Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Breaking Into the Gun Community

Yesterday, I got this message:

I am currently a sophmore in high school. i started shooting at a relatively young age, and at that age found it quickly to be an easy fitting niche for me. I found myself to be a capable shooter and was even able to win small local shooting competitions. as i grew, i became more interested in the function of the guns from a physics standpoint, and quickly attempted to learn as much as i could about firearms. the problem however, is that because I'm young, older shhoters tend to completely write off my knowledge about firearms, to the extent where people here on youtube have told me that my opinions are not valid because of my age. My question i suppose is why do you think people are so unwilling to accept young shooters, even if they have demonstrated skill and knowledge, when in most other sports younger players tend to be valued higher than older ones? Also why would an older shooter be so discouraging to a younger shooter trying to learn the craft?

I was about to construct a personal reply when I had the sudden urge to share my thoughts on this matter with the whole.

I feel this young man's pain and I understand it from both sides. When I started down the "gun road" (I shall call it) I was both young (and still am) and a woman. I had people refuse to work with me behind a counter because of my sex. I had lots of people tell me I didn't know what I was talking about because I was young. I still have people telling me I don't know what I'm talking about and that's okay.

I put myself out there because I love to talk guns, learn about guns and share information about guns and carry. If I had advice for anyone trying to "break into the gun community" this would be it..

Don't Let The Internet Get You Down
For every great gun person on the internet there are 100 idiots who don't know what they don't know. Sure, they may have been shooting for 30 years but through a series of bad habits, pride, stubbornness and ego they refuse to evolve, grow, accept the new and the happening and embrace anyone who comes behind them with more skill or (worse) more information and new skills. They are cranky, they are morons. Ignore them.

Instead of worrying about their bad and limited opinions, get yourself under the tutelage of those who are knowledgeable, skilled, helpful, encouraging and wise.

Find those people and appreciate them for everything they pass on to you!

Know What You Know 
If you know your stuff, don't back down but don't be too haughty about it either. If you said something that you know to be correct and someone tries to tell you that you're wrong, don't start a pissing match, just show them why you are right.

Which leads me to my next point.

Have Backup For What You Know 
No one is going to take your word on the matter unless you have made a strong name for yourself for being reliable, wise and experienced. No matter which way you cut that, it means you have to be older and doing it for a long time (usually at least 10 years or so). So, in the meantime, while you are making that name for yourself, you are going to have to back up your opinions/ideas/thoughts.

If you say something about a Glock and someone says that you are wrong, you'd better be able to provide the link to the Glock manual, website, page and paragraph of a recognized book on the subject, etc.

Nothing slaps down the nay-sayers like, "Hey, check our your owners manual on page 23, paragraph 6, sentence 2."

Like I said, you don't have to be cocky or arrogant. Backed up fact alone will help you build that reputation for being someone "in-the-know." 

Don't Say You Know What You Don't Know
If you don't know about some holster for some obscure gun that someone found in their grandfather's garage, don't pretend you do. Someone smarter will come along and make you look like the idiot you are.

Making up statistics will also get you discredited REALLY FAST! If you say, 1 in 2 people carry a gun, you better have a source for that data. If you say 90% of people will do this or that, again, I want to see the source material for that number. If you can't provide it you will not get far.

Don't Advise On Something You Can't Know
If there is one thing that gets people in the gun community cranky it's a youngin' telling them how they should carry or deal with certain situations when they have zero experience or training on that matter..

If you've been carrying a gun for less than six months (or can't carry due to age or state restrictions) and start giving advice on carry then you are going to start ticking off people very quickly.

The next question you are going to be asked is about training and experience. A few years shooting (even in a shooting sport) and a couple of NRA basic pistol classes is not going to do it and you are going to be discounted and discredited. You may be right, but you lack the experience to back up your theories. Far better to let someone more experienced weigh in and stay quiet or, at most, encourage thinking by presenting your opposition in the form of a question.

"Why do you carry your firearm that way? I can't carry yet but I'm curious as to this setup and how it works, it looks to me like it might be dangerous. Can you explain it?"

You've got people thinking and you don't look like a know-it-all. Win/Win!

Don't Be Afraid To Ask So You Can Know More 
When you want to be accepted as someone of knowledge it's easy to try to shy away from asking questions that might make you look ignorant. In truth, however, that's the best way to get knowledge, experience and be looked upon as someone who is willing to be honest with everyone, including himself. 

Admit When You're Wrong
Stoically defending your wrong opinion will not make it any more right. Admit you were wrong and move on.

Of course, there are things that are opinion only and can neither be right or wrong only smart or dumb. Tactics is a good example. Go ahead and give your opinion but if you aren't sure if what you suggest will work or not, say so. Better yet, get together with a few buddies and try it out with some dummy guns or airsoft and report back your results. Ask other, more experienced people what they think of your data and to critique it. You will get props for doing the work and will probably learn a lot.

Yet, sometimes you just have to agree to disagree with some people.

I find it very humbling that someone would contact me asking for advice on how to get people to accept them in the gun community as I do not feel like a "big name."

Yes, I have some experience carrying and in some classes and trainings but I have no background in law enforcement or military. I've never had to put anything I've learned into real-world practice (okay, that's not true.. I use what I've learned in avoidance and confidence and carry, every day but I've never had to draw my gun or defend myself from an attack ... lately) and, as stated before, I am, myself, still young and figuring things out as I go and learn.

For some reason still unknown to me I've amassed a small following. I don't think I've done anything too special to warrant people looking to me for advice but I will do my best to pass on valid information as I learn it and answer the questions I do know.

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