GATESVILLE — In order to afford privately owned firearm owners the same safety opportunities as motorcycle riders, the 1st “Ironhorse” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, hosted safety training at the Hicksville Gun Range in Gatesville on Aug. 29.
“From time to time everyone needs safety reinforcement,” said Staff Sgt. Alfred Dickens, the Ironhorse master gunner. “I have seen competitive shooters make mistakes. Professionals, who do this for a living, make mistakes, too. No one is above it.”
After spreading the word about the upcoming training for gun owners, about 70 Ironhorse soldiers and spouses signed up.
“I enjoy shooting and have been since I was a kid,” said Staff Sgt. Rockney Rhodes, an infantryman. “It is just fun to come out here and shoot to relieve some stress, shoot some rounds down range and just have fun.”
Adding to the safety instruction, the brigade also invited local experts.
Instructors from the concealed handgun license course for the state of Texas were invited to speak to the participants about weapon storage, what Texas considers safely stored, how to properly transport weapons and the registration process.
Before participants were allowed to fire their weapons, they were required, at a minimum, to wear eye and ear protection. If shooters were used to gloves, they were encouraged to wear those as well.
Participants used their personal weapons to better familiarize with them.
“We sometimes don’t have a lot of time on our off time to get out here, sharpen our skills, and to keep proper weapons handling in the forefront of their minds,” said David Sullivan, the Ironhorse safety officer.
The most common safety mistake firearm owners make is complacency, he said.
“You can never assume a weapon is clear,” Sullivan said. “You have to clear it yourself. We have had a few incidences where we have had soldiers injured, because they failed to clear their weapon correctly ... if they get complacent, they start to take shortcuts and then get injured.”
Dickens said this training was specifically aimed toward younger soldiers who have never handled firearms outside the Army but then purchase one they aren’t familiar with.
“This will hopefully introduce them to people who ... can teach them, coach them, and mentor them,” Dickens said. “But the takeaway is, first and foremost, safety.”