By Becky Bernard
A mix of excitement and nervousness filled the air as 17 students with little to no shooting experience took their seats to learn about gun safety and the use of handguns. Davenport Guns regularly partners with the National Shooting Sports Foundation to host First Shots classes with the most recent class being taught on Sunday, May 19, 2019.
The mission of the First Shots program is:
To promote responsible firearm ownership through introductory seminars that focus on local and state requirements coupled with a hands-on activity, and delivered by and at NSSF partner ranges.
The morning began with Davenport Guns Training Manager, Doug Button, introducing himself and speaking about his qualifications (retired Army sniper). He talked about various uses for firearms including law enforcement duties, personal protection, competition, recreational target shooting, and hunting.
He then quickly shifted to gun safety and the proper way to handle a firearm. Mr. Button taught the class about the operation of handguns and their components highlighting the similarities and contrasting the differences between semi-automatic handguns and revolvers.
Mr. Button covered the tenants of firearm safety at length offering practical scenarios for each point to further emphasize the importance of safety noting to students, “Firearm safety depends on you!” He discussed the laws surrounding gun ownership, storage, operation and emphasized the following points:
- A shooter/gun owner must fully understand the mechanical operation of the gun.
- Gun muzzle must always be pointed in a safe direction (and may only be pointed at targets a shooter is willing to destroy).
- Gun safety mechanisms aren’t to be relied upon (guns should always be considered loaded and ready to fire).
- The only time one’s finger is to be on the trigger only when ready to fire the gun.
- A shooter must be sure of the target and what is beyond the target (shooters are responsible for the entire path of their fired bullet until it comes to rest).
- Correct ammunition must be used.
- A weapon must remain unloaded until it is time to be fired.
- Absolutely NO alcohol or drugs may be used or in one’s system when handling a gun.
As part of the safety lecture, students learned that the cause of firearm accidents is a result of either one’s lack of knowledge about guns or worse yet, one being careless with guns. The First Shots class curriculum was designed to teach students how to safelyhandle and shoot handguns.
The unique feature of the First Shots Program is that a student needed no prior firearms knowledge or experience. All safety equipment (eye and ear protection), handgun and ammunition for the class was provided by Davenport Guns at no additional expense to students.
Because students would transition from the classroom to the shooting range for hands-on exercises and live fire, Mr. Button assisted them in determining eye dominance. He also covered the components of shooting a handgun: grip, stance, aiming, sight-alignment, sight-picture, breath-control, trigger-press, and follow-through.
Following the classroom lecture, Range Safety Officer Kevin Kraft spoke to the class about shooting range safety, rules and etiquette. He introduced the RSOs who would be assisting students during the live-fire exercises. Students were paired with a Range Safety Officer for one-on-one instruction where they learned about the Smith and Wesson .22 caliber pistol provided for use in the class. They were taught how to handle the weapon… loading it, racking the slide, dropping the magazine, clearing the chamber, etc. RSOs worked with students on their stance and how to aim covering sight-alignment and sight-picture. And finally, students were permitted to fire at a high visibility target. With each magazine, students inched their shots closer and closer to their intended point on the target, and as questions surfaced, RSOs worked with students to their satisfaction. After everyone emptied a few magazines, returned their pistols and washed their hands, the class returned to the classroom for a Question and Answer session. After everyone’s questions were answered, instructor evaluations were completed and a NSSF survey was taken. Students learned about the myriad of shooting sports activities, and last, they were given a parting gift of a Davenport Guns t-shirt and their target from the live-fire exercise.
In speaking with students after the class who had no prior gun experience, they all indicated that the class vastly improved their comfort level handling a handgun citing the emphasis throughout the class about gun safety and proper handling techniques.
Lyn, a first-time shooter from Geneseo, Illinois, exclaimed, “It was an amazing class! I had no idea what I was going to get myself into.” She said while she had no experience with guns, she had always wanted to shoot a gun and the class offered the perfect opportunity to do just that. Her biggest take away from First Shots was, “If you respect the gun, it will respect you.” Lyn said she plans to continue her education and training with firearms.
John and Megan attended First Shots after hearing an advertisement about it on the radio. John had some prior shooting experience as a youth, and his companion Megan had never shot a gun. They felt learning together about gun safety would be beneficial. John described the class as “A wonderful reintroduction” and went on to say the thorough coverage of gun safety “brought back what he knew with clarity.” Megan plans to take more classes and has a desire to get into recreational shooting.
The next First Shots class is being offered at Davenport Guns on June 30, 2019 from 9 AM – Noon. No prior shooting experience required. For more information, visit https://www.davenportguns.com/classes/first-shots/.