Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Which NRA Basic Pistol class is for you?

Are you looking to purchase a new pistol? Would you like to learn about how to safely use, store, and clean a pistol? Are you interested in getting a concealed carry permit?  Perhaps you are the spouse of a gun enthusiast, or a parent and just want to make sure you can safely handle a firearm while others are gone.  The latter makes up the majority of my students.

If you answered yes to any of these questions, consider taking an NRA Basic Pistol or FIRST (Firearms Instruction, Responsibility, and Safety Training) Steps Pistol course, taught by an NRA Certified Pistol Instructor.

Follow are the similarities and differences between the two courses to help you decide which is the best choice for you.

Both the Basic Pistol and the FIRST Steps courses are introductory in nature and present the same type of material. In each class, instructors cover the NRA’s gun safety rules, pistol nomenclature and operation, ammunition, shooting fundamentals, cleaning, range rules, and continued opportunities for skill development. The format of the classes is very similar, beginning with a classroom portion before heading to the range for live-fire shooting exercises.

Basic Pistol is a 10-hour course where students learn about both semi-automatic pistols and revolvers. FIRST Steps is only 3-4 hours long, and focuses on only one pistol action type (semi-automatic OR revolver, not both) and model (Beretta 96, etc). When choosing a course, make sure you take several factors into consideration – such as the action type of the gun you own or plan to purchase and your experience handling and shooting pistols.  If you are looking to learn about handling both semi-automatic pistols and revolvers, you may want to take the Basic Pistol course. If you already own a semi-automatic and want to learn more about your gun, then the FIRST Steps Pistol course may be right for you.

If you are still unsure about what class to take, ask the NRA Certified Instructor teaching the course to help you decide, or contact me.   Most instructors are very knowledgeable and eager to assist you. To get started, find a course in your area or learn more about NRA’s firearms training courses!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Back to basics: Cane pole fishing

Image by Cindy Baer Webster
I love to fish, and most of my friends feel the same way. More than likely, if you're reading this you like to fish too. I hope by the end of this article, you'll appreciate and try cane pole fishing.

Now a days you just can't grab your pole and go without stopping at the local bait shop, sporting goods store or mega-mart and picking up your fishing license. That alone can cost you well over $20, and if you're not a frequent fisherman the permit you have in your wallet is probably expired and you have to go get another. That could make for a costly trip. Perhaps your an avid fisherman, always keep a current license and you're always ready to go all the time. Cane pole fishing may be for you too.

There was a time for all of us when we could just grab our fishing pole, tackle box and go. In modern times, and by that I mean the last 40 or so years, the fish populations have dwindled due mostly to loss of habitat, and the problem has been compounded by less-than-ethical fisherman. The result is that game commissions all over our nation have put tighter restrictions on fishing, and even now in Florida, a resident needs a license or special permit to fish anywhere beyond their own property. See the FL Freshwater Regulations for example.

Recently I discovered Florida's "cane pole exemption" which states you do not need a license if "you are a resident who is fishing with live or natural bait, using poles or lines that are not equipped with a fishing-line-retrieval mechanism, and you are fishing for noncommercial purposes in your home county." (this could actually mean a pole make of any material)

I kind of fall into both categories mentioned above. My license seems to be expired every time I look at it and even though I have quality fishing tackle out in the shed, I appreciate old-school methods. We don't see cane pole fishing that frequently now, but it is still popular in some areas.

This morning I went to our other office where we have a marvelous stand of various bamboo varieties. I was looking for a straight piece about 8 to 10 feet long, but could find the right one. What I did find was a culm (stalk) of bamboo about 25 feet tall which I fell and cut off the last 10 feet. I plan on using it all. I suppose I could fish with the tip immediately, but my plan is to let it dry slowly, cut and sand the rough edges and put a finish coat of varnish on it. I'll let you know how it turns out.

I hope some of you will try this! If so, please send me your comments. If you're doing it to save money, or just to get back to basics, both are good reasons. I also have to admit I hate giving the government money to utilize our fishing resources, paying another fee beyond the taxes I'm already paying!

In researching this topic I found the marvelous work of Cindy Baer Webster, an artist and educator based out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. She owns the company smART Decor and travels all over the mid-west painting murals. I hope you'll visit her site.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Outdoors Essay Contest sponsored by Coleman

You know, I don't normally promote commercial groups on this site, being a government employee and all - but this is different!

I found this on the Outdoor Bloggers Network, and Coleman the outdoor equipment company is sponsoring an essay contest.  The winner gets a fabulous package of camping gear.  Here is the link to the contest.  If any of you submit an essay, send a copy to me as well and I might just post it here.  My email address is or  The deadline for this contest is midnight. May 28, Mountain Standard Time.

If I hear of another outdoor writing contest sponsored by anyone, I'll be sure and post it here.  Parents and teachers, be sure to notify kids and students you know to submit an entry.

Monday, May 7, 2012

How young is too young to take a child shooting?

In the Florida 4-H Shooting Sports program, which is part of the National 4-H Shooting Sports program, a committee had determined that shooting sports begins for a child at 8 years old.  They have set the following guidelines, which most states have adopted:
  • Age 8-10 (4-H Juniors) are allowed to learn archery and air rifle (pellet).
  • Age 11-13 (4-H Intermediates) are allowed to learn virtually all of the rest of the shooting sports, including rifle (small bore or .22 rimfire), black powder rifles and shotguns (muzzle loading) and shotgun.
  • Age 14-18 are reserved some special privileges such as air pistol (not in Florida), but in other states they can learn high power rifle, high power pistol and crossbow.
There is a reason these guidelines have been put in place.  They weren't just concocted by some non-shooters who are trying to hold kids back.  On the contrary, the National 4-H Shooting Sports Committee who set this standard is made up of some of the finest Educator/Shooters in the country, with representation on the committee from the NRA and industry.

This past weekend I had a great time teaching my 8 year old grandson Gavin how to shoot a black powder rifle, and since it was not a 4-H program, I was okay with the laws and liabilities of the situation.  Prior to going, I was not quite sure how he would handle it.  Once or twice before I taught him the basics or air rifle handling in the backyard, so this was quite a few steps up in complexity and power.  He did very well to make a long story short, but that is because his Papa Gus helped him every step of the way, quizzing him on safety, parts and procedure the whole time.  Was I able to shoot too?  Of course I was.  Utilizing the Coach-Pupil method of teaching, I had him coach me, just as I had him - every step of the way, reinforcing his knowledge gain.  The other part that I was concerned about, and was not sure until I tried it, was using the Caldwell Lead Sled to help him make his shots.  This wonderful tool took almost all of the recoil of the gun away, but allowed him the flexibility to adjust his own sights, and shoot the gun himself.  I first learned about the Lead Sled at the 2009 Orlando SHOT Show, but they can be purchased at most stores that sell quality shooting gear.

I need to point out that even though these are the recommended ages for 4-H, they differ for other youth programs, and sometimes within the same program but state to state and county by county.  Check with your local youth leadership professional to be sure.  Some programs are more or less stringent, but I think they're about right.  No child is however too young to learn about the dangers and risks involved with guns and anything that shoots a projectile.  Kids are killed virtually every week with air rifles, airsoft and paintball guns.  They should all be respected, and every member of the household, oldest to youngest should know The 3 Always of 1) Always keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction, 2) Always keep the gun unloaded until you're ready to use it, and 3) Always keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.

There are some excellent articles and helps written on the Ages and Stages of kids.  My very first reference for this is the Univ. of Florida EDIS publications on teen development.  Another great site for this is