Sunday, June 7, 2009

Having Fun with New Shooters - Part 1: Safety Class

Back in February, the Bishop at our church and I were talking. Both of our families were out of town and we were baching it for the weekend. The topic eventually turned to guns since he liked guns and I liked guns. During the conversation about caliber, stopping power, and general coolness of firearms, he made a suggestion that there might be some in the women's organization who would like to learn how to shoot. I was all for it.

He talked to the women's organization president and she having grown up with guns herself was very excited. When I talked with her about it later she said, "So we'll get to fire rifles like a 30-06?"

"Even better!" was my reply. "We'll shoot a whole slew of firearms: handguns, rifles, and shotguns."

I was put in charge of writing up a training class that we would do on a Thursday, and then we would go shooting on a Saturday. I was pumped. I envisioned that I would have a general safety class for the first half hour, then break out into smaller groups for some in depth instruction on rifles, shotguns, or handguns, and finally end with a open Q&A forum with all the guns that everyone could touch and practice holding before the shooting outing (can that just be shortened to shootout?). I asked two others to help me teach the breakout classes. My wife named it "High Caliber Women".

Developing a plan was fun. I looked at several resources and finally settled on the following outline. The safety class covered four areas: safety, famous gunners, ammunition, and recoil. The class was held at our church, and we had about 11 women attend. The first thing that suprised me was the average age of those in attendance was somewhere between 50 and 60. I was honestly expecting a much younger crowd. Seven of the 11 had never shot any firearm before and one admitted to being scared of guns her whole life (she was more than 70 years old but still came and as you will see completely conquered her fear). Most importantly, myself and the two instructors brought about thirteen firearms which were displayed on tables for all to see. Any class about firearms that does not actually have firearms as a part of the class is not a class about firearms.

The safety section started with a discussion about firearms and how many accidents (deaths and injuries) occur each year. This was then compared with other common accidents (falls, automobile, poisoning, drowning, fire, bicycles, etc) that occur in the home. The major point to get across is that we are surrounded by things that are involved in accidents, firearms are no different (although they were in most cases orders of magnitude lower than most of the other accidents). My favorite quote was when our Sunday School teacher said, "Looking at those numbers [from the CDC], guns really aren't that dangerous." Compared to your average bathtub, cleaning chemicals, and matches, she was dead on.

We then talked about how we learn and teach children to cope with these "accident" items (helmets, don't play with matches, defensive driving, etc.). We then discussed that we don't try to hide all of these "dangerous" things from our children, but we do teach them and observe them using them properly so that accidents are minimized.

This led us into the four rules of gun safety. These were discussed and demonstrated by one of the other instructors. We didn't go into too much detail since they would be covered again later (and they were posted in at least 6 places for everyone to read). We talked about how each of these rules is used to prevent accidents. (I did have the video of the DEA agent shooting himself in the foot to show a quick violation of all those rules but the computer wasn't agreeing with me.)

For the second part, we talked about some famous gun people including John Moses Browning. The list of people I had were all members of our church and included both good guys (JMB, Samuel Cowley) and bad guys (Butch Cassidy). If anyone else wants to use my outline, this section could include people like Samuel Colt, Mikhail Kalashikov, Ronnie Barrett, etc.

The ammunition section was the only time I pulled out live ammunition. We talked about the different components and I passed around several samples for people to see. I included multiple calibers and various bullet types. In order to keep track of all of the ammunition, I bagged each set of ammuntion and knew how much I brought. After it had all been passed around I counted each bag to make sure all of the ammunition came back to me and then put it in my pocket. We talked briefly about the chemical reaction that occurs to make the bullet go.

Finally, recoil. This was a fun section where we went over each of Newton's laws of motion and how they applied to firing a gun. At the end we reviewed the four safety rules again and then took a break for some snacks.

It is important to note that up to this point that no one besides myself or the other instructor's had handled any of the firearms and then only briefly. They had been able to handle the ammunition. I wanted to get anyone that was apprehensive about guns to be comfortable being surrounded by guns before everyone started handling them. This first portion took about 40 minutes.


  1. Andy, I am sad that I was not able to come to your class. I was really looking forward to it and hope that it the future you will have another one. I think it's awesome that you and the other 2 men were so willing to teach and share. Thank you!

  2. I meant in the future and not it the future.