The two topics go hand in hand. To get a beginner started properly, you need a proper gun and you need proper instruction in safe gun handling. Without any doubt, the best step for a beginner is to enroll in an NRA Hunter Safety course.
I have attended many such courses over the years. Most recently I attended an NRA Hunter Safety course at Bass Pro Shops with my son-in-law Jonathan.
A cardinal rule was that there would be no live ammunition in class, but the students got to safely handle every sort of gun imaginable: single shot, lever action, bolt actions, semi-autos, double barrels, pistols and revolvers.
We learned how to check the action to see that a gun is empty and then memorized the eternal rule: You treat every gun as if it’s always loaded.
We learned to be sure of your backstop behind your target and how to carry your gun with the muzzle pointing in a safe direction. We also learned that with single-action revolvers and with some models of lever-action rifles, some folks would pull the hammer back to a half-cocked position and think the gun was safe to carry.
The problem is that the gun at half cock can fire if it is dropped or if something strikes the hammer. Hence, the phrase to go off half-cocked.
We must constantly keep on guard to avoid accidents. Because we are human, we will undoubtedly make mistakes, but whether we are physicians or firefighters or fry cooks, we must always strive to make our families safe.
Over the past 50 years or so, safety has achieved remarkable success. Even if you don’t hunt, you should consider taking an NRA-approved hunter safety course.
The most important part of all is to do it safely. Don’t go off half cocked.
Until next week, tight lines.
• Don Moyer, author and outdoors columnist for the Tracy Press, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.