Wednesday’s Blog – Guns 101

Well, where to begin? I know not everyone likes guns. I do. I think they are a very useful tool, and something that (to me) embodies and symbolizes being an American. I have the right, given to me by the Second Amendment, to use a gun to defend my person and property. This right is not present in other countries, and with budgeting constraints on law enforcement, I am not comfortable giving up that right for the chance that they will have someone available to take care of a threat and respond in a timely manner if and when the time comes. I am willing to take that responsibility onto myself. But as a result I am committing myself to handling a gun responsibly and safely, as all gun owners should. For the record, I have defended my property using one of my shotguns in 2003.

A gun is a tool that deserves respect and requires proper handling in its usage. Guns have a very specific purpose. They are used to cause mortal trauma to something at a distance. Simply put, guns are tools that kills things. Thus they require that level of respect and correct handling due a tool that can take life away. I am trying to not get into the politics of gun ownership with this blog, so I apologize in advance if I cross over a little.

Hunting is different than gun ownership in that Hunting is a privilege and gun ownership is a right. Hunting can be infringed on with federal, state, and local restrictions. In my view, gun ownership cannot be infringed on (even though it currently is). So, it is every hunter’s responsibility to act respectfully and ethically so that hunting can continue. But I digress, Hunting is a whole other subject I will cover in another post!

If you are interested in learning more about gun safety in a practical setting, I would highly recommend taking a Hunter Safety Course. Not only do you learn about hunting, the course covers gun handing and safety. I taught CA Hunter Safety, or “Hunter Education” for 2 years before I moved to Oregon, and the course material is much better now that it was when I took it in 1990.

Guns are also called firearms. A firearm is a mechanical device that uses pressure from a burning powder to force a projectile through and out of a metal tube. Contrast this with airguns, that use compressed air, CO2, or springs. All guns have 3 parts: an action, a stock, and a barrel.
Flash video of how a gun works

An action loads, fires, and ejects the ammunition. There are several different types of actions.
A stock is the handle for the action.
A barrel is the tube that the projectile travels down and out of on its way to the target.

All firearms use ammunition (ammo for short). Ammunition is made up of the case, powder, primer, and projectile (which varies depending on what kind of firearm you are using).

There are 3 different kinds of guns. Shotguns, rifles, and handguns. Both shotguns and rifles are used for hunting. Handguns can be used for hunting, however they are not as prevalent as the first two. The reason being is because the range and accuracy of handguns is limited by its size. Handguns are much smaller and therefore do not offer the advantages of increased range and accuracy that shotguns and rifles do. I do not own a handgun, but I am in the market. For me, a handgun is for personal protection. I am going to buy one because I want to have the ability to defend myself in the field from 2-legged creatures (read other people) in addition to 4-legged creatures like cougars or bears when I am hunting or fishing, or camping etc.

Rifles: Rifles are used to hit a far-off point (max effective range is under a mile, depending on ammo). They use a large amount of powder to fire a single, small projectile (the bullet). Rifle sizes are measured in caliber, that is the diameter of the barrel in tenths of an inch or in millimeters. This is also the measurement used for handguns. Rifles are mainly used in the taking of larger game, such as deer, elk, and bear, however smaller caliber rifles are used by more skilled people to take smaller game such as squirrels, rabbits, and birds. There are 5 main actions for rifles (bolt, pump, lever, semi-auto, and break or hinge). The most common rifle used for hunting is the 30-06 bold action.
Interactive rifle with parts labeled

Shotguns: Are used to hit an area not too far away (max effective range is 40-60 yards). They use a smaller amount of powder to fire a bunch of little metal balls called ‘shot’ or ‘pellets’ that spread out as they travel through the air and cover an area about 1/2 yard square. Shotgun sizes are measured in gauge, which is an old method of dividing a pound of lead into equally-sized balls and the balls would be the same diameter as the barrel. Funny yeah? So a 12-gauge shotgun would have 12 equally-sized lead balls and each ball would be the diameter of the barrel. There is one shotgun size that is measured in tenths of an inch, and that is the .410, which is a very small gauge and used by people that shoot A LOT. Shotguns are used to take smaller game, most commonly birds, both waterfowl and upland birds, but also smaller game such as squirrels and rabbits. Shotguns can be used for deer, but they use a much larger sized shot or a slug. Not all shotguns can use this different ammo though. Shotguns have 6 common actions (pump, break or hinge with single, side-by-side barrels or over & under barrels, semi-auto, and bolt-action repeater). The most common shotgun is the 12-gauge pump action.
Interactive pump-action shotgun with labels

Handguns: Handguns are used to shoot a point not too far away. Handgun ammo is a smaller version of rifle ammo. Again, handguns can be used for hunting but general are not. They are used for personal defense and as a quick ‘backup’ gun in the case of larger game like bear where one shot may not instantly kill an animal. There are four actions for handguns, revolver, double cocking revolver, break or hinge, and semi-automatic.
Gun Safety
The key to using guns is to use them safely. I like to follow the 10 Commandments of Gun Safety, however I have one concrete rule of my own that I will share with you. I never, ever ever point a gun, loaded or unloaded, at something I don’t intend to shoot. Period. I also never put my finger on the trigger until I am just about to shoot the gun. Guns are not toys, they are a function-specific tool. My cousin forgot this rule and shot himself in the head, and he grew up with guns. The only time I point a gun at something I don’t intend to shoot is when I’m having a gun fitted for me, which requires you to point the gun at the gunsmith while he looks down the barrel at you. Needless to say I don’t like it, but as long as you practice proper gun safety there are no problems.

The 10 Commandments of Gun Safety Link to list with pictures
The first four are the Cardinal Rules of Gun Safety.
1. Watch that muzzle. Keep it pointed in a safe direction.
2. Treat every firearm the respect due a loaded gun.
3. Be sure of the target and what is in front of and beyond it.
4. Keep your finger outside of the trigger guard until ready to shoot.
5. Check your barrel and ammunition.
6. Unload firearms when not in use.
7. Point a firearm only at something you intend to shoot.
8. Don’t run jump or climb with a loaded firearm.
9. Store firearms and ammunition separately and safely.
10. Avoid alcoholic beverages before and during shooting.

Pew Research Center “Gun Control Splits America”