Tired of making the same old resolutions year after year? If my guess is correct, most of us still need to shave off a few pounds, get organized, learn a new skill or spend more time with the folks we care about. But rather than trot out the hackneyed goals that we've all learned to ignore by mid March, I decided that 2019 would be a good year to slate some resolutions that are not only do-able, but enjoyable too. Here are six New Year's resolutions for fans of the shooting sports.
6. Clean Your Guns
My wife will confirm that early in my adult shooting pursuits I took great care to meticulously scrub and polish the few guns I owned like some folks do their expensive sports cars. If I couldn't see my reflection in the revolver's cylinder face, it wasn't really clean yet. But as time wore on, cleaning became just another chore like doing the laundry or washing dishes.
Nevertheless, keeping firearms properly cleaned and lubricated will stretch their working life significantly, prevent the bore and action from being damaged by corrosion and help to preserve the finish and stocks. Breaking guns down for cleaning also provides a valuable opportunity to inspect the gun for potentially dangerous cracks, damage and worn out parts.
There is no general consensus as to how often guns should be cleaned, so here is the rule of thumb I work to: Firearms that are used infrequently (once or twice a year) should get a bath before being put back into storage and should be inspected at least once a year to prevent corrosion. Guns that are shot frequently, such as rimfire rifles and pistols, can afford a clean-as-needed policy since they are getting handled on a regular basis. Handguns used for daily carry should be thoroughly cleaned after each range session and be inspected every week for dirt, debris and to ensure the lubricant hasn't dried up or run out.
Once you learn how to ride a bike, you never forget. But shooting skills are perishable. Without regular practice they fade away. I'm not too worried about recreational shooters or competitors. However, those who stage firearms for home defense or for daily carry need to know their guns inside and out in order to be confident in their ability to operate it under pressure. How much practice is enough? Depending on who you talk to it lies somewhere between once a week to at least four times a year. You'll have to do your homework and figure out what will work best with your schedule and resources. But if it's been more than three or four months, then you're definitely due for a range session.
4. Hone Your Shooting Skills
One of the top 10 resolutions folks make each year is to develop their skills and talents. Why spend time doing something boring when you could be developing your shooting skills instead? Seek out some formal live fire training. The larger schools and groups that offer week-long training sessions are fantastic if you can afford them. If not, look for smaller 1-3 day classes held by local shooting instructors. Put together your own training program using available books, drills and training aids. Set reasonable, but tangible, goals for improvement so that your practice sessions become more than just noisy paper punching.
3. Try a New-To-You Shooting Endeavor
This year marks the beginning of my 10th year working as a gun writer (where does the time go). I can safely say that after a decade in full-time pursuit of various shooting endeavors, I have yet to scratch the surface of all the enjoyable facets this industry has to offer. If you've settled into a routine, become a bit complacent or even bored with shooting, then this is the year to spice things up by trying something new.
Have you ever shot sporting clays before? If not, team up with a friend who does and give it a try. Delve into the fascinating topic of curio/relic surplus rifles chambered for obsolete calibers and get a taste of history at the shooting range. Have you got a fun bucket list item like striking a match with a bullet? Go for it! Build an AR-15 rifle, a 10/22 type carbine or a Glock pistol at home. Try your hand at rebuilding or refinishing an inexpensive used or surplus gun. Get hooked on high-quality rimfire rifles or air guns for quiet, soft shooting and affordable target practice. Join a local shooting club or participate in a shooting match to meet other enthusiasts in your area.
Take a class, get NRA certified as a Range Safety Officer, or pitch in some volunteer time to support youth shooting organizations. If nothing else, go ahead and splurge on that goofy, unusual or odd caliber gun you really like even though it isn't necessarily “useful” for anything, at least according to your buddies. If you have other ideas for spicing up your shooting experience, please share them in the comments below.
2. Invite a Friend to the Range
The reason I'm as passionate about shooting as I am today is because friends and family invited me to try new things with them along the way. They gave me the opportunity to discover and understand the values, traditions and good times these sports can provide. Growing up my dad taught us gun safety, ethical hunting practices, and he gave us BB guns and .22s when we were old enough to use them responsibly. In my 20s, a buddy invited me to the range to try out double-action revolvers for the first time, which fired up my interest in defensive handguns. My brother introduced me to sporting clays, and the list goes on.
We owe a great deal to those who have supported and mentored us in our shooting endeavors over the years, so this is the year to pay that kindness forward by sharing your positive shooting experiences with someone new to the sport.
1. Buy Bricks with which to Build Memories
Even though the .22 rimfire shortage technically ended a while back, I've been perusing the ammo case at my local big-box store for several months now, waiting for “it” to arrive. At first the cupboard was bare. Then there was the sporadic appearance of one or two boxes of the premium, plastic-box loads with price tags to make a grown man weep. Soon those settled in to stay and the smaller bulk boxes and little buckets returned, but not the particular loads I was looking for. At last, just a few weeks ago, Federal Ammunition's 550-Round Rimfire Value Packs were finally in stock. It’s a bulk load that runs reliably in the guns my family will be using and it was priced at $19.99 per brick, which is as close to the $13.99 I paid for them a decade ago as we're likely to ever get!
Why am I talking about ammunition prices here? Because many of my fondest memories revolve around family time spent plinking away with rimfires. I'll never forget the first time I got to shoot my dad's Ruger Bearcat, or hiking with my brothers to shoot rimfire rifles out behind my grandparents’ cabin. So this year I have resolved to spend more time shooting with my kids, and I hope you will too with yours. The two bricks I just picked up today will be used to build their skills, confidence and hopefully some great memories.