This is a guest post from Rob Hefley, one of the founding fathers of the S7 Tactical Range.
Firearms have been a rite of passage, particularly in rural America, since our great country was founded over 200 years ago. Guns were necessary tools used to provide and protect one’s own family, and most of these families found value in passing down their knowledge, values, and firearms for generations. This tradition still occurs in many places today. I received my first shotgun when I was nine years old and later honed my weaponry skills in the US Army, but I’m still a novice in most areas. What I eventually learned was that I had picked up some bad practices in my early years and probably watched a little too much TV which had an impact when it came to handling firearms the right way. I realized that education, real-world application, and community are the missing gaps in the world of firearms.
In a perfect world, the father/son relationship would have begun as an apprenticeship of sorts in which the father passed his knowledge and firearm down to his son: showing him how to use it, clean it, and respect it in the process. This rite of passage begins when the father trusts his son enough to give him a tool that can be used in many positive ways for his family, but can also result in catastrophic consequences if handled incorrectly. This rite doesn’t take place until the father feels that his son has mastered the basics of marksmanship. The real key to a father’s decision to pass down his weapon is the trust he has in his son to do the right thing with the tool he has given him.
For my son’s rite of passage, I have included some core steps and values I believe are necessary to properly prepare him for gun ownership. I want to educate him about safety without scaring him, teach him mastery through practice, and make sure he understands the importance of having a community in which knowledge can be shared openly and comfortably.
As a dad, I started including firearms in my children’s lives at an early age, mostly by teaching them that they are powerful tools that must be respected. I took this approach not just because of my family culture, but because it is the ultimate tool when it comes to providing for and protecting my family. Education and real-world application go hand-in-hand most times and responsible parents must look for teachable moments for young kids while also making every effort to enroll them in a hunter’s safety course or a safety class for young shooters. I started instilling proper gun handling by taking my son hunting with me. During those outings, I would tell him why I was doing certain things, such as not loading the weapon until we arrived at our destination, or where to point the muzzle when on the move.
Next, we started shooting his BB gun, and the most recent time we went hunting, he was allowed to carry his BB gun while using the safety practices I taught him. Part of my son’s rite of passage starts with his BB gun. It is his first weapon, and we respect it like any firearm to the extent that it is locked in my gun safe with the other firearms. This simple gun serves as the perfect gateway to his initiation into the firearm world.
Through these experiences with my son, I learned quickly that I need help with educating my family. So, I became a member of a range. It is a family friendly range that has everything from BB guns to long rifles with training courses for all ages. Finding a good range is a great place where a person can continue to learn and grow to teach within a helpful community. As my son grows so will his knowledge in firearms. He is starting with a BB gun, but once he has improved his skills and safety practices, he will earn a rifle, and ultimately, he will learn the precious value of responsible gun ownership and how using a gun properly can help him provide for his family and protect them.
What are your practices regarding firearms and handing them on to the next generation? What other rites of passage exist in your family? Share in the comments below to receive a free upgrade in hair service the next time you come into one of our clubs (a 5 course from a regular 3 course, or a 7 course from a regular 5 course).