Teaching Kids to Shoot

With the tragedy in Dolan Springs, I’m compelled to offer a counterpoint to the hysteria in the media.


The instructor at “Bullets and Burgers” was shot in the head when the weapon recoiled and the child lost control of the weapon.



My Dad was retired Army and he didn’t teach me to shoot. I was taught in Boy Scout Summer Camp earning the Rifle and Shotgun Merit Badge. We were taught by an active duty Army Staff Sergeant. I was eleven. There are no pictures because he didn’t want any “playing grab ass with any cameras on my range”.

This wasn't us, but you get the idea.
This wasn’t us, but you get the idea.

When I went through Air Force Basic Training our time on the range seemed very familiar. Some folks had never touched a weapon. They were scary. I’m still pissed because I didn’t medal with the M-16 because some asshole was shooting at my target.

In 1993, I was in Havelock, North Carolina and owned a 357 Magnum and an AR-15. With weapons in the house my sons needed to be taught weapons safety. I also wanted them to fire the weapons and get all the curiosity out of them. Timmy was eight and took to it like a duck to water. Brian was 11 and professed to never, ever touch a gun again.

That's Timmy spotting for me.
That’s Timmy spotting for me.

I have no problem with kids learning to shoot.  But properly, with extreme supervision.  When introducing the weapon to my kids I start with an unloaded weapon and instill in them never to trust it and always treat it as if it’s loaded.  Then,  every time I put a weapon in their hand I have a ceremony.  With me holding it I ask, “What is this?” The correct response is: “That is the power of Life and Death in your hands”.  When I put the unloaded weapon in their hands I ask, “What is that?” the correct response is “The Power of Life and Death in my hands”.

What I Think Went Wrong at Dolan Springs

1. Too much gun.  I would NEVER give a child an automatic weapon.

2. ALWAYS stand behind the person with the weapon.  Even if you are teaching.

3. Familiarize the student with the weapon BEFORE they are on the firing line.

4. Everyone is alert and has situation awareness. If you see something wrong say something.

The following is a video of us shooting.  Our Range Master (yes we appoint one) that day was SSG Paul Fairfield, U.S. Army.  He was the most experienced in our group. Watch how we do it and voice any concerns because we can always learn to do better.


Since then, Rosie has become very competent.

Recently we went to the Mob Museum here in Las Vegas.  They have a shooting simulator set up.  The kind police use to teach tactical situations.  The weapon was a real but modified Smith and Wesson 38.  When Rosie took her turn, she properly identified the threat then put “Two in the meat and one upstairs” just like I taught her.  I was very proud of her.  On my turn I put two into the suspect but then shot the hostage/bystander.

In my house guns aren’t taken lightly.  They are unloaded at all times but handy if we need them.  They are only picked up to use and when being used I’ve taught my daughter and two wives to scream “I FEAR FOR MY LIFE!!!”, then empty the weapon.

How to Really Protect Our Schools

In 1975, New York state alone had over 80. In 1984, there were only 65 nationwide.  By 1999 there were only 26.  What were they? Shooting clubs at schools.

In 2007, a Wisconsin mother was appalled to discover a shooting range in the basement of her child’s school.  Although unused for years, she sued the school district to “re-purpose” the area.  She won.

Before the national  implementation of the “Zero Tolerance Gun Policy”in 1989, shootings at schools usually had one or two victims. Most of them from accidents.    For decades, there were none at all.  This is weird because the kids were packing.  High Schools had rifle teams and shooting clubs.  Student routinely toted them around campus.  In many cases they were stored in the gym.  Not for safety, but because they were heavy to lug around.  Up until the ’70s, especially in rural areas, it was commonplace to see kids entering and leaving their school campuses with rifle bags slung lazily over their backs. Guns were left in school lockers, and rifles and shotguns were routinely seen in high-school parking lots, hanging in the rear windows of pickup trucks.

Setting aside his BB gun at the age of 10 or twelve.  It was a right of passage for a youngster to get his first rifle.  Gun safety and shooting skills were past from father to son ( and more often than you think, daughter).

   I got a BB gun for my 10th birthday.  At 12, I held a real weapon for the first time.  It was at Boy Scout summer camp at Camp Pico Blanco, California.  I was going for the Rifle and Shotgun Merit Badge..  Our instructor was a serving Army NCO and was assisted by a PFC.  In Air Force basic training I realized that I had received the same marksmanship course in summer camp.  In Basic Training it was with the M-16.  In the Boy Scouts it was with the 22 caliber semi-automatic.The shotgun was a 410.

BSA Rifle-Range-1977. This wasn’t me, but our range looked identical.



Click to enlarge. Where have these values gone?

Some have called for armed guards in schools or maybe pistol packing teachers.  How about arming the children again?  Not only with weapons, but arming them with respect of firearms.  Safety engrained into them.  Full knowledge that they hold Life and Death in their hands and not some fairy tale notion that video games give them now.

I took my boys to the range when they were ten and eight.  My daughter starting shooting at seven.  Every time I hand her a loaded pistol we have a ceremony. I hold out the weapon and ask The Question.  “What is this?” Before she is allowed to take it in hand she must answer, “This is Life and Death in my hands.”  She is well drilled on safety.

  • Always treat a weapon as if it is loaded.
  • Always point it in a safe direction.
  • Release the safety only when ready to shoot.
  • Always check to see if the chamber is clear when receiving a weapon or handing to another person.

Her aim is pretty good and she will soon be learning the “Double Tap”. She also is taught, when threatened, to scream “I FEAR FOR MY LIFE!!” and then empty the magazine.