Firearms are a big deal in the South. Most of my friends, young and old, own some kind of gun. A good number have some serious hardware. My uncle in Kentucky has enough ammunition and firepower to demolish a small police station. It might sound crazy to some people but guns are just part of the culture down here. There are a lot of dangerous idiots out there who make gun owners look bad but the vast majority are even keel folks who treating shooting as a hobby. Some people are into cars, some people are into hunting or shooting competitively. This is not a political article. I enjoy shooting and I like guns but I will refrain from taking a political stance. This article is intended to educate the inexperienced about guns and shooting in general. So if you’re a curious Yankee or foreigner who wants to know a little bit more about guns, this article is for you.
Types of guns
There are two types of handguns…
Revolvers: These look like guns that a cowboy would use. You have a handle, a barrel and a rotating cylinder that holds the bullets. When you pull the trigger, it drops the hammer which strikes the bullet and causes the gun to fire. This also rotates the cylinder so that you can shoot again. Most of these guns hold six shots but some hold as many eight. Some people call them six shooters or wheel guns, for obvious reasons.
Automatics: Semi-automatics (also just called automatics) are like the handguns that the police and the military carry. They’re normally sleek and black rather than shiny and clunky looking like revolvers. These guns are more modern than revolvers and are generally (but not always) more practical than revolvers. This is because they can hold more bullets (some carry eight, many carry close to 18). They also shoot faster and are easier to load than a revolver. Most revolvers have to be reloaded (putting bullets in the gun) one bullet at a time. You can fill an automatic with bullets instantly by putting a magazine (the thing that holds bullets) in the bottom. This is why the police and the military use them.
Shotguns: Shotguns are probably the most common kind of gun in America. Every
sportsman or hillbilly worth his salt will have a shotgun. That’s because shotguns are very versatile. They’re simplistic, shoot cheap ammo and shoot different kinds of ammo. Generally, shotguns are used for shooting moving, airborne targets like clay pigeons or ducks. This is because shotguns shoot a bullet that spreads out. Thus, your aim doesn’t have to be nearly as precise as it would have to be with a rifle to get a hit. This makes it easier to lead (shoot in front of a target) a target.
Rifles: There are a multitude of different kinds of rifles. Rifle is a nebulous term. Most
modern guns have “rifling” (a grove that goes in a corkscrew pattern down the length of the gun) in their barrels so most guns are “rifles” in a way. For our purpose though, there are two kinds of rifles. “Normal” garden variety rifles like hunting rifles and assault rifles like the famous/infamous AR-15. “Normal” rifles are almost as common as shotguns. Most hunters own a rifle so they can shoot big game from a distance, like deer. Most rifles let you shoot one bullet every time you pull the trigger. To load the next round, you have to perform a mechanical “action”. Examples of common “actions” include “lever action” (pulling a lever at the bottom of the gun) or “bolt action” (turning a bolt on the top of the gun). Assault rifles are different from normal rifles because the gun preforms that action for you. Assault rifles are “automatic” because the gun automatically loads the next round for you. Thus, assault rifles are able to shoot bullets faster than normal rifles. There are two kinds of firing types for Assault rifles. There are “semi-automatic” rifles like the AR-15 and “fully-automatic rifles” like the M-4 carbine. “Semi-Automatic” assault rifles shoot one bullet every time you pull the trigger. “Fully-automatic” assault rifles keeping shooting as long as you hold the trigger down. Civilians can buy semi-automatic assault rifles. Usually only the military and police have fully automatic assault rifles, but some civilians can own them as well. Assault rifles also have bigger magazines (30+ bullets) because they shoot so fast.
Rules for shooting and gun etiquette in general (for beginners)
1. Guns are not toys. Guns can be dangerous. Treat them with the respect they deserve. Always think of the consequences of your actions.
2. Understand that every time you point a gun at something, you are threatening it. If you shoot a person or an animal you will grievously injure it, if not out right kill it. Do not point a gun at anything you do not intend to destroy.
3. If you have never shot before, but would like to, go with a friend or a family member who has experience shooting. Or see if your local police station or gun range offers classes for beginners. Don’t go alone or “try to do it yourself” if it’s your first time.
4. Whenever you pick up a gun, always make sure you know whether or not it is loaded. Your chosen mentor can teach you how to check whether or not a gun is loaded.
5. Wear appropriate clothing. If you’re a girl, dress conservatively. Guns eject hot brass. Brass going down your shirt or hitting an exposed thigh can burn you. If you’re a guy, don’t sag your pants. Some guns “kick” hard. Tripping over your pants is both embarrassing and dangerous. For both genders, avoid wearing open toed shoes so you don’t trip or get burned by ejected brass.
6. Wear eye protection and ear protection. Again, guns eject hot brass and can literally “poke your eye out”. Guns are also loud and will damage your hearing.
7. Never shoot or handle a gun while intoxicated. Just don’t. Nothing good will happen.
8. Always conduct yourself in a calm and respectful manner when shooting. Especially when shooting at a public range. Don’t dress like a thug or a redneck. Don’t yell profanity, make threatening gestures, disregard the safety of others or generally act like an idiot. The gun range is not the place to express yourself. Altercations or accidents with firearms do not end well for all parties involved. The majority of people at public ranges are calm, respectful and friendly. However, they will be understandably skittish if you give them reason to worry.
9. If you’re thinking about buying a gun, think long and hard about your decision. Consider whether you have the time or the resources to properly maintain your weapon and train with your weapon. Consider how competent you are with firearms and whether you could own one safely and legally. If you’re buying for self-defense, first ask yourself if you really need a gun. Ask yourself if you could adequately defend yourself with mace, a Taser or by just avoiding dangerous situations all together. If you decide to buy a gun for self-defense, buy the right kind of gun, get the right kind of training and get the necessary permits. Having a gun is a full time responsibility. It is NOT something to be taken lightly.
10. Understand that this is not an authoritative article on firearms or firearm safety. Defer to people of higher authority, such as police, military personnel and firearms instructors. Always listen to the experts and always take their advice on how to shoot safer and more effectively.
11. Have fun! Whether it’s shooting skeet, hunting, nailing targets from 900 yards, shooting classic weapons or shooting coke bottles with a baby .22, shooting is a really fun pastime. I have taken many of my friends shooting and they have all really enjoyed the experience. However, I do my best to stress the danger inherent to the activity and how to conduct themselves as safely as possible. The truth is, most guns were designed to kill. You have to understand that and be respectful of that. You have to be a 100% aware of your surroundings and what you are doing when you pick up a loaded weapon. However, if you take the proper precautions and respect the rules, shooting can be as safe and extremely enjoyable hobby.