Gun Safety: An Introduction
Meet Your Gun Safety Instructor
I started shooting a .22 rifle when I was 4 years old. My 11th birthday present was my own .22 rifle. I started shooting high-powered rifles and shotguns that same year. My father gave me a shotgun and a .30-30 when I was 13 or 14 years old. My father, a former FBI Agent, waited until I was 13 or 14 to teach me to shoot a handgun – a wise decision given how my father taught me to shoot them, as I will explain later. I began writing editorials and letters to the editor defending the right to keep and bear arms while in high school, and continued through college and law school. I bought my first handgun shortly after I turned 21. In addition to being an attorney, I am currently an NRA Certified Pistol Instructor and a Kansas Concealed Carry Instructor.
I write all of this so you will know who I am, and have been for the last 55 years, a part of the gun culture.
Early Gun Safety Learning
As a child, I always knew that my father’s .22 rifle and 12gauge shotgun were in his bedroom closet. I also knew the ammunition was in a box next to them. I am well aware that this is not now accepted, and in many places even a criminal offense, but in the early 1960’s, there were different concepts of what was safe and different expectations of children.
Part of my father’s reason for teaching me to shoot so early was to demystify weapons and to ensure I understood what these weapons are capable of doing. I still remember being impressed that the .22 bullet went right through both sides of a metal gas can, and my father’s explanation that this metal was much tougher than human skin and flesh. When my father decided I had shot enough, he showed me what his shotgun would do to that metal gas can. I was suitably impressed and knew that I was to never, under any circumstances, touch my father’s rifle or shotgun. After destroying the gas can, we put away the .22, and my father took me hunting for the first time.
Understanding Initial Instructions
When my father decided to teach me how to shoot a handgun, we went to our farm, and my father set up a large piece of cardboard as a target. He then positioned me 7 yards away from that piece of cardboard and gave me the Colt Detective Special with a 2″ barrel, he had carried as an FBI Agent. I pulled the handgun up to use the sights. He told me, “No. You’re not going to learn to shoot that way.”
Instead, I had to holster the handgun, draw it from the holster and fire without aiming, feet shoulder width apart, knees bent, leaning slightly forward, upper arm perpendicular to the ground and lower arm parallel to the ground. I missed the target entirely. My father then told me that all of the Agent Trainees had also missed the target when the FBI Instructors had them shoot like that for the first time. He then put me at 3 yards. (Years later, he told me that the FBI had moved them to arms length.)
My father explained to me that as far as he was concerned no one should ever carry a handgun unless that person can hold his arm outstretched at shoulder height, drop a quarter, draw and get at least one round on target at 7 yards before that quarter hits the ground. With a great deal of practice, I was able to do that not just at 7 yards but at 25 yards, with almost all “10s” on a human silhouette target.
That was many years ago and I can no longer do that. I carry a striker-fire semi-auto, and unless you are using a double-action handgun, or a single action revolver that you are fanning (repeatedly pulling the hammer back to cock it with your off hand, after the revolver is drawn) that type of fast draw is so dangerous is to be downright foolish.
Consider The Entire Situation and Your Mental/Emotional Condition
I repeatedly told my father that his requirement would disqualify virtually every police officer in the United States, but he maintained his position until his death. And, he did have a point. Under severe stress, such as the stress which occurs when a person is physically threatened, the Tacky Psyche Effect causes a person to lose fine motor skills, creates tunnel vision and hearing, and affects your judgment and vision. Under those circumstances if you have to aim, using the sights, you will miss. You must rely on practice creating muscle memory. That is one of my overarching points when teaching a concealed carry class.
Over the next three articles, I will discuss firearms safety, choosing a firearm for defense both in the home and away from the home, choosing ammunition and choosing a holster. Please watch for Part II of this series on The Founding Project’s website.
John B. Barrett is an attorney and regular writer for The Founding Project, but he is also a NRA Certified Pistol Instructor and a Kansas Concealed Carry Instructor. The Founding Project is honored to have John’s expertise, both as a skilled writer covering legal aspects of civics education and also to bring to our members this special series on personal and home safety.