Judgment is something that appears everywhere in everyday life. However, I believe that being judged is one of the biggest obstacles that aspiring gun owners and hobbyists face. It happens to me when I go to the gun range. Sometimes, the people who work there or other shooters look at me like I don’t belong in a gun range.
I understand their apprehension towards me because I don’t look like someone who would typically know anything about guns. I am a skinny, clean shaven, and young-looking college student. I don’t match the typical depiction of what many people think gun owners look like and I don’t fit into the demographic known to be very responsible.
It is unfortunate because I am quite the opposite of their initial thoughts. I grew up in a gun-friendly house and I learned how to be safe at a very young age. I read and learn about firearms in my free time. I engage in forums and I keep up with the latest news.
I built the AR-15 that I am shooting and I can break it down in my sleep. The main point of this is to show that these people don’t know me, but they judge me because I look inexperienced. It doesn’t matter. I take it in stride because once I get on the lanes and prove that I know what I am doing, it all stops.
Elitist Gun Enthusiasts
This is where it gets tricky. Getting onto the range poses a challenge that every newbie will have to face. Many enthusiasts have been training and shooting for many years. They can spot mistakes and inexperience from a mile away.
This is what beginning shooters seem to be the most afraid of when they are trying to get into guns. They are afraid of being judged, shunned, or belittled. This is a reasonable fear because firearms are a serious activity. They are not like other hobbies that are more lighthearted and beginners want to make sure that they do not make a mistake.
Adding to that fear, a lot of people that you see at the range can seem intimidating, both physically and mentally. Gun owners are an eclectic bunch. All kinds of people enjoy shooting, but a good majority of them are current or former military, police officers, or security personnel.
Obviously, any of these professions require training, discipline, and the need to be direct and stern. I think this is where a major divide is caused between beginners and the gun culture. The more experienced and hardened shooters have a no BS outlook on guns.
To them, firearms are a way of life, a profession, and an essential tool, while beginners see firearms as an exciting, fun, and new experience. Can you see what I am getting at? I’m not bashing anyone, because I support and understand both perspectives. I just think that these two sides of the coin don’t mesh well together.
Keeping Gun Culture Alive
Luckily, the divide I mentioned does not run very deep. Many beginners do not realize that they are vital to furthering the gun culture in America. Without new support, the gun culture would dissolve and disappear.
Unlike other interests, guns require a constant stream of support. There isn’t a dissenting force trying to ban soccer or painting. Experienced gun owners know and understand that new shooters are the necessary advocacy that they need.
This is a key factor that beginners need to understand about the gun culture. Other shooters may come across as frigid, but they don’t want to discourage new shooters. In fact, they want to help beginners get acclimated and enjoy the sport.
Getting Started as a Beginner
If you are looking to get into shooting, you will never be short on friendly advice so long as you can remember a few guidelines.
- The 4 rules of gun safety: This is vital. You need to demonstrate that you know how to handle a firearm safely or else no one will go near you. If you want people to warm up to you then don’t give them a reason to doubt your abilities. Learn at home and drill these rules into you head. Once they are second nature, you won’t even have to think about them.
- Leave your ego at the door. Don’t act like you know all about firearms and how to shoot. Be open to criticism and suggestions. Ask questions to other people if they seem open to it. Most will be happy to help out a fellow shooter with advice or with information on their gun. They may even let you fire theirs a few times.
Remember that experienced gun owners want you there. They want you to learn how to be responsible with a weapon and also how to have fun with it. They are not trying to scare you off. Use this to keep your confidence when interacting with other members of the gun culture. We all need each other in order to continue enjoying the activity that we all share.