Shopping for the gun-loving or outdoorsy dad (or dads) in your life is almost too easy today. Whether he’s into tactical or competitive shooting, hunting, long-distance precision, or a combination of these, a plethora of gun and sporting websites offer gear choices to fit just about every budget.
That’s where this article started—as a discussion about gear for dad. But with recent national and world events reminding us that time together is precious, it seems appropriate to talk about that one gift that goes with every budget and every father’s lifestyle: experiences. The cool new ear muffs, slings, and socks I was going to write about will wear out or become outmoded with time, but memories can be retrieved anytime and enjoyed forever.
So let’s look at some ways you can give your dad an unforgettable Father’s Day.
1. Marksmanship, cold beer, and history
Got an urban dad or just have the itch to go to the city? Schedule a simulator and/or range session at one of the fine “Guntry Clubs” — a range/store combo that’s designed to equip, train, and/or entertain — around the nation. The national chain Gander Outdoors and Forth Worth’s Defender Outdoors, to name two, offer not only superb sporting goods but also social shooting experiences that double as marksmanship skill-builders.
Regardless of your dad’s interests where guns are concerned, there is a simulator somewhere to accommodate him. From steel challenges, to hunting big and small game, to taking on bad guys, today’s commercial simulators are realistic and employ genuine name-brand pistols outfitted with laser “cartridges” and realistic target responses. Or hit the live fire range for some full-auto fun, almost guaranteed to result in giggles. Bonus points for researching and firing any models your own dad or grandfather used in his military career, or any that were used in historical events in your city—always fodder for great conversation, too.
Many of these shooting centers offer a bar and/or food service for post-range refreshment. Or saunter to a location near where historic gun-related events took place. Discuss the types and models of guns involved and what things were different then. Some of the historical facts may elicit humor, others can inspire poignant reflection or heartfelt opinion. Allow time and space for chat, just you and Dad—even if your opinions differ!
Plan on spending amusement park-scale fees for a visit to an exclusive shooting center. On a budget or don’t have such a range nearby? Set up a surprise target array and some shooting games. One quick solution for game ideas are the targets at RealGunGames.com. There you’ll find all you need for a range time full of fun and laughs—and you’ll both leave better shooters! Be a good kid and bring some ammo for Dad’s gun!
Pack a picnic lunch with Dad’s favorite treat, or indulge in an ice cream cone after a good shooting session. Bonus points for researching something gun-related about Dad’s hometown history, and taking him to visit pertinent sites. Whether that history comes from cowboy lore, the Revolutionary or Civil War, WWII defense manufacturing, or a true crime story, guns are part of our heritage, just like Dad, so why not make a memory around them?
2. Take it to the Hunt Field
June isn’t exactly a prime hunting month. Still, there are fun excursions to consider. A morning spent eradicating varmints or other legal quarry is a great bonding experience. Coffee and breakfast added to it set the tone for Dad’s perfect day.
Got some coin to plop down? Consider a feral hog hunt—always in season and often resulting in great bacon and sausage later, hog hunts can range from low-budget and laid back to adrenalin-packed. This is the only chance you’ll get, outside of the military, to legally shoot a rifle from a helicopter, so if the budget will allow it, take yourself and Dad to one of the Texas ranches offering this unique experience. Or, plan ahead for a night or two of camp lodging as well as night vision equipment for more traditional hog pursuits—which can also be adrenaline-filled in some settings. Many outfitters offer hunts appropriate for mobility-challenged dads; so keep an open mind if yours meets that description.
A hunt with dad, big or small, is a great way to build the family story collection as well as fill the freezer (or not). Remember to snap some photos of not only the trophy shot, but also the moments that seem mundane. Those are often the ones that evoke the fondest memories and tales later on. Bonus points for keeping a diary of the experience to share with Dad later!
3. Get some awesome training
“I know what I want for my Mother’s Day,” I overheard a recent concealed carry student say to her husband. “I want to go to a defensive pistol class.” As they say, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander! To train together is to bond together. Military forces use this principle to meaningful ends, and the same applies to family ties.
If guns are directly involved with the training, choose a class or academy that values safe gun handling as a primary criterion for selecting the experience. After that, the sky and your budget are the limit in what you choose—maybe a weekend-long competitive shooting clinic, maybe a force-on-force scenario class for the concealed carry dad, maybe an outdoor survival class for the hunter.
Appleseed rifle marksmanship weekend clinics are a great, economical weekend getaway for dads who want to learn or confirm rifle fundamentals. Even little kids are welcome, but well-controlled, at these events which happen around the United States. For reality-based tactical training, a great number of instructors and schools offer classes on a local or mobile basis. Among them are Trident Concepts, Sentinel Concepts, and Defense Training International. Or check out expanding the family’s survival skillset with one of the thousands of classes offered in local communities regarding edible and medicinal plant selection and preparation, emergency medical training, and the like. Your County Extension agent, whose office is usually found under the name of the state university but at the county level, is often knowledgeable about these local classes.
Most times, this gift is best presented as a proof of entry for a future class. Present it as a surprise wrapped in a box meant for everyday gear like a knife or holster for best effect. Bonus points for including a practical joke in the process!
The gift of experience is, by definition, a fatherly one. We look to fathers and father figures for guidance for the survival of our species and cultures. Sharing a new experience with Dad, in his honor, is an investment in the future. May you create meaningful, lasting memories with the dads in your life.