The latest statistics from the BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) echo the NSSF (National Shooting Sports Foundation) numbers confirming the fact that the sale of firearms to American citizens continues at record levels. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, women represent the largest segment of the buying public, particularly in the concealed carry handgun market.
But today, rather than echoing the oft-repeated chants about the necessity of preserving our 2nd Amendment protections in these perilous times or disparaging the anti-gun rhetoric of the Ministries of Misinformation, I wanted to take a moment to remind each of us why we began using guns in the first place. The primary reason: shooting guns is not only great sport; it’s a whole lot of fun!
Here’s what notable founding father Thomas Jefferson had to say about the invigorating nature of the shooting sports: “A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball and others of that nature are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks.”
The reason that I became a life-long shooter and hunter stems from my early exposure to guns by my parents. It was a common practice for my folks to load us kids into the station wagon on weekends and head into the heavily wooded country surrounding our Maine home. Out there, we shredded hand tossed clay pigeons with an Ithaca 37 16 gauge pump gun, hosed down paper targets, bounced tin cans with a .22 LR Remington Nylon 66, and plinked empty cans hanging in the trees with a H&R 9 shot .22 revolver. Even though we three brothers competed fiercely, we always had a great time. Thanks to this early positive exposure, we’ve all remained ardent gunners and sportsmen to this day.
Operating on the premise that many folks are “anti-gun” primarily because they have never had any favorable personal experiences with firearms and much of their negativity has been forged by the blitzkrieg of anti-gun rhetoric that we are all exposed to almost daily, several years ago I wondered, “How might these persons’ opinions change if they were given the opportunity to fire several ‘user-friendly’ firearms under properly supervised conditions?”
To find out, I invited my youngest daughter, Samantha, and two of her college friends to our local range for a leisurely afternoon of plinking fun. To up the fun factor, I dumped my conventional paper targets out of the range bag, dropped in a 555 round bulk pack of .22 LRs, and then crammed in a bunch of “reactive” targets. For pure unadulterated fun, few shooting activities provide more instant gratification than blasting a bunch of reactive targets with mild-mannered .22 LR firearms.
A little background: Even though my daughter Samantha had grown up around guns, she had shown little interest in them, and therefore had little personal experience with firearms. Her two friends had both grown up in homes where guns were “verboten” and additionally, as mainstream-media millennials, the young ladies were understandably apprehensive about not only being around those “evil” guns, but were a bit nervous about the prospect of actually handling and firing them for the first time. Here’s how the day turned out.
After carefully going over the basics of safe gun handling and instructing the ladies how to aim and operate the single-shot Marlin and semi-automatic Ruger 10/22 rifles, we first secured the unloaded guns in the range racks and then headed downrange to set out the targets. Once the girls saw the targets that they’d be shooting, they gave a collective sigh of relief and surprise, and then literally ran back to the shooting benches to load up and begin the controlled barrage.
At the 25-yard line, we placed large pieces of colorful sidewalk chalk, multi-colored Necco candy wafers, and several steel animal silhouette spinners. You should have heard the squeals of excitement as the wafers shattered, the chalk exploded into colored puffs of dust, and the little steel animals spun around on their metal frame. These kids were having fun!
Next the sights were trained on the 50 yard line. Here, the Birchwood Casey Zombie Splattering paper targets nervously awaited their fate. In no time, a hail of accurate withering gunfire reduced the ranks of the undead to pulp. The neat thing about these “splatter” targets is that white or multi-colored halos visibly record the impact of each shot, providing instant feedback on where the hot lead is smacking Zombie flesh … gruesome!
For the day’s finale, we had set a Champion Duraseal spinner target on the 100-yard embankment. These highly reactive spinners feature a rubber molded animal or a conventional target triangle or circle. The gals didn’t care that the little green fluorescent gopher was designed to absorb thousands of large and small caliber hits before giving up the ghost; they just wanted to see who could keep the little rubber rodent spinning the longest.
When the smoke finally cleared, the three young ladies, who collectively had fired all 555 rounds of ammo, unanimously declared the day to be “a grand success.” Heading home, the lovely ladies thanked my daughter and me for introducing them to firearms using such a fun and non-intimidating format.
Thanks to the pure joy of shooting reactive targets with user-friendly .22 LRs, I believe that the three young ladies may have a very different, and enlightened, opinion on the fun that can be realized from the proper use of firearms. Who knows, we may even have converted some new enthusiasts to the sport.
For pure unadulterated fun, few shooting activities provide more instant gratification than blasting a bunch of reactive targets with mild-mannered .22 LR firearms.