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Creatively Expanding the Gun Culture

I was just telling Sebastian this morning that I have an idea to get people who otherwise might never even consider taking a shooting class or getting to the range out to try guns in a non-threatening manner that even has a bit of history involved. Because I think this idea is kind of awesome, I’m going to share it in hopes that readers here who have the right guns and the range access either try it or give feedback on it.

I had this idea of offering up a programming day at the range for DAR, SAR, & CAR chapters. Now, these groups are strictly non-political, but they are big into history. (In fact, this could be expanded to any sort of history-related group in your area.) So I thought a day at the range that gives these known descendants a chance to see & shoot the guns (or replicas) their ancestors used in the Revolution would be awesome. It’s history, it’s unique, and it’s relevant to the missions of the groups.

Then, if a hosting club wanted to step it up a notch and make it a more traditional range day, find people who have guns from other American wars and do the same – a bit of a demo and a chance to shoot them.

Thoughts? Would anyone ever consider making this offer to local history-related groups or does it seem like too much work? I was just trying to think creatively about ways to get people out to see that shooting can be a great time and that gun owners are generally pretty awesome and nice people.

Interestingly, Sebastian doesn’t think this a completely crazy idea…

13 Responses to “Creatively Expanding the Gun Culture”

  1. SJ says:

    Your idea sounds good.

    Tangential: I saw a Revolutionary War re-enactor show a replica musket, and demonstrate the drill for loading/firing, at an Appleseed event. It was kind of fun. It also connected well with the Appleseed event, which intersperses shooting with short presentations on the events around the battles of Lexington and Concord.

    I don’t know how easy it is to bring the DAR/SAR/CAR to an Appleseed, though that may be the second stage after getting them connected to re-enactors and using replica pieces.

  2. Matt says:

    I did a reenactment day as a British Regular carrying a Brown Bess musket and learned all of the drill around loading and firing the musket. While the musket was a replica, it was all authentic. Right down to the wool uniform I was wearing and the cartridge box we stored the paper cartridges with powder and ball.

    The history was incredible and only distance keeps me from active participation. But the motions and behavior of the musket are really neat. For example: In movies with the sound of a musket ball going by someone’s ear. That sound is accurate. I’ve been downrange with musket balls being fired over my head (behind hard cover) and that low frequency rumbling hiss is what the balls really sound like.

    More trivia: Firing a flintlock helps you understand the connection to modern terminology. “Lock, stock and barrel” comes from that period. We talk about “lock time” in modern firearms. What does it mean? It means the speed at which the shot goes off after you pull the trigger. Well, “lock time” is the delay in a flintlock from the point you pull the trigger, the flint sparks and the powder charge in the barrel ignites. This time is actually measurable because it can be a second or two. Our modern wait of hearing “click” instead of “BANG” on a chambered round keeping the muzzle downrange in case of a delayed shot comes from firearm discipline from two centuries ago! A wonderful connection.

    I’d love to help out with such exposure. I have antique firearms dating from pre-World War 1 into the Crimean War, Zulu Wars and into the Civil War era. It would be neat to demonstrate a British Martini-Henry from the Zulu War or a German Gew.88 from pre-World War 1. Hell, I’d love to do an Appleseed with a Gew.88 or an Argentine Mauser.

  3. I think this has a lot of merit as an idea. Almost anyone with an interest in history will be interested in firing an historical weapon or a replica. Some years ago, I had a chance to fire a Martini-Henry that had apparently been used at Roark’s Drift!

  4. A vehicle for such a program already exists. It is called the RWVA Appleseed & Libertyseed program.

    Our Appleseed rifle clinic course of fire is patterned after the service rifle COF, which is in turn derived from the WW1 and WW2 training courses of fire devised for the 1903 and M1. At every AS I go to we bring our Brown Bess. We sometimes get re-enactors. I’ve also had WW2 re-enactors in full garb with their M1 on the line.

    The Libertyseed program is all the heritage with none of the shooting. Each storyteller does things a little differently, but when Heather and I do them we usually bring a Brown Bess as a prop (among others). Libertyseed, as it is non-firing, lets you reach a huge variety of audiences. In the last year alone we’ve done them (just the two of us) in schools, libraries, and for scout troops.

    The LibertySeed program is intentionally kept non-firing related because some groups such as the DAR or university teaching departments are not wild about hosting a firearms event. They do not want to be affiliated with a “gun event.” They will however let you come in and do a history/heritage presentation. There would be nothing stopping you, if facilities and the host organization allowed, from doing a demo of period muzzle loaders as part of a LibertySeed.

    We currently tell the April 19, 1775 story and are moving on to start rolling out the 1776 story (Bunker Hill, New York, and Trenton/Princeton). All history products are sourced from reputable authors. We have several history majors and people working on master’s degrees in the Rev War and such working on them.

    Let me or Heather know if you have any questions about the program. We will bring a LibertySeed to any group in the country, so if you have one that wants the heritage give us a call and we’ll have a Storyteller there in a jiffy.

    • Bitter says:

      Appleseed is nothing like what I’m suggesting, and a non-firing event doesn’t cover it, either. Matt’s version of something somewhat like a re-enactment is closer, but I would do it with hands-on demo.

      This is a case of needing to know your audience in designing a program, and I don’t think either of these options covers that. Especially in areas where the war was fought, we don’t really have a need another non-firing event. The top-notch Revolutionary War research facility where several of these groups meet in our area already does non-firing events. That’s been done and can be witnessed at any number of locations.

      The best example I’ve seen of something closer to what I’m talking about was a private shooting event I attended in NH years ago. It wasn’t particularly focused on this aspect, but because of the collectors and shooters they invited, it kind of ended up having representation from most of the American wars in terms of the guns involved. It was a combination of demo/actual shooting that didn’t make a big deal about trying to get people perfectly on target, but just let them have fun shooting and learning to say they’ve done it.

      • LibertySeed can be a live fire event if the facilities allow, the host allows, and the StoryTeller is also dual-certified as an RSO and has the equipment. RWVA insurance should cover it.

        We have found that many of the groups we reach with LS do not want a firing event, do not have the facilities for one, and think guns are icky. LS reaches well north of 10K people per year (exceeding the AS numbers even) already. We have LS Story Tellers in pretty much every state. If there was a market for live-fire period events we could expand into it pretty easily, and the infastructure/training is in place. The program (and insurance) are flexible enough that it could be run on a trial basis to work out the kinks.

        The issue is that I haven’t seen the market. We have approached these organizations and they have simply not been interested in any sort of event involving guns, gun ranges, shooting guns, etc. As soon as you say the word “gun” they shut down and are not interested. 49 times out of 50 they will not come to a gun range. We have done exactly one live-fire event for a public school (that I’m aware of). We have done dozens (or more) LibertySeeds in schools, including public schools.

        We can get them to a LS though where they handle a Brown Bess, hear the story, and maybe get more receptive to some sort of follow-on event. You have to preheat the oven before you stick in the turkey…

        • Bitter says:

          I think this is a case of who you know and knowing how to approach your audience. Are the invitations actually reaching the men/women in charge of programming? While not guaranteed to be a friendly audience for the invitation, they are supposed to be more fair in making sure that multiple interests of the chapter are served. If it was just sent to the registrar or communications person, it’s more likely to end up in the trash if it’s not up their alley.

          In the primary online group I use to work with other DAR members, I’ve encountered multiple women who are shooters. When I offered to do lookups for in a book for gunsmiths that qualify for patriotic service, multiple people “liked” the offer, and several messaged me to take advantage of it and they weren’t horrified by the idea of guns. They were eager to document that part of history. In the CAR group that my nephew/niece may end up joining, one of their newsletters had the kids posing with historic firearms after an event on the topic. (I don’t think they went to a range, but they didn’t get frightened by the mention of guns.)

          The other approach that would be more likely to work is to go through a local SAR group to offer up a multi-group event. Quite a bit of this is knowing your audience and how to make the pitch. In this case, preheating the oven is simply figuring out who to ask.

          • I don’t mean to be too negative on it. I still think this is a solid idea and will look for some opportunities to try out the format. I still think RWVA is uniquely postured with a cadre of storytellers who know the history AND who are certified as RSOs with insurance to match. We did a group buy of fully functional Brown Bess replica muskets for our instructor cadre for Christmas and literally bought out the distributor’s entire supply. It was the largest order he had ever gotten. So there are a lot of RWVA folks out there with the right equipment too.

            I suspect some of it is regional in nature. A chapter in PA where there are rich Rev War opportunities already is different from one in a deep blue state which is different from one far from any RevWar history. Each chapter has their own personality/priorities/opportunities. We have used some “cold calls” (not my favorite technique) but much prefer to build rapport using an existing member or talking to the “right person” as you point out. That works much better.

            We have already executed over 20 LibertySeed events at DAR chapters around the country. Baby steps. Once you do a successful non-firing event you can see if there is interest for more — often there is interest. You build demand, personal rapport and credibility over time.

            I know you guys aren’t Appleseed fans, but I know based on first hand experience LibertySeed is very effective at reaching a very different audience in an efficient manner. I’m sure there’s other organizations out there spreading the good word too but I honestly don’t see any other nationwide organizations (like NRA) in this particular niche.

            I do think you could run a cool NRA MuzzleLoader class with this heritage component, but I’m not a certified instructor for that discipline so couldn’t speak to how it would integrate with the lesson plan. Frankly my training counselor for NRA Rifle certs gave me the vibe that NRA does not want you to deviate from the lesson plan or add in extra stuff (and that’s what my instructor books state too), so I don’t think they’d be wild about adding “non programmed” heritage to the course.

            • Bitter says:

              I don’t think this is something that must be filled by a nationwide group. The best events I’ve attended that are remotely similar to what I imagine have been organized locally by people who already know each other and get along well.

              Secondly, I do agree that knowing your region and the opportunities that exist is important. For example, you say: “A chapter in PA where there are rich Rev War opportunities already is different from one in a deep blue state which is different from one far from any RevWar history.” I hate to tell you, but nearly every historical event I have attended that featured gun demos – live fire and not-so-live fire (either powder only for some noise or non-firing) has been in one of those deep blue states that you say doesn’t have much in the way of any Revolutionary War history programs. Massachusetts, Vermont, New Jersey – all places the war was fought with tons of groups dedicated to keeping those lessons alive – even the gun-related history lessons. I can’t say that in 18 years of living in deep red Oklahoma that I had even heard of such an opportunity. It’s just a reminder in being careful about assumptions when you do try to present the program because you may end up saying something that gives the appearance a significant disconnect from the very subject you’re trying to teach.

  5. Patrick says:

    I have a range and bring people here all the time. The wife and I are introducing a woman to shooting this Sunday.

    Your idea probably is awesome, but I have no idea what “DAR, SAR and CAR chapters” are, other than some responses suggesting “Daughters of American Revolution” and the like.

    If so, where are they (websites?) and how do we contact them?

    Sorry if I seem daft, but some of us grew up Yankees and don’t quite understand the rest of y’all. Even if today we live south of the Mason-Dixon and are looking to move much further south. Some things need to be learned.

    • Bitter says:

      I can’t say that growing up Yankee has much to do with the acronyms here. :)

      DAR – Daughters of the American Revolution – a group for adult women descended from Revolutionary War patriots who either fought or did other patriotic/civil service during the Revolutionary War.
      SAR – Sons of the American Revolution – a group for adult men who meet the same qualifications as above.
      CAR – Children of the American Revolution – a group for boys and girls under 22 who meet the same qualifications as above.

      In other words, all groups that have an interest in history, in promoting patriotism, and who all have a proven line back to make the historical connection personal. The historic guns aren’t just part of history for them, they are the types of guns their own ancestors used or went up against. For DAR, there’s also a national defense component, so a tie into other American wars is relevant to their mission beyond just the Revolution. SAR, from what I’ve seen, tends to attract much older guys who are often into the re-enactment stuff. They tend to love their history and be extremely knowledgable.

      Now, as I mentioned earlier, just finding them on the web and sending an email might not be the best method of reaching them. It’s sometimes in who you know or making an effort to even find out who you need to talk to if using the cold call approach. The emails will typically go to the registrar who is going to have a specific interest and focus in genealogy. However, a letter mailed that is addressed to say, a title like “Programs Officer/Committee” or something similar (different chapters handle it differently) or even an email requesting the best way to directly contact the person responsible for scheduling chapter programs is going to improve the odds at getting a friendlier audience.

      There are also other groups I didn’t mention in the post who may be good targets depending on the kind of firearms a group could line up. There’s Daughters of 1812 – descendants of veterans of the War of 1812; UDC – women descended from Confederate veterans; Daughters of Union Veterans – women descended from Damn Yankees. ;) (FWIW, I qualify for both UDC & Union Veterans and even have an ancestor who was a Galvanized Yankee so he doesn’t qualify for either group!) Point being, think outside the box a little. There are all sorts of ways that we can reach out to people with related interests and spread the message in subtle ways.

  6. GMC70 says:

    Having a number of WWII firearms (the service rifle from each of the major combatants) I suggested the same to our local WWII history museum. The first problem was an available, accessible range. I’d offer my own property, but it’s a ways out of town and fairly inaccessible (strong points, to my way of thinking, BTW). Assuming we found an appropriate range (and I think we could) the second problem was insurance. The very mention of firing guns gives insurance companies the willies.

    What I would love to do, if we could solve the insurance problem) is for veterans to tell their stories, demonstrate the manual of arms (to the extent they can and are willing) for younger persons, and then let folks fire the weapon, monitored with appropriate range safety supervision, of course. We do a brief WWII reenactment each November at Memorial day around here, and kids looking at the weapons are often found listening raptly to veterans who tell their own stories. Veterans often want to handle and remember the weapons they once carried into combat, but may not have handled in some 60 years. It would be great to follow the reenactment with a live-fire opportunity.

    I have found a number of young people who grew up playing Call of Duty/Medal of Honor, watched Saving Private Ryan, and have no experience with “real” firearms. Their eyes get big when they see a real (as opposed to virtual) M1 Garand or K98, and are ecstatic when they learn that the can actually shoot it.

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