Hindering or Helping? Part I
It Helps To Know The Difference.
Since it happened well over 50 years ago, I can admit at this time in my life it was totally my fault. Oh, I have an excuse, flimsy though it may be. Namely I was still a few months from leaving my teenage years behind me and, although my brain was trying hard to develop, it was still somewhat mushy. Diamond Dot and I had only been married a few months and had gone out for chicken dinners with another couple. In those days chicken dinners were only $1 (sigh!). After eating we headed for Shell’s Gun and Archery Farm to do a little shooting. I had my Ruger .22 Single-Six and my Ruger .44 Magnum Flat-Top Blackhawk along with ammunition.
Both of us men shot the Ruger .44. Diamond Dot knew better, however, the other woman insisted upon shooting it. I said no way. She insisted more. I said no way again. She insisted a little more. By now I’m letting my need to teach her a lesson overcome my good judgment. So I gave her the .44 Magnum with one round consisting of the standard Keith load of a 250-grain 429421 bullet over 22.0 grains of 2400 powder. That was a full-power load then and still is. I showed her how to hold the gun with two hands, told her to hold on tight, and slowly squeeze the trigger. The gun went off, she screamed, and I looked down to see my pristine Ruger in the dirt.
To this day it carries the marks of my stupidity. At least I learned a valuable lesson, which was never, ever put a gun in the hands of someone you know can’t handle it. That has served me well in teaching the three kids, which would later arrive in our family, followed by the eight grandkids. That lesson was worth the few scratches on my Ruger .44.
John with Junior Shooter, James. At 14, he is the future of shooting.
I’ve often wondered if that lady ever fired another gun or if had I totally hindered her development? During the early days of long-range silhouetting I often saw a man bring his wife and/or son out to shoot. he was were oh-so-eager to please husband and father who promptly gave them a wildcat chambered XP-100 to shoot. They did their best to stand the recoil but you could easily see the pain they were going through and also the fact they did not want to disappoint. Most of those wives and sons probably never shot again.
Diamond Dot had never fired any kind of a firearm before we met. I was smart enough to start her with 22’s, then move up to .38’s, and by the time silhouetting came along we had been married 20 years and she was able handle a Thompson/Center Contender .357 Magnum as well as a 10-1/2-inch Ruger .44 Magnum Super Blackhawk. She used the same competition loads I did, however she had to have her own Ruger as the same sight settings did not work for both of us.
It’s been sometime since the men involved in handgunning and/or hunting have realized there are two other groups out there, namely women and juniors, who could easily become interested in shooting and not only learn but become great companions in the sport. However, those of us who are experienced need to make sure we are helping and not hindering their development.
Entire magazines are now published for women shooters and junior shooters. Women make up a large percentage of those who carry concealed and more and more juniors are getting involved in shooting. Women, as well as senior citizens, have special needs when it comes to concealed carry and it is a wise husband, father, son, grandson and gun shop owner who sees to these needs.
Junior Shooters learn to shoot the AR at long range. The Junior Shooters Camp
provides for the training of future shooters and competitors.
If you are reading this now you may be the present, or perhaps like me, mostly the past. The future lies not with us but with the younger shooters. We must do everything we can to encourage young shooters and there are several groups doing just this. I think of the Ruger .22 Rimfire competition as an excellent way to encourage younger shooters. Mike Gibson, whom some of you may know as a producer of MGM metallic targets, sponsors a special Junior Shooters Camp each summer in southwest Idaho. This very special camp runs three days in July and is held at the Parma Rod and Gun Club Range, which is an exceptionally good range with numerous shooting bays as well as an air-conditioned classroom. Yes, it does get hot in July in southwestern Idaho, however we do still have the advantage of very low humidity such that even shade seems exceptionally cool. Simply put, this is a great spot for beginners to come and learn from several excellent teachers.
The purpose of the school is to provide top-notch instruction for kids interested in competitive shooting. The only requirement is they must have shot a couple matches before coming to the camp. Mike’s wife Rhonda is one of my former students way back further from than either one of us want to admit, and she serves as the camp administrator, making the money stretch as far as possible. The cost for the camp is only $260 and this is often covered by scholarships from industry and shooters who realize what an important event this is. As I attended, I was impressed by several things: the range itself, the way it was conducted, the quality of the teachers and most importantly, the young students. I believe the oldest there was around 21, with most of them being teenagers.
I was immediately drawn to one young fellow who reminded me of myself 60+ years ago. James was from Wisconsin and admitted to being only 13 but very quickly let me know he would be 14 the very next day. What a great place to spend a birthday! I also met James’ mother and dad who are so proud of him you just about see their buttons popping. They were totally supportive of their young son and I found out later he is also homeschooled so they definitely expend the effort to do everything they can to make sure he stays on the right path. As I talked with this young fellow I could not believe he was just turning 14 as his maturity level seemed much higher to me. I spent a lot of time in my life working with my own kids and grandkids and I felt they were above the average when it came to common sense and their actions, so it was nice to see the same thing exhibited in other kids. I talked about this to the publisher/editor of Junior Shooters magazine and he said the same thing, namely he felt young shooters are quite a bit above the average level of attitude and actions found in most kids their age. Maybe those of us in the shooting sports really are doing something well.
As a result of meeting James, we have been corresponding back and forth and I told him he should feel free to contact me at any time with any questions he may have about shooting or anything else. I felt he was exceptionally mature when I talked to him face-to-face, and his e-mails underscore this even more, as he writes way above his physical age level. I’ll share a few things from him as he told me about the camp:
“I was in Squad 1, which had nine boys and two girls. My squad mates were very friendly and knowledgeable. The first day we learned AR shooting tips from Matt Burkett, movement and trigger control from Phil Strader and foot movement in an out-of-the-box from Eddie Garcia. After the first day there was a pizza party back at the hotel, then swimming. Day 2 consisted of a class from Steve Shroufe on moving targets, BJ Norris taught moving and shooting and Manny Bragg taught 1-handed shooting, and the draw.
“Parents were able take a shooting class with Top Shot Season One winner, Ian Harrison, which my dad did and had a great time. Day 2 ended with games at the range, and back at the hotel Ian Harrison gave us a presentation and talk. Wednesday morning we had a 6-stage match, followed by awards and conclusion of the camp. I think what my family and I took away from the camp most was the camaraderie of the whole place from the world-class instructors, Rhonda, Mike and Travis Gibson, and the enthusiasm from all the kids attending. I never heard griping, complaining or bad things said about anyone. The camp was just really very positive, with the family atmosphere.
“Kids who are in the shooting sports, must be grown-up when they handle their firearms. It’s not that they can’t joke and have fun, but they must always be aware and safe; I think maybe that’s why the kids behave so well. I was really impressed with my squad mates. They were all very talented and all very friendly and willing to share ideas.
“Rhonda Gibson treats us all like we are her kids, and I think that is why MGM Junior Shooters Camp gets the support it does from sponsors and world-ranked instructors. The instructors come each year and teach in 100 degrees F temperatures on their own dime, and that says something special about the Camp.”
With shooters like this we do not have to worry about the future. This Junior Shooters Camp is a great way young shooters are being helped, and I’m sure there are other examples all over the country. This year’s camp had 61 kids from 17 states. If you have youngsters you would like to see involved in this Junior Shooters Camp, contact the Gibsons.
By John Taffin