The Hawkeye Area Council is trying to boost the ranks of our Rifle and Shotgun Merit Badge Counselors as well as RSOs. To that end last weekend I held the previously reviewed rifle instructor course. Three of the 6 leaders returned with one additional leader for a weekend NRA Basic Shotgun Instructor course. The camp was full with a new Woodbadge crew and some local teen leaders coming in for a weekend COPE course so space was at a premium. The solution – one of the outdoor pavilions near the pool. It worked well – equipped with electricity and lights and large enough to shelter us from a steady drizzle/rain for the first half of the day on Saturday.
One of the cautions of teaching instructor courses “back to back” is that both candidate and training counselor can find it easy to pass quickly over “shared knowledge” between the two courses. “Well, we already covered that last week . . . let’s just move on.” And . . . . that’s a “cheat” on both sides of the table. So, with that caution placed clearly at the table, we worked ourselves through the lessons – setting aside the range work for the following day.
One of the things I like to emphasize is the commonality of words between firearms . . . front sight, rear sight, trigger, trigger guard . . . you get the idea. Learning them once, and a solid description of the individual terms, spans virtually all the firearms an instructor may be called upon to teach. Then they can focus on just those that are unique to the firearm in front of them. It helps build confidence in the skill set and that is a good thing.
With only four candidates, each got a great deal of individual teaching time – parts of a break action, bolt action, pump action and auto-loader were discussed. Ammunition – its individual components and different types. How that ammunition affects different types of barrels and the unique types of barrels to handle different types of ammunition. Chokes, gages, actions . . . . plenty of “meat on the bone”.
Of course each presentation where a firearm was picked up began with “ALWAYS” . . . a good habit for scouters to drill into young minds just beginning a lifetime sport of shotgun shooting.
We pressed well into the day finishing near 5 PM with the Iowa heat of summer completely back in force. What remained was the range work, perhaps the most challenging part of teaching the shotgun.
After the previous weekend of focusing on sight alignment, sight picture . . . the move to shotgun shooting and shooting a moving clay was “interesting”. Honestly, I’m not what I would consider a “shotgunner”. As president of the local Ikes – I know what a real shooter looks like when it comes to shotgun shooting and believe me I have a long way to go. Still, I’ve been schooled by some of the best in the chapter – including the local trap coach so I can “step up” if the situation requires it – it’s just not my “thing”.
We have a great single-station trap range for the scouts. We met the camp ranger there where he had brought camp shotguns – the one’s the scouts shoot (in adult size), the ammunition they use and a battery for the thrower. Our gun of choice for the day . . . a 20 ga. With “training” rounds for reduced recoil and ¾ oz of shot. Yep, it looked like it was going to be an interesting day.
While I’m sure everyone is saying “but, but, but – 12 ga, more shot, better chance of success . . .” – and that is indeed how it’s taught – these scouters needed to see, feel and experience what their scouts do. So, 20 ga it was, for all of us.
We set up two groups to roll through the range. One instructor, one student. We did it in 5 to 10 round groups with each and every group of rounds introduced as though it was a new shooter and candidates switching rolls between groups.
My first task was to introduce these “been hunting all my life” shooters to, what I consider, the proper way acquire a target “on the wing”. Rather that write words, one of the guys filmed how I teach it . . . here’s the link to the video.
Of course the first task for me . . . shoot the first 5 rounds. No pressure . . . like I said, not a trap shooter, and when I do I shoot standard target loads out of a 12 ga, not a 20 ga. Ah well. I had one of the candidates walk me through the drill – take a stance, no gun, practice the position, he launched a bird – I followed with my hand, said BANG . . . and then he moved on to dry fire with the 20ga. Finally, my 5 rounds, live fire. Got 4 out of 5 with the last one being allowed to pass the arc simply to demonstrate how difficult that shot is. I’ll take it.
Honestly, the results were satisfying. Most had not learned to “sight” a clay the way I taught it but all worked with it throughout the whole session. And all were surprised and very pleased with their increased performance. There was one who had yet to shoot the qual course so as he broke the first 5 in a row I began scoring him. Final score, with his first time with a 20ga with “training rounds”????? 20 out of 25 . . . not too shabby.
Once the preliminary rounds were past, we began working on picking out bits and pieces of the stance, grip, follow through, instructor coaching student . . . then switching and repeating – student now instructor and instructor now student. Within a couple of hours things were running very smooth, good words were being used – all the things I look for as a TC. They were “comfortable”. I hate comfortable . . .
So, a bit of a change up. An instructor really needs to experience what their students do. They need to understand the frustration of new shooters. And, frankly after 45ish years as a shooter – it’s hard for me to put myself “back there”. There’s an easy way to do that on a trap range . . . have everyone switch to support hand side shooting. For me, shoot left handed – actually, that was the case for everyone.
Now you’d think that would be difficult – actually it’s not because once you mount your gun, all you need to do is “cover the bird”. While the results wasn’t near what you would expect from shooting “normally” – and we only did one 5-round course of fire – everyone hit at least one clay, one fellow hit 3 out of the 5 . . . not bad!
So, a cleanup at the end – both grounds and guns . . . and we were done.
Good course, great work by the candidates, much was learned and “firmed up” on all sides. As it should be when we teach and take coursework. Hawkeye Council is now the proud owner of 4 brand new Shotgun Merit Badge Counselors and the NRA is sporting 4 brand new Shotgun Instructors!!
Congrats to Gary, Chuck, Derek and Colby . . . great job guys!!