Sponsored by Henry Repeating Arms
My Grandson and I sat in the back seat. We were heading down the highway to some property that we used to own. The new owners had made sure we had keys for a day such as this one. My Grandson and I discussed the firearms safety card I had given him earlier. We were going shooting for the first time, for my Grandson.
As we talked, I used examples. See that bridge out ahead of us? That is about a mile out. These .22 LR rounds are light, but undisturbed, they will carry that far. Why is that important to know? Without looking at the safety card, my Grandson responded,” know what is beyond your target”. Very good! He read, understood and remembered!
For his age, 10, my Grandson is an excellent baseball player. I asked him about warming up with a bat- taking practice swings. I asked, “Do you look around to make sure no one is close?” He said, “Yes, that‘s a strict rule” Good.
I asked him, “If you leave your bat against the back stop, will it hurt anybody?”
“No,” he replied.”
“If you are on deck or in the batter’s box and your circle is clear, when you swing will you hurt anybody?”
“No,” he replied again.
This is the same with firearms. Used properly, obeying safety rules, the firearm is the same as a bat, hammer, screwdriver, rock or league baseball. It is just there. A device. A tool. Like any of these, however, used improperly they can/will cause damage. He thought about this quietly.
We drove down to the 25-yard marker and set up a portable shooting table. We distributed safety glasses and hearing protection. Dad and Uncle Dan sat on the tailgate. Today I am the RSO (Range Safety Officer). With the Henry still cased I pointed out the firing line. The arc that represented a safe muzzle direction. (Today, we were less than 180 degrees, closer to 110, never pointed outside the edges of the berm).
I uncased the little lever action. A nice piece of machine work. I bought it when he was four. We went over terms and identified the components of the rifle. We took turns shouldering, cycling the action, how to check for clear and range instructions. We went over the parts that make up a cartridge. Their function and interaction with each other.
Suddenly, I was slightly staggered. I wish my Dad was here. How many years ago was I the new one hearing the words. Hanging on to every sound and sight. He had a patience and a confidence about him that he was imparting to me. I thought of how he and my uncles fought in a war. They used weapons so much that when they came back it took a while for the interest to come back. But, they taught and they showed. They listened, corrected and explained. It was different than normal lessons. It seemed important for me to absorb what they were saying.
The breeze brought me back after that moment flashed in a second.
We loaded ten cartridges into the tube. We had spent time on the rear sight, front sight configuration. How to line them up. How to concentrate on the front sight. How to breathe. Okay, I will cycle in the first round. Set the rifle on the rest. Line it up like we did on paper. Breathe normally. Squeeze in between breaths.
“That’s okay, cycle in a new round and start over.”
We set the rifle down on the table with the action open. We had a back to pat and shoulders to rub!
“Wanna do it again?”
This time he slowly, purposefully emptied the tube. First round a few more puffs than clangs but that just means you try again.
Grandpa took a turn. Uncle Dan took a turn. Dad took a turn. Grandpa and Uncle Dan threw in some puffs to keep it all real. This is not the day to show off or diminish a first timer’s experience. Dad through in some puffs, well, Dad just had some puffs.
Tube after tube. Box after box. Banter. Talk. Jokes. Comradery. The feeling was as warm as the sunshine on our faces.
We got memories. We got photos and videos. To be certain of what age we live in, the Grandmas already have them on their phones.
It had been awhile since we had a youngster to share the experience with.
It’s funny how the view changes when it is a Grandson. My kids were treated the same way. This is a learning time that can never include harsh words or snide comments (okay when they are in their thirties a few remarks are probably permissible). This is a time to make sure the student understands the gravity and the permanence of mistakes. It is a time where form and function come together to produce a desired outcome. It is where we are equal no matter your skill level.
I am honored and yet, humbled by being able to share this with my Grandson. Where I wanted it to be a rite of passage and a special day for him it turns out that it was mine as well. Memories, smiles and tears all came back. The times I shared with those who are now gone. The passing on to those who are still here. The hope that my sons, my daughter, my daughters-in-law, my Grandsons and Granddaughters, if they choose, will take these days and pass them on to theirs.
Times, clothes, customs may change but this bond does not.
Written by Paul Rolih
Abridged version first appeared in NRA Family Insights