Where It Came From; Where It’s Going

[ This guest post was written by GD Crocker ]

It’s easy to be critical in this age of abundance. I’ll have to admit, even I’m sick of the zombie-themed gear and tactical everything. But almost every article, review and write-up is bombarded with negative and overly (I’d say unfairly) critical comments. Most shooters are very verbose about their preferences and some use those to hide their weaknesses. However, those preferences are often used as heavy artillery, firing for effect on anything new. I remember just twenty years ago, there were NO accessories for the AR platform. My dad bought a Colt with a detachable carry handle and my friends and I were in awe. Now, you can get almost anything, anywhere, night or day to accessorize an AR, up to and including a chainsaw. I am in a state of perpetual amazement that this is even a possibility, let alone a reality. I tend to celebrate innovation, rather than stifle it because of my own preferences and critiques, and I freely admit that while a product may not be “right for me”, I’m happy for whomever else wants something and can afford it. In short, American shooters (as well as shooters in general) are the most knowledgeable, generous and all-around cool people on the planet and now is the time to stand together. After all, I’d be willing to bet that most of us are only a few decades removed from relatives that had to shoot out of necessity instead of recreationally.

During the past couple of months of ammo shortages and skyrocketing prices, I’ve tried to reflect on where my love of shooting came from. Admittedly, I have lead, brass and copper in my DNA. Like most of you, it would be impossible to know how many rounds I’ve fired, guns I’ve cleaned, or quarts of Hoppe’s #9 I’ve been through.


My son taking aim with his Cricket.

This love of shooting began long before law school, where I intricately studied the 2nd Amendment. It started long before the years I worked in a gun store during college, which was the best job I ever had. It started years before I met and gained a deep respect for Massad Ayoob. It started years before I would buy bandoliers of 8mm rounds at a gun show for $3 and then shoot until I couldn’t even hold my Mauser. It started years before I got my first handgun – a Colt 1911 – and cheated on it and fell in love with a Sig 226. It started years before my best friend Jon and I seemingly spent entire summers shooting. It started years before I met the cool neighbor in the new neighborhood we moved to; the neighbor with the class III 1928 Thompson, two British Stens, a suppressed .22 pistol and the progressive Dillon press. It started long before I lived to hear the stories of veterans, Southern farmers engaging in property disputes with firearms and impossible shots that hunters claim they routinely make. It started before I ever watched the Duke and Yul Brynner administer justice on the bad guys and before I spent endless childhood hours reading about the Alamo, Gettysburg, and Bastogne. It even started before I realized that shooting was part of my birthright as a Southerner.

The realization I came to sprang from some of my earliest memories: my dad taking me shooting.

I fired my first shots from my dad’s Ruger Mk II pistol, which I now own, when I was three years old. My dad would take my brother and I through the woods, his scoped Remington 700 on his shoulder. Dad never missed an opportunity to take us shooting. I went from a Marlin .22 rifle to a .20 gauge Remington 870 and beyond. We didn’t have a lot of money, but ammo was cheap and time was preciously used forging a family of shooters. Some of my fondest memories are of shooting with my dad, under his careful direction, and always listening to his well-placed comments on personal responsibility and respecting firearms and human life.

With my own roots discovered, I then wondered what had lit the fire in my dad. Who was it that had taught him to love shooting like he had taught me? Then I discovered something that I suspect may be applicable to a lot of us, maybe even most of us. I learned to shoot because of recreation, spare time and a little spare money. My dad learned to shoot out of necessity.

When he was a kid, his family was so poor that his dad would give him a couple of .22 shells and an old rifle. Whatever he shot was what they ate. Missing was a liability for my dad and his family, a family of 10, who were dirt-poor sharecroppers in eastern Arkansas. Shooting was a way of life because it was life, or at least the source to help sustain life. Shooting for my dad was an appreciation. It was a skill. It was an art. It was the source of producing for a family in a time when there was no assistance or help from anyone but yourself. I’m not claiming it kept them all from starving, but I know for a fact that it kept them all from going hungry. I think that left an impression of self-reliance and personal responsibility on my dad, with the realization that the gun was a tool for that job. As a result, I have never met a more disciplined or tempered shooter, or a better long-range marksman. (Another story that I won’t bore you with is that on one occasion, my dad defended our family and home with his S&W .41 magnum, because the police were at least twenty minutes away. He had learned that his responsibilities were his own, not someone had to call on the phone and ask for help.)

I doubt that kind of shooting to feed a family out of necessity is the case very much anymore and that disconnect from necessity is, in my opinion, leading to a degree of irresponsibility with firearms use among some shooters.

This all led to some sobering realizations and pleasant memories. This has certainly firmed my resolve for helping pass these rights to my kids.

My daughter and her Cricket.

My daughter and her Cricket.

I am a member of several gun rights advocacy groups and absolutely recommend that kind of activity. But I believe the greatest thing I can do to help further the legacy is to do what my dad did: use what he learned out of necessity to teach. Not to lecture or overwhelm with what I think is knowledge, but to teach that guns are tools that are essential for many purposes. They can protect and preserve life and must be respected and appreciated.

For years working in a gun store, I saw seasoned shooters lecture newcomers and overload them with their preferences. Often they would deride a particular manufacturer they claimed to have a bad experience with or recommend their preferences as the gold standard of the gun industry, leaving no room for anything else. They often told shooters that they absolutely must get x, y, or z ammo or scope, etc., without every determining the shooters length of pull or aversion to recoil or any number of other factors that would be act to welcome shooters into a grand community. There was no comparison between these well-intentioned but overbearing folks, and the quiet, generous example of someone who had been there and done it to sustain life, like my dad. Most of the shooters I’ve been around are like that – generous with their time and information, and would bend over backwards to help a new shooter, as it should be.

I trace my love of shooting back to the selflessness of a single person, and to an extent to all the people over the years that loved it every bit as much as me.

So, I have resolved to do the same. I am going to make my dad’s influence felt and extend his and my love of shooting to others. I’m vowing right now to take people to the range, to actively look for ways to expand the shooting community and to get involved. I want people to appreciate guns, the gun industry and gun owners. I want people to understand that I own a gun because it’s my God-given right, but I appreciate and love to shoot recreationally because my dad had to shoot out of necessity. It was his understanding of the importance of guns, and not just the guns themselves, that made all the difference in the world.

Expanding the gun community is a new goal of mine and I intend to accomplish that goal by not letting others define who I am, or who my dad was, as a shooter. I’m not going to let politicians, Hollywood, the media, the ignorant, or anyone with an agenda tell potential shooters who I am. That’s my responsibility.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Well written, and it echoes my own experiences. Some of my fondest memories were times spent at the range with my dad, back to the first bolt action Chipmunk 22 rifle he bought for me and my little sister to learn the fundamentals. For him, teaching us was both a matter of safety, and of responsibility – a gun is a tool, a tool whose power needs to be respected by the person who uses it.

  • Sadly, my dad was the polar opposite. My earliest memory was taking a box full of sick farm cats out to the woods where he would shoot them. This didn’t turn me off of guns but didn’t feed any desire either. Then, when I was still too young, he handed me a 12 gauge shotgun. I wasn’t prepared for the recoil at all. That pretty much did it for me.

    Years later, in my teens, I discovered his pump action .22lr. You could load 16 rounds or so in the tube and shoot as fast as you could pump it. I really enjoyed shooting that with my friends.

    Then, at 18 I joined the army and really liked the m16 but by the time I got out a ban was in place and I had no desire, and less money, to hunt. It wasn’t until I had my own son that I thought about shooting and bought my first .22lr to teach him the art. But society has turned. None of his friends shoot and his school teaches the evils of it. My wife is no help, she is so anti-gun, she thinks all guns should be thrown in a pile and burned. The thinking today is that they are ruthless tools of a bygone era, no longer pertinent. How do we, as enthusiasts, change that distorted thinking. Perhaps by doing what the writer suggests.

    A good article occupies some of your time to read, a great article makes you want to tell your own story. Thanks for writing.

    • Don’t give up the ship, Ron. The future is far from written.

      • Jordon Tyler

        The world has changed


    A calm voice of reason in the storm as always.

    • Steve (TFB Editor)

      Not Steve (this post was written by GD)

  • Great read. My father taught me to shoot but he sees guns as tools for getting food. He don’t go hungry as a kid but he would tell me stories of going up into the hills of undeveloped sections in SoCal to hunt deer, rabbits and other small game. With guns, bows, slingshots.

    I’m not a hunter. It took 10 years of airsoft to get me into Firearms. Now I shoot competitively. I try to get people to the range but they have a lax look on shooting. Most of them are in NYC, I even offer them rides from the train station to the range. But no one has taken me up on my offer. Silly city people.

  • B

    My mother divorced my father before 1st grade for me, so I never had a father take me out and teach me, even though he had firearms of his own.
    I learned to use a firearm out of necessity – farm work required it at times. Getting rid of varmints, doing some small game hunting to add to the table, or putting down animals for slaughter or mercy. It wasn’t an easy life, but it taught me a lot of responsibility because whenever I carried that rifle or shotgun, if I made a mistake someone could have been hurt or killed.
    This was a great article, thanks for writing down your experience.

  • tincankilla

    Steve, have you noticed a change in the tone of comments since you changed the commenting system? Or just since all this political trouble and price spikes? To chime in with your sentiment, I grew up shooting, left it for a while, but had the recent experience of handling and shooting the .22s, the 30-30, and the Crossman pellet gun of my youth – and remembered just how much I loved shooting. I’ve learned a TON from reading the comments in the past – mostly from guys who really know the technology way better than I do.

    • mikewest007

      Hey, at least I don’t have to sign in as “The Other Mike” when someone named Mike posts a comment before me! 😉

    • Steve (TFB Editor)

      There are less comments that before. I don’t know about the tone. What it does mean is that trolls can’t impersonate other people, which was a major problem and very hard to prevent, and very time consuming to sort out when it did happen.

    • Moderating the comments daily as does Steve when I’m not I concur there are fewer comments and I’ll even say a slight increase in tone to the negative. Why? I think for some it’s aggravation with the current situation because they read a review and can’t buy the product. I see a good number of short replies about that subject.
      The political aspect and price spikes sure did kick it off.

  • Teach the children well.

    We were a fixture at every gun show within a 300 mile radius. It was glorious to be part of such a tight – knit shooting and collecting community. This well-written article brought tears to my eyes and resolve to my heart.

  • Mike Knox

    This article bring me back to when we used to shoot my uncle’s SP1 and grandad’s G43. But some things from the good old days had to end..

  • This is a great article, thanks for sharing with us.

  • Lee

    My dad taught me to shoot growing up in Alaska. Had to take care of squirrels and the occasional deer. Those were some of the best times in my life. Shooting from a moving platform in a skiff gave me all kinds of experience that most never get, I’ll always be gratefully for those times early on. Funny thing is, I’m no good on a bench rest at stationary targets. I’ve never adjusted sights either, just see where it shoots and use Kentucky windage. This is not a boast, more of a shortcoming, I’m terrible with optics. Point is, this article reminded me of memories that I cherish and will pass on to my daughter.

  • Al T.

    GD, nice write up. BTW, your kids are adorable.

  • ACSG

    Good post. Keep it up.

  • Miles

    Well written, Dave!

    I sure miss our shooting adventures for days gone by and the times we shared these philosophical discussions we my sons – good memories…

  • davidc

    Great article ! Keep it up ! Adorable kids ! I wish my dad had taught me when i was that young. Did buy me a 410 later, not the best to learn on.

  • PatrickHenry1789

    First time here, great article and a great looking family. I’ve tried to get my young daughter in to it. I brought her to the range one day and it scared her to death. She loves archery, but the noise from the guns scares her.

    • Maddie

      My sister-in-law was the same way until we put ear muffs on her. The noise level dropped and she was more comfy. Try it.

  • northernscout

    What can I say after this positive thing on shooting. I have tinitus from all my history of shooting as a young man. I really enjoyed taking my guns out and blasting away at targets. Most of what I shot was .22 merely because of the cost of ammunition, also a .177 BSA pellet rifle.

    As for those who wish to store there food away for a disaster, have never had a gun but think they should have to protect their stores of food and supplies I have my own view on that.

    In my church we are encouraged to put away a couple of years of food, more if we can afford it. The reason for more is that you should consider stashing your main food supply in a well hidden place and the rest in a place where it can be found. No gun required. I have at least two friends with assault rifles and each have a thousand rounds of ammunition. People tend to brag and the fact they have that fire power is not a detriment. It is an invitation for someone in dire straights to put their cross hairs on you and take you out. If you have made it clear that you have some extra to share with your neighbours it goes a long way to help sustain your life and that of members of your family. Attitude is really important in self preservation.

  • Aaron

    Great story with a message that rings as true today as it did for you in your youth. In addition to the great story of a lifelong appreciation of firearms, I’d actually like to hear about that defense of home and family with your dad’s S&W .41 magnum!

  • mxprivateer

    My dad was a hunter, skeet shooter (and general outdoorsy guy) before I was born. Sadly, he gave up hunting and shooting shortly after I was born. What I wouldn’t have given for him to take me hunting when I was 8, 10 or 12 years old! So, I was forced to teach myself about firearms on my own but luckily had a dear friend who had two pellet guns that we learned marksmanship and safe handling of firearms on. Fast forward nearly 30 years and now my dad and I shoot trap together and reload our own shot shells. It’s too bad that he’s in his mid-70’s now and we’re just now connecting over this (we didn’t have a whole lot in common when I was younger), but better late than never. I recently purchased a Sig-Sauer 1911 in .22LR for my daughter’s 14th birthday and asked my dad if he would help me teach my daughter safe handling of firearms and marksmanship. I was happy when he agreed, at least my daughter will have the memory of learing to shoot from my dad, even if I didn’t get the chance.

  • CraigDanger

    I wish I could stand up and start a slow clap. We need more reminders that shooting is a sport. It’s fun. It’s not just buy-every-case-of-ammo-before-Obama-does. It’s not just “My 3rd backup gun for SHTF scenarios.” It’s supposed to be fun! I love to shoot. And I still have the 10/22 my dad first let me shoot (when I probably was too small to safely operate it, but I’ll forgive him). Shooting young teaches you that it is no joke, these are powerful tools to be respected while being enjoyed. And, on the infinitesimal chance that the S does HTF, I feel safe with the couple of boxes of cartridges I have on hand for my firearms I love to shoot.