Why Everyone Should Have a Firearms Safety Hunter Education Certificate
Hello everyone. I’m 13 years old and I live in Minnesota (I know it’s not the best state, but I’m 13 so I don’t have a lot of options). I know other minors read Survival Blog too and this is mostly written to you but hopefully adults will like it too.
I would first like to say that I am not a lawyer so double check all laws mentioned and cited here. I only have experience with the Minnesota program I attended, and any quotations by instructors contained in this article are only paraphrased by memory and should not be considered exact.
I attended a Firearms Safety Hunter Education course about a yearago. Before that I had only gone shooting once before. (We don’t have land yet and range fees are expensive). It had seven periods of classwork and a range day. They teach you a lot of firearms and hunter safety plus a decent bit of firearms operation and terminology.
What is In the Course
First off, the class took place in a National Guard armory which quite interesting. In fact some of the instructors were military veterans.
Generally before the class started there would be guns on the tables in the front with orange plastic strings in them that, with an instructor present, we could handle and work the actions if we observed the rules of firearm safety.
After class began there would usually be “small group” time where we would review our homework assignments.
After that we would normally hear more about some information that we learned in our homework.
And then most of the time we watched the instructors and a couple volunteers demonstrate a concept after which we would go to a gym-like area and practice what they had demonstrated. We always went in a rotation so that each “small group” had a turn at everything. Some of the things we did were, among other things: practiced proper sight picture, practiced shooting stances, crossed a fence, cycled a shotgun, and properly used a tree stand.
Sometimes we would have a speaker come in like one guy who taught us the history of muzzle loaders and how to operate them.
Later on, after doing the hands on stuff, we would do a recap and once we even watched a real life story about some people forgetting to practice proper firearms safety.
We had six such classes that took place on Tuesday and Thursday nights along with a range day (on a Saturday) and a test day. That was held the Tuesday after range day.
The range day took place on a shooting range that the local American Legion chapter owned. They were the ones who taught the class. It started when they gave all of us earplugs at the beginning and showed us the correct way to put them in so we wouldn’t “be like us old guys who can’t hear anymore because we never wore hearing protection.”
The setup was as follows: there were six different stations one for each “small group”. We rotated and mine started at the tree stand station where we got to demonstrate how to use harnesses and operate in the tree stand safely.
The second station was the field walk where we got to do a mock field walk. We started with with taking cased guns out of the back of a car and taking them out of their cases, and then proceeded to carry them around and do things such as: walk across a bridge, go over fences, and demonstrate when to shoot and when not to (like when there was a hunter wearing camouflage instead of blaze orange near a deer).
The next station was using a ground blind for shooting turkeys/tracking a blood trail, where we got to use turkey calls and track a deer’s mock blood trail.
The fourth location was a shotgun area where we got to see a shotgun pattern board in use and got to try some skeet shooting.
The fifth station was the .22 calilber area where we were given bolt action rimfire .22s and 20 rounds of ammunition that we were supposed to shoot at fifty yards. There were five rounds for each of the four shooting positions: prone, sitting, kneeling, and standing.
The last station was the high power/black powder station that was divided into two sections: the black powder area and the high power rifle area. In the former there were two muzzle loaders that we each get to shoot once or twice and in the latter there were a lot of different rifles (e.g. M1A, AR-15, FAL, M1 Garand etc.) and we got to shoot some that we wanted to try a few times (we requested specific rifles in advance) and this allowed us to shoot guns we might not get to otherwise at least for a long time. This was also the only station that was not mandatory.
And that brings us to the test, which we all took on the Tuesday after range day. There were 50 questions and every question you got right earned you two percent in the scoring, so, for example, if you answered 35 questions right you would score 70% on the test. I forget what the threshold was for passing the test but I do know that if you messed up on range day (e.g. lost muzzle control enough to be considered purposely negligent) you would be automatically disqualified no matter how well you did on the test.
Pros/Cons of the Course
This is a list of what was really good and what wasn’t great (there wasn’t anything really horrible about the class). Please note this is not an exhaustive list only the stuff I didn’t mention above.
- It is very inexpensive (only $7.50 for the course and another $7.50 for the license for a total of 15 dollars)
- It is a good quality class (especially considering how much it costs).
- Its instructors were very nice and engaging and they were not politically correct. My dad and I both thought that they wouldn’t bring AR-15s because it would be to politically incorrect. I said as much to the instructor who brought a couple and he said–to the whole class–that we could be carrying anything on the field walk and he wanted everyone to be safe no matter what we carried! Though, admittedly they’re more “NRA politically incorrect” than “Boston T. Party  politically incorrect.”
- They somewhat distorted Jeff Cooper’s Four Rules of Firearm Safety  by changing them to three and having the keep your finger off the trigger be a secondary rule as well as changing some words like “destroy” to different terms.
- They had a rule (I don’t know who made it up) that anyone under the age of 18 wasn’t allowed to handle any of the pistols that they brought and they had to follow it. Of course this won’t be an issue for any of you over 18 but it’s kind of annoying if your a minor. This wasn’t really their fault, but I still didn’t like it.
Advantages to Having the Certificate
Well, first off according to §97B.020 of the Minnesota state statutes you can’t obtain a hunting license if you were born after December 31, 1979 unless you follow the guidelines listed therein:
FIREARMS SAFETY CERTIFICATE REQUIRED.
(a) Except as provided in this section and section 97A.451, subdivisions 3  and 3b, a person born after December 31, 1979, may not obtain an annual license to take wild animals by firearms unless the person has:
(1) a firearms safety certificate or equivalent certificate;
(2) a driver’s license or identification card with a valid firearms safety qualification indicator issued under section 171.07, subdivision 13 ;
(3) a previous hunting license with a valid firearms safety qualification indicator;
(4) an apprentice-hunter validation issued under section 97B.022 ; or
(5) other evidence indicating that the person has completed in this state or in another state a hunter safety course recognized by the department under a reciprocity agreement or certified by the department as substantially similar.
(b) A person who is on active duty and has successfully completed basic training in the United States armed forces, reserve component, or National Guard may obtain a hunting license or approval authorizing hunting regardless of whether the person is issued a firearms safety certificate.
(c) A person born after December 31, 1979, may not use a lifetime license to take wild animals by firearms, unless the person meets the requirements for obtaining an annual license under paragraph (a) or (b).”
So, as you can see this could be one of the easiest ways listed to obtain a hunting license in Minnesota and it also offers the ability to be able to possess a firearm at the age of fourteen as per §97B.021 of the Minnesota state statutes.
“97B.021 POSSESSION OF FIREARMS BY PERSONS UNDER AGE 16.Subdivision 1.Restrictions.
(a) Except as provided in this subdivision, a person under the age of 16 may not possess a firearm, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.
(b) A person under age 16 may possess a firearm without being accompanied by a parent or guardian:
(1) on land owned by, or occupied as the principal residence of, the person or the person’s parent or guardian;
(2) while participating in an organized target shooting program with adult supervision;
(3) while the person is participating in a firearms safety program or traveling to and from class; or
(4) if the person is age 14 or 15 and has a firearms safety certificate.”
Please note that, again, I am not a lawyer so double check all laws for your own state and also note that this only applies to some firearms and not pistols or evil “assault weapons”. (Did I mention how much I love this state?).
The other benefit is that other people are somewhat more apt to trust you with firearms if you can show them your Firearms Safety Hunter Education Certificate.
One Possible Disadvantage to the Certificate
The only possible disadvantage to having one of the certificates that I could think of (albeit after I had already got the certificate) was the fact that you might be one of the first people the government might “call on” if they were to ban guns. I have to address that issue here, otherwise someone is going to bring it up in the Comments.
My theory is that although you might be on the government’s radar for possessing a certificate you may not actually be raided for two reasons.
Number one: You don’t actually have to do any hunting or buy a gun or even touch a gun for the rest of your life (in fact I have a friend who would like guns to be banned but he has a certificate).
And number two: Even if you do go hunting you might just be borrowing your dad’s gun, and if you were to buy a gun then the only way they’re going to know about it is if you bought it through an FFL and if you buy it privately then they shouldn’t even know you have it. (State laws differ considerably on private sales. Check your own state’s laws.)
As you can see there are advantages and a possible disadvantage to getting a Firearms Safety Hunter Education Certificate and you’ll have to decide for yourself whether or not you want to get one. However, I would highly recommend it and I think that everyone should get one or, at the very least, learn the skills that they teach in the class.
You can get the skills you learn from one of these classes from other places to but this is an inexpensive, high quality class that’s a good introduction to firearms.
Please share your experiences with classes like this in your state, in the Comments section.
Editor’s Comment: The foregoing shows just how articulate a 13-year-old can be. I suspect home-schooling…