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We are in the midst of a gun boom.
In the time it takes you to read this sentence, another two new firearms will be purchased somewhere in America by an owner who has never before purchased a gun. Very few of these new gun owners have adequate training.
How big is the information gap? Statistics compiled by the FBI’s National Instant Background Check system show that over 5 million first-time gun owners bought a firearm so far in 2020. These new shooters join the 100 million Americans who own guns. The pace of firearm sales this year is expected to shatter previous records, with some 35 million guns adding to the approximately 400 million firearms already being used for hunting, personal defense, collection, and recreational shooting.
Guns are tools, as those of us veteran firearms owners have heard since we joined the community of shooters. We probably heard this truism first from a certified firearms instructor, or maybe a parent or trusted family friend. Some of you heard it in a hunter education course. For almost all of us, that “guns-as-tools” phrase was reinforced by time at the range or in the field, actively handling guns, learning how they work and their safe operation.
That hands-on instruction made us safer, smarter, and more effective shooters. But, like any tool, misuse or operator confusion can be dangerous. So how can a beginning gun owner learn all these things, especially while restrictions designed to minimize COVID-19 transmission prohibit in-person gatherings and hands-on learning?
Thankfully, there are some wonderful resources for new shooters. The National Shooting Sports Foundation hosts excellent web-based tutorials, and many state Hunter Education departments are rushing to convert their in-person courses to virtual classes.
I’ve been a Hunter Education instructor in my home state of Montana for more than 20 years, and I’ve seen—and helped facilitate—the connection between firearms and new shooters during hundreds of in-person courses. My background and conviction that with education comes confidence and then competence is the fuel for this video series.
I filmed more than a dozen segments that, taken together, try to bring a sense of context, accessibility, and instruction to anyone who views them. Is it the same as attending a hands-on field day at a local gun range? No. But these videos should help you become knowledgeable and confident, prerequisites for a safe and effective shooter.
So click here to watch an overview of the series, then peruse the titles of the remaining videos. Watch, learn, absorb, and then demonstrate your knowledge at the range or in the field. Because there is no substitute for putting your hands around a gun, physically practicing its operation, and learning how to be safe, not only when you are alone, but even more importantly, when we finally are able to gather and shoot together once again.
Guns can be intimidating. They have awesome power that can be used for positive or negative results, but they can also be cryptic. What’s a fore-end and how does a firing pin detonate a cartridge? This piece breaks down the basic parts and functions into simple, easily understood terms and concepts. Know how to describe your gun, and you’re on the way to being a confident shooter.
Rules of Gun Safety
Our Montana Hunter Education course hammers these four simple rules into students. By the second course, students are reciting them with confidence, and by the time our week-long course is over, they’re repeating them in their sleep. This video talks about the whys of these rules, but once you understand and obey them, there will never be another firearms accident.
Shooting ranges can intimidate new shooters. They’re loud, there are ironclad rules that everyone must obey. And they are populated by experienced, sometimes grizzled, shooters. This piece helps you understand what’s going on, what some of the rules mean and how to follow them, and how to relax so that you are a more effective and safe shooter, especially around other shooters.
Solid Rifle Rest
One of the most common causes of inaccurate shooting with a rifle is an inadequate rest. Guns can wobble and shake. Our job as shooters is to minimize all the variables that cause inaccuracy, and finding and using a solid rest is the start of the journey.