Phil Siddell offers advice on how to introduce family members to airgunning
PUBLISHED: 11:20 04 May 2020
Phil has some tips for successfully introducing shooting sports into your family
When I was a whippersnapper, my mum, a child of the ‘60s, decreed that her only son could have any kind of toy he desired, except a toy gun. As I grew and constantly used Lego to build guns of every shape and size, she was persuaded to compromise and eventually she caved in and my dad bought me my heart’s desire, a die cast, six-shot, cap-firing revolver. My interest in firearms did not diminish and by my teenage years, attention turned, predictably, to airguns. For my mum, the very idea of having a real gun in the house was a step too far and so I waited impatiently until I turned 18, then rushed to the local gun and tackle shop to buy my first air rifle. It’s taken some considerable time, but my parents have come to recognise the many positive aspects of the shooting sports I’m so devoted to, and nowadays, my old mum doesn’t so much as bat an eyelid when I take my rifle to take care of the rabbit problem in her beloved garden.
It’s not always easy to introduce shooting sports into the family environment, but if you approach it in the right way, even the most reticent of relations can usually be persuaded to see the host of benefits that come along with airgun ownership. There are many misconceptions within our sport, but it’s important to remember that some of the fears your loved ones might have are not unfounded. As any responsible marksman knows, there is inherent danger every time one handles a gun of any kind. If you don’t exhibit a healthy respect for the risks associated with shooting, then why should anyone trust you? Safety starts with security. Know where your gun is at all times and who has access to it. You might not be obliged to by law, but I’d recommend buying a proper gun cabinet as the minimum standard for safekeeping when you buy an airgun, and an additional, separate safe for ammo makes things doubly safe. Explaining that the gun you plan to purchase will be stowed more securely than the cleaning products and knives in your kitchen will carry a lot of weight.
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Whilst it’s important to acknowledge the safety concerns of those with doubts, it’s just as worthwhile explaining the benefits of airgunning. The different types of shooting aren’t called ‘disciplines’ for nothing. From attention to safe practices, to breath control techniques, marksmanship is all about following the rules in order to achieve your goals. The rifle range is one of the few places in modern life where a zero tolerance approach to inappropriate behaviour can realistically still be enforced. My own generally very high-spirited, 8-year-old son understands that any messing about behind the rifle means the gun goes away immediately, and it won’t be coming back out until he can show the lesson’s been learned. Furthermore, shooting is an activity unlike others because it teaches the shooter that actions have consequences; every time the trigger is pulled the operator must take responsibility for the terminal resting place of that pellet.
Life lessons aside, airgun shooting is a huge amount of fun, too. A couple of hours plinking out in the fresh air is a great way to spend an afternoon. My son has been known to turn up his nose at the mention of a dog walk if the weather is at all inclement, but he’ll be outdoors like a shot at the sound of the keys turning in the gun cabinet locks. One of the unsung benefits of airguns is the ridiculously economic ammunition, so you’ll never have to call a halt to proceedings on the grounds of cost. It’s an affordable sport in the great outdoors. Furthermore, there’s no nasty recoil or loud bangs so anyone can have a go.
The underlying motivation for owning an airgun for me has always been for hunting purposes – a fact that has caused controversy from time to time. For instance, my wife is a committed vegan whose relationship to blood sports ends at catch and release fly fishing. However, she accepts and even condones my self-sufficient approach to meat eating, recognising the thoughtful and ethical way I choose to harvest game of all shapes and sizes. Ready access to whole animal carcasses has paid dividends, too, as we’ve sought to raise our boy with a sound understanding of where meat comes from. At the tender age of just four years old, he watched fascinated as I cleaned a bag of rabbits whilst naming the organs and explaining their purpose. We can tell that he appreciates the work that goes into acquiring good quality meat by the way he wolfs down slices of rare venison tenderloin!
When it comes to convincing those in your family who are sceptical about shooting sports, my advice is to engage, not argue. It can be frustrating to have to make the case for airguns to your family, but it’s important to try to show respect for the opinions of others. You might have to start small; there are some great air rifle ranges in the UK where you can try out shooting with your family with the help of expert tuition, to show a commitment to learning to do things properly. When you are ready to purchase an airgun, consider the safety of others who live with you and get those security arrangements in place first. Join a club with a good reputation who’ll show that there is purpose and progression in shooting, just like in any other sport. If you’re hoping to get into hunting, demonstrate the passion you have for wild game by doing something special with it and sharing it with the people close to you. After all, it’s hard for them to argue when they’ve a mouth full of delicious rabbit pie.