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

    I founded TFB in 2007 and over 10 years worked tirelessly, with the help of my team, to build it up into the largest gun blog online. I retired as Editor in Chief in 2017. During my decade at TFB I was fortunate to work with the most amazing talented writers and genuinely good people!