Summer is finally here in the Midwest. My mind is slipping to cold fronts, whitetails, and fall turkeys between the kids’ sports schedules, keeping up with the garden and lawn, and the never-ending “honey-to-do-lists.” I’m lucky to have a career in the outdoor industry. I think my kids truly enjoy it, too, watching me shoot my bow, talk about past trips, and pack for my next hunting adventure. Their generation is different from mine, as they grow up in a technology-rich era with rapidly changing social surroundings. Now, more than ever, I want to pass on my traditions, morals, and experiences to them. I’m grateful they already show a passion for the outdoors. This summer, they expressed interest in the hunting sports. I was thrilled to see this, so I got a hold of a few Daisy Red Ryders and set some time aside this past weekend to start them off on their own lifelong adventures in the shooting sports world.
The Daisy Red Ryder Carbine is a nostalgic BB gun that most of the world can identify (thanks to a classic Christmas movie) and is a great starting point for any young child interested in learning to shoot. The lever cocking spring air BB gun is easy to load, firing .177cal BB’s, has little to no recoil, is quiet, and can be used in most backyards. When fired, the BB’s typically travel through the smooth bore steel barrel around 350fps, so a simple backstop like a fence, thick box, or half-inch plywood backing will work. The BB loses momentum and drops quickly, so long-distance travel is out of the picture. The Daisy Red Ryder Carbine has a solid wood stock that fits most kids, a fixed blade and ramp front sight, and an adjustable rear sight that helps teach the basics of iron sights and sight alignment. We are not seeking precision target shooting here. After all, this article is about how you can get more youngsters into shooting sports by teaching firearm safety and basic marksmanship skills through an inexpensive and easy setup like this.
With school out for the summer and the kids already bored around the house, a craft day was organized to focus some energy and attention on building unique homemade targets. As with anything in our family, the kids had to turn it into a competition which meant I had to select the best target. Having four kids, one is always upset that they didn’t win, and the others won’t accept the “all of you are winners to me” standard response. So, I picked one, others cried, and we moved on. It’s not hard to find or build your own targets when shooting BBs. Just about anything will work. I feel the more involved kids can be in the process, the better, and this project was a success thanks to common materials around the house and garage. The unique targets also added to the overall fun on the range. I encourage you to build your own targets and remember, anything can be a target with a bit of imagination.
After we construct the targets, we started to set up our range and laid out a course of fire. I wanted my oldest (almost 12 years old) to be challenged and my youngest (a 5-year-old) to have fun while still being able to actually hit the targets. We scattered them across the yard at numerous distances, filling the area with colorful displays, drawings of exotic animals, and added a few monsters into the mix. We hung balloons in the bushes to simulate squirrels, placed empty cans on logs to be our alligators, and included some super fun Rocket Shot Target Launchers to be our pheasants. We found it genuinely fun as the Rocket Shot launched a can in the air and the other shooter tried to shoot it before it fell. I didn’t think shooting BB’s would be such an exhilarating time, but I found it to be truly entertaining.
Maybe I need to hang out more with people a fraction of my age. The youthful crowd of imaginative kids seems to rejuvenate and inspire me to have more fun and less serious. Aside from just shooting targets for the sake of shooting targets, we honed our shooting skills in different positions too. With a bit of imagination (and military attire), we set the stage and transformed into “Army snipers,” having to complete a course of fire at several targets in the prone position. Next, we headed west and became Buffalo Bill and Calamity Jane, turning the backyard into the great prairie. Starting from a picnic table that quickly became a stagecoach, we “hunted buffalo” while taking aim from the kneeling position. And for the last stage, I have an old tree stand about four feet off the ground. Each of my little shooters climbed up and had their own “deer hunt” to fire from a standing position.
As the day was coming to an end, the kids learned how to handle firearms safely, basic range etiquette, and marksmanship skills applied to crossbows, handguns, muzzleloaders, and long guns. I can remember shooting my first Daisy and the adventures I had with it. I’m sure my kids will have their own memories of shooting, laughing, and the excitement our little range day brought to each of them. It’s safe to say they’re hooked! It’s a proud dad moment to see their enthusiasm in the sport I respect so much. Today sets the foundation for my kids to build a relationship with nature and upkeeping the responsibilities in our rights to bear arms. I also look at today as helping shape the next generation into wildlife lovers and future conservationists.
Looking back now, I had the most fun today. I’ll tuck this memory away and pull it out now and then when the house becomes empty and the backyard grows quiet.
Firearm safety is rule number one on any range. Always wear eye protection and hearing protection (when applicable).