My Trip to the Range with a Cultural Exchange Student from Argentina

I was excited recently when my youngest son unexpectedly asked me if we could take his Argentinian exchange student to the range. My son doesn’t particularly like shooting, or guns in general for that matter.

I said of course we could go, but we needed to make safety our number one priority as always. Hence, my earlier post about getting the four basic gun safety rules translated into Spanish (and later finding California’s version of these on line).

While waiting for the young men to get out of school, I packed hearing and eye protection x3, along with three guns and a thousand or so rounds of ammunition (you never know!). I chose two .22 caliber handguns – a Ruger Bearcat single-action revolver, the safest handgun I own, and a Ruger Mark III semi-auto, the easiest shooting handgun I own. And in case they wanted to shoot a larger caliber, I brought my 9mm Glock 17.

Day at Veterans Range. Trigger finger discipline a work in progress. Photo by David Yamane

Taking a new shooter to the range offers a great opportunity to introduce someone to firearms, and a great responsibility to do it well. By well I mean that the person will (first and always) be safe AND have fun.

I am very detail oriented by nature. I like to understand what I am doing intellectually. I think through things meticulously before acting. When I take a new shooter to the range, however, I actually try to suppress these dispositions so as not to bore the person to death. Instead, I try to get new shooters actually shooting reasonably well as quickly as possible.

So, after reviewing the four rules of gun safety (in English for my son and in Spanish for his exchange student), I took just a few minutes to explain the different actions, calibers, and functions of the three guns. I hung some steel plates and paper targets and we took our place on the 10 yard line. I explained how to grip the gun and align the sights then shot a few rounds to demonstrate. I didn’t discuss stance or trigger press or anything else really. I wanted to get the gun in their hands and for them to experience the sensation of firing a gun and the excitement of hitting a target as quickly possible.

Day at Veterans Range. Photo by David Yamane

They ended up shooting the Mark III quite a bit and ringing the steel enough to generate plenty of smiles. My son initially didn’t want to shoot the Glock 17 because he was concerned about the concussion and recoil, but after shooting the .22 quite a bit, he gave it a try. A little bit of work on his grip and he was able to manage the recoil fairly well, and he had a good idea of the effect of the recoil on getting his sights realigned for the next shot.

Day at Veterans Range. Photo by David Yamane

Private ownership of firearms is not unknown in Argentina. Based on data from the late 2000s, it ranked 62 out of 178 countries in the world in the rate of private gun ownership. The exchange student told me, however, that in his experience it was rare for individuals to legally own handguns. He thought that most who owned handguns did so for self-defense and did so without registering them with the state. I don’t know how true this is, but it was interesting to hear his understanding of the situation.

I do know with certainty that he really liked the Ruger Bearcat. I think this is probably because the single action revolver had some resonance with the mythical Old West that captivates the imaginations of people all over the world (as well as in the United States, of course).

When I asked the exchange student the following day how he liked the trip to the range he responded simply, “Perfect.”

Mission accomplished.



  1. Hi David. Its Friday (TGIF and all that) and I am in a bomb-throwing mood, so here is my question/comment.

    You said your son was not all that keen on guns and presumably, you didn’t know about his friend. I found the choice of targets (human silhouette) a bit interesting. I would have thought something a little more neutral to start out, such as a bullseye or sight-in target (with the one inch squares) as a way to break the ice without the obvious implication that handguns, after all, have one principle real world use.

    I missed my Mk I Target Pistol after reading this. One of these days I have to get up to the Adirondacks and try to fetch it before Andrew Cuomo melts it down.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t think this is throwing a bomb at all. In fact, it was something that I thought about ahead of time. At home I only had 3 targets: (1) squirrels, which I brought, (2) dartboards, which I thought too hard, and (3) Gunsite humanoid targets, which I didn’t want to use. Way back when I took my first Sociology of Guns class to the range, if you find that post, one of the students asked to shoot a non-humanoid target. The range I use — same one I took the Argentine to — had a color/shape target. So, I was hoping to use one of those. But, non of those were available, so I used the humanoid target you see in the photo.

      Although I don’t think this is something to beat myself up over, and I don’t think you were doing that either, it is worth considering how the targets we shoot align or misalign with our intentions while shooting.

      I didn’t answer your comment right away because I had a post in the planning that addresses this issue from the perspective of an exhibit of photography by Garrett O. Hansen. It just posted so you may be interested in it.

      Thanks, as always, for the engagement.

      Liked by 2 people

      • No intention to beat you up over this. I think about this every time I am at the range and I see the proliferation of humanoid targets on the pistol ranges. Perhaps it is silly, but I usually set up simple rectangles of 11×17, which is the official target used in our CHL qualification/requalification class but which of course, is the rough size of a human torso. That’s not lost on me….

        Been crazy busy but trying to catch up on your Hanson posts.

        Liked by 1 person

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