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Practically Shooting

Things Kids Have Taught Me on the Range


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I've been scarce recently because we started a Youth Program at my conservation club/range, and that took some time.   Now it's 4-H Shooting Sports time.  

Both have shown me things that make me question how we are teaching kids.   We are teaching kids based on what we expect them to know and not know.  Our basis is our own childhood careers.   


I'm now seeing that is not entirely correct.   What we did/saw/learned is different from what kids now do/see/learn.  And so it will be with them and their kids.  

I had a real epiphany yesterday.   Please, let me share.  I'll start at the beginning.

I've noticed I come away surprised at something from every range activity involving kids.   Something I have taken for granted is completely new to them.   I'm willing to bet many of these things would come as a surprise to most of my generation also.   

It's not because the kids aren't smart; absolutely not.  I have in fact been pleasantly surprised by their general knowledge and ability to learn.  
This is more a statement about the world we now live in.   They can't be expected to know about things that are hidden from them, like guns. 

I'm sharing this to help the rest of you help others. It shows we can't take anything for granted.   And I suppose although kids are the source of this, it may not be confined to them. 

Yesterday gave me two prime examples.  It was a 4-H shoot.  In the morning, we have the kids in Basic, and the Advanced kids in the afternoon.   For some background, the Advanced kids have three years in the Basic program, then have to pass both written and practical exams.  
The Basic group is the source of yesterday's learning experience for me.  

Example One. 
I have stayed on the rifle side of the range this year so far.   For our first two shoots, we used single shot bolt actions.  Yesterday, we broke out two .22 repeaters; a Henry lever action, and a Ruger American Rimfire bolt action.  

With the Ruger, most of their knowledge of the other rifles transferred over.  The big difference was it isn't a single shot and therefore has a magazine.  It happens to be the same magazine used in 10-22s.   I'd start each kid by showing them how to load the magazine, how to get it in the rifle, then where the safety was located and how it operated.  I'd end by reviewing bolt action operation.   

The vast majority of them did not know they had to operate the bolt after each shot. 
There you go.  That was my big learning experience.  I thought it was a given.  It is not.   They would fire their first shot, then I'd see them wait.  And wait.  I'd look, and they'd try the trigger, only to be disappointed.  

With things like this, I won't stop the activity and hold a quick lesson.  I feel it's more of a hands-on thing.  Learn by doing.   Besides, I just have to see how many will do the same thing.   I'm glad I did, because I thought it was an isolated thing.   To my surprise, I'd guess 70% did this. 

After the first couple, I'd make sure to tell them to run he bolt, but it didn't matter. Even though I told them, they would still do this.  I guess they just couldn't believe it.  

I can only assume they've been conditioned to think that if a gun takes a detachable magazine, it is a self loader.    

Example Two. 
The Henry lever action.  I am already uncomfortable using this rifle with the newer kids.   For one thing, it sets a bad example by breaking some of the very rules we've tried to teach.  To load, they have to take a rifle that is pointing downrange, raise it straight up- a direction we don't want them to use at this range, then start fiddling around with fingers near the muzzle to unlatch the magazine tube.  Not to mention that many try to do this by resting the butt on the ground rather than the table, so their head would be higher than the muzzle. 

After I'd sweat through each loading process, the shooting would begin.  The majority of them would not only take the rifle off the shoulder to run the lever (not uncommon with adult "experts" either) they would lay it in on the table to do it.   

Their plan, until I'd change it, was this:  With the rifle flat on its left side, swing the lever open then closed.  Let go, reposition hands.  Pick it up and shoot. 

See the problem?   In practical terms, they are reaching for, and picking up, a rifle that has a round chambered and the hammer cocked.   On every shot.

Would anyone think that was OK with say, a revolver?   Cock it, lay it on the table, then pick it up?  Or an auto pistol?  I didn't think so.   And I don't see what difference the type of gun makes. All they have to do is get a finger in the trigger guard when they grasp it, and we all get a surprise. 

They are basically putting a gun down and giving up control of it, to make it hot.  
Why?  I think it's partially because the lever action is strange to them.   We knew how to operate one when we were 10 years old from watching TV, but these kids may have never seen a western. 

I took it for granted. 

There you go, two seemingly small observations, but they told me a lot about "things". 
Remember, I'm not saying these kids are stupid in any way, so I don't think the answer is to dumb things down.  I think it's a matter of realizing how much the world has changed since we were kids and us needing to work accordingly.  Simply, they don't know because they've never had a chance or reason to know. 

Those were just from yesterday.  I expect to add to this thread every other week after a shoot.



Now, a positive thing:

In the gun club's Youth Program, we held what was basically an indoor air rifle league.   Somehow, we had an inordinate amount of left handed kids.   Thankfully my partner in this program is left handed and knows all the tricks to adapt to a right handed world.  

But even he got schooled once.  

We are using air rifles that are "pre charged pneumatic".  An air cylinder under gen barrel gets filled with high pressure air, then it can be shot throughout the night.  All the shooter has to do is work the small bolt.  The right side bolt  

My buddy John has tried all the left hand/right bolt tricks.  He shared them of course.  But one night he calls over to me "Come look at this".  

A LH boy was shooting, but he operated the bolt differently than we'd seen before. He was able to hook his left thumb under the bolt handle, then lift and move it that way.  

Very slick. 

The kid had never shot before this year, and showed us something new.   You never know. 

Edited by BarryinIN
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  • 1 month later...

Lesson Number 6,528:

Don't plan a day of slow fire prone shooting because you are low on ammo, then give a bunch of 15-16 year old boys AR-15s.  


OK, I should have seen that one coming.  


My excuse as to why this plan made sense to me is the other topic of the day.

I was trying to demonstrate different sights and optics.   Since the club has an AR with Irons, plus another with a red dot, and I brought one with an illuminated reticle scope, it seemed like a good idea.  Virtually identical rifles, differing only in sighting systems.   


Besides, I knew they would be more disciplined than to burn through the ammo in ten minutes.  

Uh, no.


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  • 5 years later...

We had our yearly 4-H Shooting Sports tournament for Rifle and Pistol this weekend.  All airguns, held on our airgun  range inside our “barn” on the fairgrounds.  We have done this for several years now, and it was a week-long marathon affair for most of that time.   A shortage of instructors has caused us to make it a two-day event held the opening weekend of the county fair.  

Since we try to do a variety of things during our shooting season, we don’t spend all of our time doing competition-based practice.  With that in mind, I’m always impressed how well they do when made to shoot that way in the Tournament, especially prone position rifle.  Some of them only got to practice that one time this year.  

They make me proud every year. 

On the downside, we had to disqualify a few for safety violations.  Specifically, for not keeping their finger out of the trigger guard when not shooting.  There is nothing they are told more, or more strongly, yet we have a few each year who fail me.  I’ll never understand it. 

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