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August 21, 2003
The sporting life

Tuesday was a great day.

My visiting brother and I took my 12-year-old nephew fishing on Jordan Lake - off a dock, since I have no boat. The crappie were biting, and the boy managed to land one, as well as a catfish. My brother got a crappie. I got bupkus - about ten bites, but nothing took the bait... well, the lure, actually.

Having productively spent the morning lakeside (time spent fishing is not about catching fish) it was determined that it was time to teach the boy to shoot.

Now, those of you who make Kim du Toit a daily read might be saying to yourself "12? You waited until he was 12? Are you nuts?" And you'd have a point. Heck, I first learned when I was six or seven. But two facts mitigate: 1) he's my nephew, not my son, and 2) the boy lives in the land of loons California - 'nuff said.

So Tuesday we headed to the Wake County Firearms Education and Training Center. A more impressive facility I have never seen - not even (or perhaps, especially) while I was in the Army. Three of the indoor bays are available for public use (after completion of a 2-hour training class and passing a test) (I aced it, thankyouverymuch), with one bay reserved for police training. Two of the "civilian" bays are 50 meters; one is a full 100 meters.

100 meters. Indoors.

Jealous yet?

Anything up to .50 caliber rifle can be fired in there. The only shortcoming is that there is no target retrieval system. You have to walk downrange to change targets, but the Range Safety Officers (always on duty) are well trained, and have loudspeakers, colored lights, and a siren to make plain the "hot" or "cold" status of any of the bays.

So we showed up, signed in, bought a couple targets, and headed to the firing line. It was a slow night, the place was almost deserted - we had a 50-meter bay to ourselves. I then proceeded to instruct the lad in the essentials of safety.

Always keep the weapon pointed in a safe direction.
"A safe direction" being downrange towards the backstop (and not at the ceiling or floor).
Always keep the weapon unloaded until ready to use.
Pretty straightforward.
Always keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire.
Also clear and to the point.
Never handle a firearm when someone is downrange.
Not only did I impress it upon the lad to not handle a firearm when I was downrange changing targets, I made sure he was way against the back wall while I was doing so. I think he realized I was utterly serious.

There are, of course, other ways of expressing the safety principles above. But the point is clear: safety first, last and always.

With a target set at 25 meters, we proceeded with the Henry U.S. Survival .22 - a weapon I had purchased to spite Michael Moore [scroll down] and because I was deficient in the .22 department. After I showed him how to take up a proper position, how to get a good sight picture, how to control his breathing, how to load and clear the weapon, etc. With me on him like ugly on Helen Thomas, the lad took his first shot ever.

9 o'clock, on the edge of the black. Loading the Henry magazine one round at a time (to try to teach him to make that one shot count) the lad proceeded to fill the upper left quadrant of the target with little holes. Not bad for his very first time out - but more importantly, he learned to be safe. Being an almost teen, you might expect a boy to be rather rebellious - not my nephew. He actually checked with me before each step of the whole process. I was pretty proud of him.

I managed a 1.5" group at 25 meters over iron sights. I can do better. Then just for fun I broke out my M1 Carbine and put 50 rounds through it. 1-inch vertical 4-inch horizontal groups... I can definitely do better than that.

What an amazingly great day.

Posted by Russ at 10:05 PM, August 21, 2003 in Guns & Shooting & North Carolina

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Comments

Russ,

Sounds like you had a great day indeed. I'd be hard put to think of a grander tradition to pass on then those described above! I can barely wait until my nearly four year old granddaughter is "just a little bit older", (maybe another year or two). We had her out camping this year, (just Grandma, myself and her....and now she "instructs" her parents on how it is done. Actually her mother, (our daughter), has been on a few camping trips herself during childhood. Places like Alaska, Bavarian Alps, Yellowstone, the Appalachains....you get my point. Having been raised as a "military brat" she's been around. But back to the point....

Each of my nephews or neices that have shown any interest in the outdoors in general I have tried to contribute something towards that nuturing that. Maybe a first pair of binoculars, a special "hunting" knife on a birthday, or perhaps another firearm to each of my brothers to insure there was always an "appropriate" one for the "next kid" to hunt. And yes, when the opportunities have presented themselves, my time to take them on trips, to the range, on a hunt, or whatever. I can assure you without reservation that I have received much more from those moments than I gave!

Thanks again for helping to pass on such a wonderful and meaningful tradition!

Dave

Posted by: Dave at August 22, 2003 09:02 AM


Russ,

I live in the Raleigh area, and I do my shooting at Davi's indoor range. Have you ever been there, and if so, how does the Wake County facility compare with Davi's?

Posted by: Anthony Alford at August 22, 2003 09:16 AM


I live in the Raleigh area, and I do my shooting at Davi's indoor range. Have you ever been there, and if so, how does the Wake County facility compare with Davi's?
Anthony,

I haven't been to Davi's - I see their TV ads, I have friends at work who go there - but I never seem to be able to find the time to get there myself.

That said, I've been to similar places (before I escaped California) and I have seen the pictures on their website. I have the feeling that the County range is going to be superior for shooting and safety:

  • 100 vs. 25 meters max range
  • mandatory safety training class before getting a range card
  • Safety personnel on duty in the range at all times
and inferior for the other things you might find at Davi's:
  • limited ammunition availability
  • no onsite gunsmith capability (unless someone is there by chance)
  • no weapon rentals (not sure if Davi's does this)

This estimate depends on a certain amount of guesswork as to the full setup at Davi's, based on my experience at places I think would be similar.

Really, though, the only improvement I would really want to see at the County range would be the installation of a target retrieval or carrier system to get the paper downrange and back. But I'm pretty satisfied with things as they are.

Posted by: Russ at August 22, 2003 08:44 PM


Thanks for the info!

Posted by: Anthony Alford at August 22, 2003 09:26 PM