While Father’s Day offers an opportunity for children and spouses to recognize the men who love them, it’s also a time for us dads to reflect on our duties as fathers. Some of these duties involve passing torches onto the next generation. In this article Doug shares his recommendation for passing the love of shooting onto children.
It was the Friday after Thanksgiving when my son was four and a half years old. My family had all gathered at my parents’ house for the holiday weekend and most of them were preparing to head out for a day of hiking in the mountains to work off all that turkey from the day before. A few of us, however, stayed behind because today we had some special plans. After nearly a year of preparation that included countless hours of firearm safety, handling, operation, cleaning and maintenance, and dry firing… the day had come for my son to send a live one down range.
I gave my dad the honor of walking my son through his first shot. Together grandpa and grandson went through the ritual of safety, loaded, took aim and after the little shooter said “on target” my dad walked him through a smooth trigger press. This first shot resulted in an impressive aerial display of foam and fanfare as a full can of Barbasol whizzed and whirled painting the berm white. After squealing with joy and clearing his rifle (with Grandpa verifying) we went down range with my son leading the way to admire his marksmanship.
I’ve taken a very pragmatic approach to teaching my kids about guns and gun safety. It starts with demystifying guns which I do by allowing my children to “explore” them with me most anytime they ask. This is where we talk about safety, handling, and what the differences in various firearms are. If they wish to handle one, we go through the ritual of clearing and safe handling together before they’re allowed to hold it. While they hold it we continue the focus on safety and talk about things like how sights work, what the different parts are and I ask them questions which often result in curious answers. It’s amazing to see through the eyes of a child who has been taught to respect firearms rather than to fear them. When they’re done, sometimes after only five minutes and other times more than an hour later, they help me put them away, lock the safe, and we move onto other things.
“Stop, Don’t Touch, Leave the Area, Tell an Adult!”
The NRA recently exceeded 27 MILLION CHILDREN trained in the Eddie Eagle program. While adhering to our family’s policy for guns in the home we, too, have trained our children in this curriculum. We will never really know how many lives have been saved due to this training but I’m sure the number is nothing less than inspiring.
Perception is everything for children and adults alike. Anytime my children see a police officer, firefighter or soldier they will stop what they’re doing to go tell him or her “thanks for keeping us safe.” They view the carrying of firearms in much the same way. For my children, seeing me put a pistol in a holster and secure it to my belt inside my waistband is a non-event. If asked, they would tell you that Mommy and Daddy carry guns “to keep us safe.” It’s as common as seeing me put my phone and wallet in my pocket. They have no comprehension of what would be involved if we were forced to use a firearm in self defense nor do they need to – that’s our job as parents. For them, guns are what we enjoy target shooting with at the range and what their parents keep with them to keep us safe.
With Love, Dad
Your time is the best thing you can give your children and someday they’ll be willing to trade anything for more of it with you. This, combined with my desire to pass on my love for firearms, led us to a recent project where I helped my kids build their own rifles. The rifles are kept locked in a safe, of course, but the kids take a lot of pride in the fact that they have their own rifle that they helped build. We all enjoyed the experience and I expect someday these rifles will be handed down to my grandchildren.
For the builds we selected the AR platform due to the availability of parts and the simplicity of putting them together. We found step-by-step instructions the kids could follow which made it feel more like putting together Legos than working from an armorer’s schematic. We based the build on 80% lowers and each kid chose the Magpul furniture they wanted to put on them – my son chose the foliage color and my daughter chose pink. I’ve got to admit, the pink Magpul furniture looks sharp!
We sent our 80% lowers off to Sure Shot Precision for engraving. The guys there are extremely helpful and easy to work with. Modern Musket had given me permission to use their “two hammer” logo and the guys at Sure Shot Precision helped design the rest including a special message on the inside flare of the magazine well that reads, “With Love, Dad.” We machined and anodized the lowers and then assembled our parts from two Stag Arms kits. We finished the rifles with my preferred flash hider from BE Meyers.
The future of firearms, particularly AR platform rifles, is uncertain given the current political climate. Because of this, and the fact that I’d been thinking about this project for a couple years, I wanted to make these rifles with my kids sooner rather than later while parts were readily available. Now completed, they’re among the most meaningful firearms we own.
As parents, we have a duty to pass the torch onto the next generation. Even if it’s just talking about firearm safety and Eddie Eagle while modeling safe practices yourself, it’s never too soon to begin molding the next generation of responsible gun owners. I hope you find spending time enjoying the shooting sports with your family as rewarding as I do. From all of us at Guns & Tactics Magazine, Happy Father’s Day.