Learning the Basics of Gun Safety from Sticks and Stones


Tank learned the basics of gun safety from these study aids.

Prior to entering the Police Academy 36 years ago this month, I’d never shot a handgun. As a kid, I’d use crooked sticks shaped like handguns. Even these crude dummy guns taught me something. Namely, to always keep my finger off the trigger, which was natural. None of my sticks had one.

I also learned concealed sticks were best for getting the drop on my open stick carry buddies. They never saw my stick coming during our mock wars and cops ’n robbers play.

Next came rocks, my first projectile. Early on, I learned a bigger rock caused more damage than a smaller one. I remember being in 1st grade and it was recess. Before my very eyes was a large, white igneous rock. Picking it up, I threw it as far as I could, without really looking. I just wanted to see how far I could throw it.

It struck a girl in my class in the mouth, on its first bounce. I was lucky it didn’t hurt her worse than it did, but I violated rule #4, not being aware of my background.

From sticks, I graduated to cap pistols and dart guns. I can’t really remember which was first, but I do remember almost shooting my eye out with a dart gun. Don’t worry, it wasn’t loaded. Really!

Wanting to know how dart guns worked, I’d cocked the gun with a stick. A dart would have locked itself in place. With gun cocked, I did a foolish thing and looked down the barrel, violating rule #1 and #2. Towards the back was the cocked and locked spring, held back by a plastic hook. The hook was connected to a transfer bar, which was attached to the trigger. Tickling the trigger, violating rule #3, while looking down the barrel (#2) wasn’t my brightest idea, but heck, I was only five.

I guess I tickled the trigger (#3) too much, for before I knew it, the compressed spring released its fury, striking my eyeball. I was the victim of stupidity and barrel run out. The spring ran out and tagged my eye. I saw orange stars. Luckily, the spring only scratched my eye, but I still got to wear a cool eye patch for a week.

Oh, yeah, I also learned about always pointing your gun in a safe direction and keeping your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot. An’ how!

The first “real” gun I got to shoot was my older brother’s Daisy 1894 lever action BB gun. By now I was six, had both eyes (barely) and all my fingers and toes (again, barely). Being no Daisy, I figured I was experienced, ready for the Daisy BB gun. I learned sight alignment, trigger control, and to a lesser extent, trajectory with this gun.

I could see the BB travel through midair. I shot that gun silly, as my brother became more interested in sports, freeing up the gun for more trigger time. I became a pretty darn good shot with that gun, evidenced by the neighborhood cats who fattened up from my deadeye aim on sparrows.

Eight Is Great

My eighth birthday was a grand day. I received a Harrington & Richardson .22 for my present. Now I had a genuine rifle and was proud as punch my parents trusted me enough to give it to me. This gun taught me responsibility, as I didn’t want to ruin the trust my parents instilled in me by giving me such a grown-up present.

That rifle accounted for more groundhogs, sparrows and rats than I could care to count. It reinforced sight alignment basics and trigger control. When coordinating the two, hits were more likely.

By age 12 I received my first deer rifle, a Remington 700 chambered in .30-06. This gun taught me about recoil, and how the ensuing flinch caused poor accuracy. I learned to concentrate, ignoring the recoil, to make accurate shots. I also learned in the field, while shooting at deer, you never felt the recoil.

“Just Shoot It”

This brings us back around to handguns. On September 23rd, 1985, I entered the Montgomery County Police Academy. I remember well the first time shooting my issued Ruger Service Six, chambered in .38 Special. The Range staff put a blank sheet of paper on the cardboard backer and sent it to the 15-yard line. They had us load the guns and shoot, having us try to shoot the tightest group possible.

Already feeling well-versed in sight-alignment and trigger control, I aimed and fired my six rounds, double-action, as instructed. That’s the only way we were allowed to shoot. They told us shooting double action was combat shooting and we better learn it! From my previous shooting experience, my group was decent. “Hoover, you ever shoot a handgun before?” I was asked. “No, sir, just rifles,” I replied. “Good, we won’t have to break you of any bad habits.”

The next 20 weeks were a blur, but I remember the sound advice given pertaining to firearms. Such things as, “Don’t mess with your main spring,” and “Don’t clip any coils off it!” My gun shot 2″ right at 25 yards. When I mentioned this, one of the instructors grabbed it, sent a target to the 15-yard line and fired. He returned my gun, simply stating, “Aim left 2″ and just shoot it! You’ll get used to it!”

And that’s been my philosophy on guns for the most part. Just shoot it, you’ll get used to it. As you can see, any gun can teach us something. You just need to think about it.

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