Giving a gun for Christmas? Do it right.

A new gun for Christmas is always a hit, both for the recipient and the giver. But if you’re planning to put a shootin’ iron under the tree, there are a few things to keep in mind.

This being Wyoming, there are undoubtedly going to be quite a few firearms tucked under Christmas trees across the state. I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t wishing for one, but between my expensive tastes and my wife’s misguided idea that I already have enough, I’m not optimistic. As for that thought that there’s such a thing as enough guns, and that I’ve already achieved that status, don’t get me started.

Anyway, some folks will be getting guns for Christmas. Rifles, shotguns, maybe some handguns. When it comes to putting a smile on someone’s face, it’s tough to find a better present than a new gun.

But if you give someone a hunting gun, or if you’re lucky enough to get one, I’d caution you against trying to break it in on live game. There’s less danger of that with a centerfire rifle than with a shotgun or a small game gun, but I know quite a few people who got shotguns for Christmas and took them out to the duck blind the next morning.

It’s just as important to get a feel for a new shotgun in a controlled environment as it is to sight in your elk rifle each year. Instead of heading for the marsh on the 26th, take the new shotgun to the shooting range. Break a few clay targets before you try your luck on anything with feathers.

That’s especially important if it’s a kid who gets a new shotgun. Youngsters who haven’t handled a dozen or more different shotguns might need a little more time to get acquainted with a new gun than a savvy veteran. Each gun swings different, kicks different, and just feels different. The first couple shots fired out of that new gun should be at clay pigeons that are thrown where the shooter knows they’re going. Take as many variables out of the picture as you can.

It’s tough to hold back, though. Especially if you’re giving the new shotgun to your kid. My dad gave me my first shotgun for Christmas when I was 11 years old. But he also gave me a trap thrower, a couple boxes of clays, and a case of 9-shot. We spent most of the rest of Christmas break flinging clays, and eventually, we broke more than we missed. By the time I took it hunting, I was pretty good with it. I can’t think of a better way to give a shotgun as a gift.