This report covers:

  • The new look of the blog
  • Keep on truckin’
  • Help!
  • The programs
  • What has changed
  • Video games
  • Lists are garbage!
  • Tricks
  • No candy!
  • Parents can watch
  • Special needs kids
  • Where I need your help
  • Marksmanship course

The new look of the blog

I know the look of the blog has changed. No, I didn’t request the change, but I’ll tell you why “they” did it. Pyramyd Air always wanted the blog to be a part of their website, but the way it was formatted before, it looked separate. Now there is a hot link to the Pyramyd website at the top of the page. Click on it and you are there. It doesn’t open in a new tab, so you have to toggle back to the blog when you want to return. Toggling is done by an arrow on my Mac. I have no idea what it is on a PC or a smart phone. The links on the right side of the page are gone, but the ones people actually used are preserved somewhere else on the blog page.

No, the blog wasn’t “broke” but it also wasn’t doing all that Pyramyd Air wanted. Just like their website, the blog took months to redesign and no doubt there will be some changes in the days ahead. 

I still link in the report to products Pyramyd Air has in inventory (or on order), so you can still click on the links for those things in the report. The blog now has a place for an excerpt in the thumbnail you see on the home page. The software is set to collect the first few words I write, which in most cases doesn’t make a lot of sense. but today I wrote a specific blurb for this report. That one makes more sense to me, and you will be seeing it from now on.

We are creatures of habit, and I for one am hugely fixated on what I have known and have been doing. Obviously there are big changes in the new blog format, and they are changes I will have to get used to. I don’t know where everything is yet, just like you, and it will take some time to get comfortable. The last time the blog changed in a major way was when we went from Blogger to WordPress, and there were huge changes I had to learn.

Keep on truckin’

I plan to cooperate and graduate, which is to say I plan to learn how all this stuff works and how I can make the best of it. In the end, that plan has served me well throughout the years.

Help!

Today I am asking for your help. My church is activating a dormant Royal Rangers group and I volunteered to teach gun safety and marksmanship training. I have taught kids gun safety and marksmanship before, but so much has changed in the 20 years I have been away from it that I’m looking for some good dad and grandpa advice today.

The programs

The Royal Rangers is a youth program for boys from kindergarten to 12th grade, and is further divided into smaller age-appropriate groups. You can think of it as similar to the Boy Scouts that it was modeled after. We anticipate most of our kids in the first group will be in school grades 3-5. But this program will be open to kids from all over the area, so we could grow rapidly.

This is an activity-based organization and marksmanship training is one of the activities, so gun safety also has to be taught. Royal Rangers calls it firearms safety, but since we will also be shooting BB guns and pellet guns I have changed the name to just gun safety. I will teach firearm safety, to be sure, but my course will have to be about more than just that.

What has changed

When I took a course on firearm safety and also learning to shoot, it was taught by the NRA in Akron, Ohio in the middle 1950s. In those days kids were brought up to respect policemen, teachers and all adults. If an adult you didn’t know told you to do something, you did it without asking questions. I’m not saying that we didn’t misbehave or act up, but when we did any adult could put us in our place and our parents backed them up.

That isn’t the case today. Without getting into a political diatribe I will just observe that today’s “little pictures” expect to be both seen and heard. And they also play video games.

Video games

The first thing I will impress upon my students is that a gun (firearm, airgun, airsoft gun, paintball gun, etc. should never be pointed at anything you don’t intend to shoot. That’s different from the standard “Always point the gun in a safe direction.” In my world, there are no safe directions! Determining what direction is safe is a judgement call, and in my experience people just learning about guns don’t yet have the background they need to make that call.

Beyond that, I believe some of their parents also can’t make that call, and yet they may have taught their kids certain things about gun safety. Some parents think that by hiding the guns or locking them up they are being safe, but I remember searching all over my house and even removing the hinges from locked doors to get at things I wanted to see. Where there is a will…

The last thing I want to do is criticize something mom, dad or the grandparents have taught the child. But there will be a lot of us when the shooting starts so I also want them to know how to be safe.

They play video games where shooting opponents is fun, and now I will be telling them to never point a gun at anything you don’t intend shooting. Some people think there is no conflict because in a video game you aren’t “really” pointing a gun. Their parents also play video games like this, so it’s not just the kids. I have to get my point across somehow.

I can’t tell kids most of my gun safety anecdotes. Like the time my first sergeant pumped the guard’s shotgun to eject the shell and then pulled the trigger, thinking he had made the gun safe. He put a hole in the ceiling of the arms room! Or the lieutenant who racked the slide on his 1911 sidearm and then ejected the magazine and fired into the sand barrel outside the building where he was picking up the payroll for the company. Just one step out of place made all the difference in the world! First you eject the magazine, or empty the shotgun’s tubular magazine, then you rack the slide/pump the shotgun. Then, before pulling the trigger, you inspect both the chamber and the magazine well/tube to make sure there aren’t any more rounds in the gun. Ready, aim, fire — not ready, fire, aim.

These are good anecdotes, but not for kids. I need something to impress them that doesn’t frighten some of them, yet is something they can understand and internalize.

Lists are garbage!

The Royal Ranger training materials has a list of the “11 safety rules for handling an airgun”. All that does is let the kids who can memorize lists get one up on the kids who can’t. I have just one safety rule — never point a gun at something you don’t intend to shoot. I can expand that into a short class on all the other safety steps, like how to handle guns, and so on. Instead of “assume every gun is loaded”, in my class every gun IS loaded. What I mean by that is, handle every gun as though it is loaded. Of course there will be no loaded guns until we are on a range and the shooters have demonstrated that they have learned the range safety rules.

Tricks

I have a few tricks up my sleeve that most adults have never seen, but which I have learned work better than any lists. I tell the kids to call out “CEASE FIRE” whenever they see the muzzle of a gun about to point at someone, or when one is actually pointing at someone. I make them practice that one command over and over. And then, throughout my class, I occasionally do things that call for them to use that command, to see if they are paying attention. This gets those kids who are on the periphery paying attention to everything that’s going on.

I have heard stories of kids who called out “CEASE FIRE” at home, when one of their parents made an unsafe move with a gun. At first it scared the parent, then they got angry (why is my kid telling me what to do?) and finally they realized that their kid had internalized the most important rule of safe gun handling.

No candy!

My kid’s pastor who is in charge of the Royal Rangers group told me he uses candy to keep them focused. Not me! There won’t be any candy in my classes. The last thing I need when we are about to handle guns is a bunch of kids hyped-up on sugar rushes!

Parents can watch

I will invite the parents to watch the classes if they want. It wouldn’t hurt them to see their kid behaving responsibly, even if it’s only for a short time.

The kids who just can’t stay focused, and in my experience there is always one or two, won’t get to shoot or perform the scheduled activity for that session, when the time comes. I have seen this refocus a hyper kid who really wanted to shoot and was barred for the session. They can retake the training and demonstrate they have learned the skill during the next session, if they want. Some kids will drop out of the program because of this, but most kids will knuckle down and stop acting up. Either way I have a room of shooters who are paying attention.

Special needs kids

We do have kids with special needs. Autism in several forms is the leading issue. And because we are opening the group to kids outside our church I have little control over it. This is a situation that has to be dealt with one person at a time. The good news is parents or guardians with special needs kids know very well what has to be done and they come along with the kids to watch them.

Where I need your help

Guys, teaching gun safety is pretty dry. It’s not like I will be passing guns around the room or anything. I will have a few guns in class to demonstrate things, but that is as far as it will go. If this was one-on-one it would be much easier, but what it probably will be is me in front of 10 or even 15 kids this first time. What can I do to spice things up safely?

The one incentive they will have is that success in the safety course guarantees admission to the marksmanship course. If they haven’t taken the safety class they will have to demonstrate safety skill before they will be allowed into the marksmanship course.

Marksmanship course

After the safety course I will start the marksmanship course. This is where I teach the kids to shoot. I’m starting them with the Daisy 499 at 5 meters and then moving on to 10-meter target pellet rifles.

499
The Daisy 499 will be used to tech kids how to shoot.

Royal Rangers is activity-based. I am not starting a youth marksmanship team. This is just an activity that lasts for three months each year. As the size of the group grows, kids may participate in other activities that will be held at the same time. It’s an either/or situation, so they will have to select what they want to do.

The Royal Rangers is a boys-only group, but there is a female group that used to be called Missionettes and is now called Girl’s Ministries. We will also start that group and we will try to have many activities together. Gun safety training and marksmanship training will be boys and girls, combined.

I look forward to any tips or advice you have to offer