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.
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.
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.
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.”