest in firearms training. Ones that I have experience with and can vouch for are Lethal Force Institute (Massad Ayoob), Suarez International (Gabe Suarez), Yavapai Firearms Academy (Louis Awerbuck), and Defense Training, International (John Farnam). Often, they will be somewhere close by at some point during the year, which will require much less in terms of traveling and money outlay, without sacrificing the quality of training you will receive.
I wish you luck with your journey, truly. I tend to be pretty passionate about this subject, and I apologize for the long winded letter. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, that’s what we’re here for. Regards, – Steve in Iraq