I grew up in Texas, so it goes without saying that I was raised knowing a thing or two about guns. We Texans do love our 2nd Amendment rights. I was raised in a world where Saturday mornings in the crisp autumn were best spent in a deer blind and where on a hot summer day, there was a good chance that you could walk out your front door to see a four-foot rattlesnake curled up on your porch. I’ve always known that guns weren’t just for hunting and for sport, but that a firearm was a weapon that you had to learn to use and respect, as a means of defending yourself, whether that be from rattlesnakes on the porch or from an escaped convict that hopped your fence and hightailed it across your back pasture to flee the authorities (yes, that has actually happened).
I was lucky to have the greatest teacher, not just in the usage of firearms but also in life: my daddy. My father, an avid hunter and collector of antique long rifles, approached the use of firearms with a serene reverence. He employed a manner when using a gun that one could fancifully liken to a samurai’s relationship with his sword. It was his element and the weapon became an extension of all the quiet power and composure that my father exhibited in everything he did. It was something that I have always admired in him.
On those days where we would drive out in the Jeep to practice, my father taught me everything he knew about guns and shooting, but as I’ve gotten older and I look back on everything I’ve learned, I realize that there were some very valuable lessons in life snuck in with those tips on shooting true.
Be mindful of who you are and where you come from
Every firearm my father owned had its own unique and fascinating history that he would tell to me as he passed the gun into my hands.
“This Colt pistol was issued to your great grandfather when he enlisted.”
“This particular Winchester design was only ever produced for a single run. It’s very rare.”
“I bought this 28 gauge the day after you were born and I want you to know this gun inside and out.”
Every time I pulled the trigger on that Colt pistol, I was firing a little piece of history. That gun had seen combat, had brought my great grandfather home, and been passed down to my father, who now handed it off to me. It made me stop and think, and appreciate the legacy of those who came before me and inspired me to live up to the standard they had set.
Take your time
When shooting, Daddy always told me to squeeze the trigger slowly. Take a deep breath, relax your body, and really see the shot you’re about to take. Don’t rush into it or you won’t be steady and you’ll miss your target. So often, in my young adult life, I have been faced with a problem that has me borderline hysterical. An important academic paper that I have no idea how to approach. A task at an internship that overwhelms my rattled brain. A lover who won’t call and refuses to acknowledge the wonderful night we just had. What do I do? I take a deep breath, I see my goal, and, slowly, carefully, I pull the trigger.
Check the safety
This tip is not only great for assessing potentially risky situations, but it’s a good way to keep you from shooting your foot off.
Be aware of what’s in your sights
There is one tidbit of gun safety and gun awareness that has stuck with me ever since the day my Daddy first spoke the words. “If you point the barrel of your gun at something, you have made the decision to kill it and you better be damn sure of anything that’s behind it or in the path of that bullet.” This, first of all, sums up the greatest truth about gun safety: a firearm is a weapon and, when that barrel is pointed at something, there is a chance (and a fairly big one) that you could kill/destroy/maim it. The same goes for anything in the direct path of the bullet. It’s not like bullets say, “Fuck physics, I’ll just stop here.” What does this have to do with life? Everything. Your actions don’t just affect you, in that moment. There could be consequences, good or bad, for people you love or for yourself, in the future. Also, anything that you focus all of your energy and drive into will have an explosive result. Which is great if you’ve set your sights on a promotion at work… maybe not so much if you’re pouring that focus into a toxic relationship.
Keep the equipment oiled
True for guns, because a well cared for gun is a safe and functioning gun. True for your body and your mind, because health and happiness lead to a longer, fuller life.
Share your passion with someone you love
While this wasn’t necessarily one of my Daddy’s tips for using a firearm, it was definitely the most important thing I took away from those years of shooting together. My father’s lifelong love of guns became a cornerstone in the foundation of his love for me. He taught me how to protect myself, he gave me the ability to feel empowered and capable, he shared stories of my history, and gave me the incredible gift of being the type of father who would stand by me, even though he had ensured I was more than capable of standing up for myself.