Creative lessons and competition in the backyard set the stage for teaching the next generation

by Buster Madison

When we purchased our house, the yard was a major selling point. A hill for sledding in the winter, room to put in a pool for the summer, a large area for a garden, and a wooded area for our little ones to explore. As this chaotic summer marched forward, I was tasked with finding something fun for the kids to do around the house. Taking advantage of our yard, I decided we should setup a BB gun course and have a little competition among siblings.

I called the four young ‘uns into the garage and told them the game plan; “We’re going to create a cool tactical shooting course with BB guns in the backyard!!” The kids had no idea what that meant but heard shooting BB guns and were full of excitement and ready to start.

While rummaging around the garage, I finally found what I was looking for — a couple Daisy Red Ryders. This lever-action air rifle is fun, an American icon, and every kid’s first “real firearm.” Taming wild backyards for over 80 years now, it’s the natural choice for use as a backyard shooter. The .177 BB gun is lightweight (my 4-year-old can hold it), easy to load, and simple to shoot. Best of all, we bought 2400 BBs for under $6 bucks.

I swear my kids are made-up of 80% sugar because they have as much energy as a hummingbird, so I knew that shooting at a stationary target wouldn’t do. I decided that we would build different “stages” and they would help plan, create, and finish each stage. Everyone was tasked with a responsibility — not only helping me out, but also adding their own imagination to each stage.

Filling each stage requires different targets, barriers, and challenges. There are a lot of fun, interactive target options available; some that swing, some that shoot up in the air, and even some that make noise. Daisy offers a great selection of targets, such as Shatterblast clays, a gravity feed Shatterblast Sixshooter system, and my kid’s favorite, the Rocket Shot Launcher. These targets are inexpensive, easy to setup, add excitement to shooting. Best of all, they are simple to store when not in use.

Don’t have time to shop for these? Good news…you don’t need to purchase targets or clays to have fun shooting. A quick reconnaissance around our house and we found a horde of new targets. Soda cans, balloons, string, cardboard, and colored paper are just a few items we discovered and turned into targets for our radical Red Ryder Course.

The most important thing anyone can do is educate children and young adults about firearm safety. Ask any kid how they are supposed to carry scissors and they can tell you or show you the proper way. Why is that? Because we stressed the importance of carrying scissors safely at an early age. The same should be applied when discussing firearms.

My kids start our backyard shooting course by describing the firearm safety rules and what it means to them in their own words. Once I feel confident that they understand and can apply these safety rules, we all put on safety glasses and earmuffs for protection. I have them wear the ears for muscle memory. Even though the Daisy Red Ryder is safe to shoot with no hearing protection, I still require them to wear these to build good range time habits.

Course of Fire

Stage One – Balloon Popping. There’s no faster way to a child’s undivided attention than through motion and noise, and that’s what Stage One is all about. We clipped five balloons to sticks and positioned them about 10 inches off the ground. Each kid got to run through the stage twice and their best time was recorded.

Stage Two – Tactical Valley. We hung pop cans throughout a trail and the one shooting would walk through, stopping at points to acquire their target. The times and accuracy were recorded.

Stage Three – Dual Shoot-Out. Two shooters compete at the same time on mirrored ranges. Both Red Ryders started on the table and when the word “targets” sounded, we started a clock and the shooters have 30 seconds to shoot all targets. Times and targets were recorded.

Stage Four – Long Distance. The last stage has not as fast-paced but implemented fundamentals of marksmanship. Slow, steady, squeezing of the trigger, control of breathing, and calmness under pressure. The kids had to engage four targets set out from 5, 10, 15 and 20 yards, each having eight shots to complete the course. Once again, time and targets were recorded.

By the end of the day, we all had a fun time with a non-typical family activity. It taught firearms safety, marksmanship skills, competitiveness, sportsmanship, and responsibility. Best of all, I got to share my passion for shooting sports with my children. I feel confident that they will continue to grow into respectable role models in our community through firearm experiences such as this backyard event. Because of Daisy, my childhood memories are passed down to my youngsters and hopefully will be passed on to the next generation of Americans.

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