By L.E. Eubanks
To a man who has understood and enjoyed trapshooting or hunting for years, it usually seems inexplicable that his wife and children do not see the thing from his viewpoint. For a while he tries to convince them that he is not crazy, then grows hopeless or angry, pronounces them unreasonable and intolerant, and gives it up.
But let us look at the other side. The faculties required for shooting are just as strong in women as in men. Children of ten or twelve have ample strength, and often better eyesight than their elders. It must be then that it is not in adaptation that accounts for there being only one gun-user in the family. It is thoughtlessness or selfishness, usually the former. If the woman of the house has arranged a picnic or any other occasion that appeals to her tastes, it is but natural that she and the young people will condemn the "darned old shoot" or hunt that takes the husband and father away, and probably makes their outing a failure.
Do something besides argue, Mr. Man. I am sure my wife would have a big job to convert me to the sewing circle mania, and she would have to do it by actually showing me some points of interest. If a proposition does not naturally appeal to one. then its defenders must depend on the time honored Missouri method of "showing "em."
Most wives like to be with their husbands on an outing, and fully ninety per cent of them will try the shooting game with their men folks, if approached in the right way. Though social considerations may prompt the beginning, the sport has a powerful grip all its own, and our sisters soon discover that they have been missing an elixir vitae of wonderful properties. Air and sunshine outrank all other cosmetics and nervines. There is just enough muscular exercise to bring a delightful fatigue and fine appetite and smooth down the irritability of the overworked mother and housewife as her worries disappear before that irresistible fascination of breaking flying targets. With her, skill is not the primary object but reasonable proficiency should be sought, as it stimulates pride and interest and prevents her giving up from embarrassment. Not all people, neither women nor men can acquire wonderful ability, but to be merely a fair shot is worth a lot of time and effort.
If your wife or sister is particularly fastidious about her appearance, you will make a big point by showing that unbecoming clothes are not essential to target shooting. In swimming, basketball, hockey and even in hunting, a woman has to get "mussed up" a bit, but in target practice she may wear her daintiest things with perfect safety. Of course you and I know that when the great sport gets its grip on her she'll forget whether she's wearing a silk waist or a sweater, but at the beginning every possible argument will be useful. The mark of the gunstock against the shoulder maybe prevented by covering the waist at that point with a removable piece of cloth. There is a manufactured article for this purpose, a kind of stall that fits over the gun butt. Don't forget the advisability of a recoil pad, if she seems to fear the kick. If you care to encourage their use, there are "nifty" shooting costumes, which might add to the game's attractions for her.
But with all this ground won, she yet has to be introduced to the gun. You must go about this discreetly and patiently, or your wife will give up before she gets started. I think the best plan is to have her use a .22 rifle equipped with a Silencer, while she is getting used to a gun and learning the proper positions. The silencer, doing away with the noise and lessening the recoil, "refines" the business for her and allows better opportunity for the development of correct gun -habits. Then when she takes up a shotgun habituation to the recoil will come quickly, and she will have the incentive to persevere that she would not have had before taking the first lessons. Still further, the use of a Silencer makes home practice possible and practicable. Shooting at stationary targets is the logical antecedent of wing shooting and trap work.
I cannot see that it is altogether best to choose a 20-gauge for a woman, though I know it is the one usually recommended. It is all right, but a medium weight 12-gauge will do as well or better at the traps. It is a little heavier and that very fact means less recoil and the kick is what scares out more beginners than anything else does. The stock should have the proper fit. Mrs. "Ad" Topperwein, a champion among women shooters, says that practically all guns as they come from the factory are too long of stock and unsuited to most women. She recommends a length of 12 to 13 inches for the woman of average size.
Teach your pupil to use both eyes. Binocular shooting is the correct system and she probably will adopt it of her own accord. In this respect a raw pupil is to be preferred to one with "some experience." There are no stubborn faults to correct, and the instructor has only to show the correct method. The teaching is altogether positive, with the average run of women, and they learn more rapidly than is generally believed.
Another point and one which needs special emphasis in dealing with a beginner and that is flexibility at the waist. Teach them to swing the body gracefully with the gun, and not depend on jerking the piece spasmodically from place to place with the arms while holding the body rigid.
Your children, at least the boys, will be easily interested in shooting. Believing as I do that the ability to use firearms should be a part of every child's education, I think girls should learn right along with boys. With your wife, caution is apt to be present in great measure, but you will have to be insistent on the greatest care when your children take up the gun. No youngster should be allowed to shoot until he has become entirely familiar with the handling of the weapon. "Dummy practice" is highly important for all pupils.
At what age should a child be taught to shoot? That depends largely on the child as some take an interest at a surprisingly early age. But, as George Peck well said, "Even of the boy who does not like the sport the sport will like him and bring him to a condition of physical and mental manliness in spite of himself." Some children are as apt and discreet at ten as others are at fifteen. There are many shooters in this country today who have not yet seen a "teen" birthday.
What has been said with reference to the choice of a woman's shotgun applies also to the child's beginning. I think the hammer gun preferable to the hammerless for boys, because in their thoughtless enthusiasm they are so apt to forget the safety device. Generally speaking, discretion is not a property of childhood, and we must not expect too much from youth.
It is usually best to use a single gun for the first few months. Effective use of a double piece calls for the use of those qualities such as coolness, judgment of time, distance and the game, which come only with experience. The single shot should be thoroughly mastered, as far as familiarity with the gun goes, before a double gun is attempted at all. When the latter is taken up you should give the boy a little talk on the "psychology of the second barrel." It should be explained that there is seldom time to plan the "follow up" after the first shot, and that all action immediately following the first bang has to be instinctive, which, in shooting, is merely another term for the result of attentive, scientific study.
By all means, show your pupil the value of nature study in connection with his shooting. A characteristic possession of the best hunters is exceptional knowledge of animal life as they study not only the gun but the game. Your gun can hardly learn about the difference in flight of game birds without picking up much other useful information on natural history. Though of great importance, shooting skill itself is secondary to the education and development results that come from proper use of the gun. Whether your boy is a potential champion shooter or not, the training will make a man of him.
Above all, have the word of encouragement ever ready. Our women and children are considerably more sensitive than we, and are particularly quick to notice a slight when in a strange environment. Explain away their failures, and make corrections by the suggestive method. Companionship, and a chance for the whole family to enjoy the sport you have found so fine, is the aim. Do not let your own prowess and enthusiasm for the game cause unkindness to your best chums.
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