As one gets older and gains perspective, things pop into the rear-view mirror. Looking back, I’m worried that I didn’t make a sufficient effort to introduce my kids to the outdoors — hunting, fishing, camping, backpacking — and to shooting. My meager efforts didn’t induce a love of being outside, a respect for wild animals or an appreciation for the Second Amendment.

The Generations of Shooters

Then along came grandchildren. Suddenly the rebellious teens you raised fade in importance. New, receptive clay appears on the wheel and you’re finding the time, the money and the inclination to work at things you were only half-passionate about a generation ago.

A generation ago, I was too absorbed in me. I was more interested in shooting a Boone & Crockett buck, competing in IDPA events and developing a distinctive cowboy shooting costume. I sacrificed family time for overtime to buy a 12-gauge. I didn’t hear my wife’s interest in going to the shooting range.

Now we have Piper and Ian.

Two white children, a boy aged 9 and an 11-year-old girl, standing smiling in a lush, green Florida yard. The girl wears a floral maroon top and is cradling a scoped Crosman .177 air rifle. her brother is wearing a bright royal blue ong-sleeved shirt, round Harry Potter glasses and is displaying a yellow plastic "Bug-A-Salt" toy shotgun.

Grandchildren Piper, 11, and Ian, 9, with their spring-powered guns of choice. Piper holds the Crosman pellet rifle and Ian the Bug-A-Salt “toy,” which he absolutely loves. Loaded with salt, it is ideal for fun — cheap and easy — even around the picnic table. (Photo by Rick Sapp)

Ready-Made to Be the Next Generation of Gun Owners

Grandchildren are ready-made for a good time. Listen to them and put in some effort and you can almost make up for screwing up your kids. You can help a new generation understand that meat is not grown in grocery stores, that things that go “bang” are not necessarily evil and that self-defense is not someone else’s responsibility.

When we moved to Florida, not far from the grandkids, we found a home with space to play outdoors — nearly two heavily wooded acres. We first built an archery backstop from 2x4s and hay bales. The parents had introduced the kids to archery but, working 12 hours a day, rarely had time to take them to a gun range.

Certainly, the kids spend most of their time in the pool, but they are also eager to shoot. We set up a cardboard-backed target and they had fun. And when we set an apple on the target and bet a million dollars … well, they really began to have fun!

We followed archery with air rifles. They’re quiet, and the .177 pellets won’t travel beyond our property, which is well-screened with brush and trees. The kids had a ball. The parents bought a low-power Crosman air rifle but were concerned about shooting in their crowded neighborhood.

We helped the grandkids shoot in the backyard. We weren’t nagging them to “do it right” — just teaching safety and having fun. Sitting back in a lawn chair, I imagined saving tin cans, blowing up balloons and filling milk jugs with water for future pellets and arrows.

Shooting with the grandkids is satisfaction. Of course, I now have to come up with a couple million dollars, as both grandchildren nailed that apple. I can see these young recruits respectfully carrying concealed one day, understanding the phrase “responsibly armed American.”


About Rick Sapp

Rick Sapp earned his Ph.D. in social anthropology after his time in the U.S. Army working for the 66th Military Intelligence Group during the Soviet invasion. Following his time in Paris, France, he worked for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service before turning to journalism and freelance writing. Along with being published in several newspapers and magazines, Rick has authored more than 50 books for a variety of publishers.