When I was six-years-old, I arrived at my grandmother’s house to celebrate my birthday. The usual festivities were had, but on my special day, my Uncle Scotty was in town from Massachusetts. He brought in a long present, barely wrapped and handed it to me. I opened the package and was confused by what it contained. It was a Harrington & Richardson Youth Model .410 shotgun.
There was a lot of talk along with it. Guns are a right of passage in my family. My brother didn’t get his first gun until he was nine. Then again, he was a small nine year old. At six, I was already as big as he was. The talk was whether or not that little shotgun was going to drop me on my rear end when I shot it.
My dad promptly put me on the back of his pickup along with all of my cousins and drove us all to the camp, located on the back part of the farm. My uncles followed us down and everyone gathered around as my dad and uncle showed me how to break open the chamber and insert the shell. I put the shotgun up to my shoulder and wobbled endlessly as my dad cocked the hammer for me. On his command, I pulled the trigger.
The little shotgun exploded into a sound that this six-year-old didn’t expect. It reached out and kicked me in the shoulder like an insane mule, setting my body back at least one foot. All of the fun was over when I began crying because my shoulder hurt. I didn’t shoot the gun again until I was eleven.
Fast forward a few years. My dad was a fur trapper. We were in Portage Lake, Maine at the home of Wayne Flint. Wayne sold Allagash Fur Call (of which I will write more about later) and other trapping scents. He showed my dad a rifle made of plastic. My dad looked perplexed as he shouldered the plastic stock. He talked about how light the rifle was and Wayne showed him how to load it through the buttstock of the rifle. It was a Remington Nylon 77.
We were in Wayne’s basement, which like most basements in Maine was loaded with firewood. Wayne handed the rifle to me and told me to shoot it into the wood pile. I looked up at my dad for approval and he subtly shook his head no. I handed the rifle back to Wayne, but not before admiring the fact that it was light and I could easily shoulder it. Dad got it for me that Christmas. By the following grouse season in the fall, I was deadly accurate with it.
My children are reaching the age where they are ready to learn how to shoot. It’s hard to justify to most folks in this day and age that I want my children to know about guns and I certainly don’t want them to be scared of them. Media poisoning has worked at making people scared of these tools. I want to pass on the heritage of shooting and hunting and at the same time help them to be responsible and careful while using them. V.E. Lynch, in his book Trails to Successful Trapping (written in the 1930s), said that any boy over the age of seven should have a trap line and a gun. I can’t hold up to the trapping part (it is illegal in Colorado), but I did get them a gun.
My brother had a Chipmunk .22 when he was young. I liked shooting it. The frame was small and it had a peep sight. Fast forward thirty years and I found the same set up, but now it’s called a Davey Crickett. Single shot, bolt action with a synthetic stock. The bolt feels a lot cheaper than I remember on my brother’s gun, but everything nowadays is outsourced.
I decided to pick up a Davey Crickett .22 for my children. With a single shot bolt action rifle, it’s easy to control when and how they shoot. If we’re done shooting, the bolt gets removed and goes into my pocket. Then, they are able to safely carry the rifle back to camp. My dad did taught me that and I always thought it was a valuable lesson.
I have them use .22 shorts when they are target practicing. Why? Lower velocity. The rounds they are firing are about 700 feet per second (fps), as opposed to a regular .22 round, which is usually somewhere around 1,200 fps. In addition, shorts aren’t quite as hard to find as regular .22s right now and…..they’re quiet. The rapport from .22 shorts at the fps that we are using is very quiet. That allows me to talk to my kids without raising my voice or risking that they might not hear me.
So far, so good. We’re working on the basics. Tin cans and wooden posts. Soon, we will move onto targets. Then, rabbits.
Stay tuned. I’m planning a post on shooting basics for kids sometime in the future.
Mike, Oscar, Hotel….out.