With the addition of many new firearm owners in our country this year I have been thinking quite a bit about training methods and how they are applied. While I do not know the numbers, I assume that most of those purchases are handguns. I understand there are differences between the defensive use of handguns versus long guns used in hunting, but I wanted to share my experience in long gun training and for me why it was the best training I ever had.

A Firearm Is Always Loaded!

One of the first principles I was taught was to treat a firearm as though it was always loaded, always. It did not matter if it was unloaded, safety on, and ejection port was locked open; I never pointed the firearm in the direction of anything I didn’t want to be hit by a bullet.

I remember one of the first small game animals I hunted was with a .22 caliber single shot rifle. After hitting the target, I spun around out of excitement and pointed the barrel directly at my dad. He did not share in my excitement and I spent the rest of the day observing and not participating

This was the first in several lessons of treating a firearm as though it was always loaded, and ready to shoot even though it may not be. It taught me a healthy respect for situational awareness at all times.

What Is Around the Target.

Speaking of situational awareness, I will admit that when I was a young observer, I did not give much thought to what was around the target. A duck flew overhead, or a rabbit ran by and I saw people shoot. Plain and simple right?
It was not until I was old enough to shoot that situational awareness was drilled into my head. The area around where we were hunting was thoroughly scouted and the safe directions in which we could shoot were known. If an animal came into range, I had to constantly consider who or what was around me before I took the shot.

Judging Distance

Considering that most defensive uses of firearms are very short range, my gut tells me that some will have an issue with this point. But properly judging distance as it relates to the platform I was using and the species being hunted, is important.

Taking a shot at twenty-five yards versus fifty yards could make a huge difference as to if the target was hit and how quickly it was neutralized. When it came to hunting, I took my fair share of shots at unreasonable distances due to excitement and unjustified confidence. For some reason at the time, I thought that a shotgun could hit anything at almost any distance.

Only through experience and mentoring did I learn the importance of properly judging distance and its relationship to the target.

Firearm Maintenance

I have met several firearm owners who were not knowledgeable about firearm maintenance. Wiping down the exterior of the gun was about as close they got to it.

This brings me back to several occasions during a hunting trip that maintenance issues could have ruined the day. Issues such as a broken shotgun magazine plug, an ammunition jam, or a barrel clogged with mud. I was only able to “Save the day” because I was taught the ins and outs of the gun I was using.

When it comes to our tools, especially firearms, I believe that one should know as much as possible in its workings. After all, you never know what can happen, and being able to fix it on the spot could be a lifesaver.

Slow is Fast

I have been hunting with many individuals who had “itchy” trigger fingers. A bird would be flushed near us and that person would completely unload their shotgun without coming close to the bird.
I would then shoulder my shotgun and bring the bird down with one shot at a longer distance. I was taught to take my time and make sure that everything comes together comfortably before pulling the trigger. Slow is fast and fast is slow.

Buck Fever

For me, buck fever was the experience of mixing adrenaline with bagging a “trophy animal.” This had to do with getting a male deer, a buck, because of the antlers.

In my family, this was never the objective of hunting. The purpose was for the best meat, and the meat of female deer was better than that of male deer.

But for me, the idea of buck fever has more to do with the lead up to pulling the trigger. Mainly the physical properties. Heavy breathing, increased heart rate, shaking of the limbs, and tunnel vision.

The first time that I experienced this, it was profound. A buck walked in front of me and all I could think about was bagging the deer. But due to not being able to control my physical excitement I did not take the shot. Another time, after extreme physical exertion I was presented with a shot that I could not take. Up to that point, all my training had been based on relaxed prone, or sitting positions. Sometimes there are factors involved with the shooting that can greatly affect the shooting experience. Primarily, physical factors such as running, ducking, or anything else that can affect an otherwise perfect stance at the shooting range firing line.

The Ultimate Realization

Before I ever became a hunter, I witnessed the effects a firearm had on another living thing. But I never had to deal with those effects on a personal level. It is like buying ground beef in a store. I know that the cow was killed but I enjoy the burger nonetheless even though I did not kill it myself.

It was not until I killed my first duck that it came full circle. Even at a young age, the ramifications of my actions were known. I had the choice to kill. The animal is dead because of me. The duck would still be flying around in the sky if I had not shot it.

To be honest, I did not necessarily feel bad about it, but it helped to solidify my role in the circle of life and death. I realized early on that firearms are the great equalizer and that they must be wielded with the utmost respect.

Bryan Lynch is an outdoor and emergency preparedness enthusiast. Additionally, he is the author of Swiss Army Knife Camping and Outdoor Survival Guide as well as a content creator for various websites including www.guncritic.com