Do you have plans for Christmas break with your family? When my boys were younger, the days after Christmas always involved things such as Nerf guns and LEGO sets. As they got older, it changed to Red Ryder BB guns. Even older, and now I’m looking at AK stocks to surprise my teenagers who love building AKs from kits. But one thing many people overlook when it comes to guns as presents is the gift you are giving along with the gun. Whether it is a toy or a BB gun, these “guns” not only make cool heirlooms, but they also give kids opportunities to learn safety with tools that hold less risk.
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Instilling Lifelong Safety Habits
Recreational guns, whether Nerf guns, cap pistols, BB guns, air rifles, or of the paintball genre, are good tools to start teaching kids the 4 rules of firearms safety. They offer an inexpensive way of learning the fundamentals of marksmanship – such as grip, stance and trigger control. You can even teach kids about eye protection.
Some of my best winter memories are of shooting BB guns in the basement with friends. We all wore eye protection, and we would shoot for hours, and pick up the BBs and shoot again. We used tiny targets: soda cans, plastic toy farm animals, ping pong balls … you name it. We learned about not only sight alignment and trigger control, we also how to act as our own “range masters” and make sure everyone set the guns down when we went to set our targets back up. Mom would come into the basement to switch laundry over and make us stop. We…we thought everyone did this sort of thing in their basement. And I am sure that most adults today who were raised in homes with firearms did something similar.
Toys for all Ages
While many people regard recreational guns with skepticism, I prefer to think of them as teaching tools – that are a lot of fun! If you are on the fence about allowing your children to play with guns, consider that even if you don’t own firearms, your children will come across them in life. And just like we want to educate our kids about the safety lessons in driving a car, or navigating around cars, we need to educate them about firearms. Toys and recreational guns can give us a way to talk, touch, manipulate and understand how to handle a real gun. Some parents set very strict rules for toy guns (you don’t shoot foam darts at people), and some are more relaxed ( Nerf battles are OK, but you need eye pro). If your “toy gun” is laser tag or paintball, the facility usually has rules about faces and eye pro. So we are learning with recreational guns, just like your kids learn about driving from playing video games.
A Couple of Our Favorite Games
A game that we have played with kids on the range with real guns is also fun with toy guns or BB guns. Basically, it’s a game of HORSE, where you have to make a shot and everyone else has to make the same shot. It can be a small target, like a ping pong ball from across the room with your Nerf gun, or set up dice to hit with a BB gun. But whatever the target is, you can learn sight alignment and trigger control.
Another game we used to play is shooting soda cans in the air. This can be done with a BB gun, and we spent many an hour doing this with friends over 4th of July when I was a kid. Or you could use stuffed animal and a Nerf gun inside. My boys actually shot at a flying helicopter Santa brought one year (Make your guess about how long that poor helo lasted.).
Storing Recreational Guns
Your toy and recreational guns should be given as much consideration as real guns when it comes to storage. Nerf darts are expensive!! Pick them up hidethem well! When it comes to BB guns and airsoft, think of them as real guns. If you have room in the safe, especially if there are small children in your house, lock them up. If there’s no room in the safe, at least store them separate from BBs or plastic pellets, and out all of the reach of youngsters. But most of all, use recreational guns to teach your kids that handling any “gun” needs to be done with supervision and care. Teach them that owning anything, even toys, requires that we respect, and secure them … because things like whistling Nerf darts are pricey, and eyes are a once in a lifetime gift.
May your Christmas be merry and filled with the sounds of Nerf guns and BBs spilling out joy.
Becky Yackley primarily competes in 3 Gun, USPSA, Bianchi pistol, but has competed in shooting since 1989 in disciplines from service-rifle, to NCAA Air Rifle and Smallbore, air pistol and a little bit of long range rifle. She shoots guns and cameras at competitions around the country, and writes in her fictional spare time. Her writing can be found here The WON in her column titled "Not a Soccer Mom" and sponsored by Jagemann Sporting Group, as well as Guns America and Gun World. View all posts by Becky Yackley