Monday, January 17, 2005

The False Promise of the .22

The old man and I were discussing the best way to introduce new people to firearms. Shooting seems to be a very intimdating thing to certain individuals, and initially, they may find it uncomfortable. We have taken stabs at potential conversions on several occasions, without success.

I have always thought that the best round/gun/configuration to ease people into is, inarguably, a .22 rimfire rifle or pistol. No recoil; accurate as hell; and the ammo is cheap if you are subsidizing.

Tonight, he disagreed. His argument being, that people are ignorant of guns. About the only round that fat, drunk Kennedy and the Brady people would be content with being legal is the .22. That's a "sporting" or "target" round.

His argument is that consequently, people do not respect the .22 and Newbies treat it like it was a Red Ryder BB gun. We had a recent guest who managed to point a Model 41 S&W at his own foot when he perceived it to have jammed. In reality, it had, but this numbnuts had no idea how to diagnose that and should have kept the muzzle downrange.

I had to concede this point.

The old man pointed out that, had you started him on a .357 Magnum wheel-gun, there is no fucking way he would point it at his foot.

The theory being that .22's have been relegated to the realm of airguns; guns that can cause a lot of physical damage, but that no layment takes seriously. Therefore, you are doing them a disservice by introducing them to this kind of firearm, as they may never understand good safety and might accidentally discharge and walk funny for the rest of their lives (of course, far worse could happen, but I'm trying to stay upbeat.)

By introducing larger calibers you may cut down on the follow-up quotient, but maybe that is natural selection at work, no?

UPDATE: As per usual, someone has thought this out well before I broached the topic. The old man and Len at One-In-Row seem to be in agreement on this topic, although Len seems to express it more in his speech and actions than we can muster.

UPDATE II: Deborah at Ten Ring has an excellent recollection of early gun experiences.

Kyle at Cerebral Misfire looks at both the lethality of the .22 round and the benefits of watching something die.

I need to reinforce that both of these bloggers have been shooting since their youth. I never shot regularly until my mid-twenties and most of the newbies I deal with are in the same boat. I wasn't one of Len's kids (see above link.)

I have to agree with the 'old man' on this one. I shamelessly ran with your idea over at my blog....
There are merits to your theory, but there are a few fallacies as well.

I lament that most of our new shooters do not get introduced to guns via hunting. The best way to drill appreciation into someone's head for the destructive power of a weapon is to see it end life. I think it teaches both reverence for life, as well as the terrible-god like powers of a firearm.

Most in my genereation that grew up in rural areas shot birds with .22's, as well as other small game. .22's kill just as easily as the big calibers, when you get right down to it. Others started with a .410 shotgun and killed dove with it.

Also, consider that most people killed with firearms in the US are killed with .22's.

I think there is a danger that people will view the .22 as something other than a deadly weapon. That is simply because hunting is a dying sport in America. Thus, our reverence for life is also fading a bit. If you see something snuffed out of existence because of a little bitty bullet, it is really a terrible, awesome responsibility.

Thanks. You've given me my topic to blog on tonight. I'll have to mull all this over. But an interesting point of discussion, one way or the other.

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