A Father's Day AR-15 for My Kids

I know what you’re thinking: Steve bought himself an AR-15 because he wanted an AR-15, and Father’s Day was just a convenient excuse for an extravagant purchase and a chance to hang out with a bunch of other dads at Cabela’s.

But no.

At heart I’ve always been a pistol shooter. I don’t hunt, and if I did I already own my dad’s collection of rifles and shotguns. So a semiautomatic rifle? The only semiautomatics I need are pistols for concealed carry, and if my boys think sometimes Dad already looks like a goof… just wait until they see me try and shove a three-foot-long black rifle down my pants.

I mean, that might even be more embarrassing than that time my grandfather tried to leave the house wearing a leisure suit in the mid-’80s.

But then Orlando happened, and the politicians started doing what they always do. On Thursday morning I had a little text conversation with my bride.


So it’s not that I needed or particularly wanted a semiautomatic rifle, but I was going to be damned if I was going to let someone like Joe Manchin tell me what my civil rights may or may not be. Besides, it’s a 40-minute drive to Cabela’s, and I figured my boys — ages 10 and nearly 6 — could use another one of Dad’s Totally Not at All Boring Civics Lectures along the way. Even my niece Naomi, age 12 and visiting from Texas, came along.

On the drive up we talked about the Second Amendment, and civil rights in general, and about why we have due process to protect our rights from ambitious politicians and panicky mobs. I also explained due process’s evil opposite, The Midnight Knock on the Door. Naomi was fully engaged, but it didn’t seem like my older son, Preston — the one I really wanted to get through to — was paying much attention.

But he perked right up at “midnight knock on the door.” He’d been listening; apparently I hadn’t been too boring.

ASIDE: As an update to this post from January, I should add that regular trips to the range taught Pres the focusing and concentration skills he needed, to teach himself how to complete his schoolwork on time — and now he’s a straight-A student. So if you’re also thinking that I’m a little indulgent when it comes to letting him shoot… you’re right!

The parking lot at Cabela’s was crazy crowded for a Thursday morning. One gentleman, loading his purchases into the back of his SUV, asked me as we walked past where all the cars had come from. “Google Joe Manchin,” I said. “M-A-N-C-H-I-N.”

At long last we walked into the store.

With three excited kids in tow, it took more than a few minutes to make it all the way back to the rifle section. There were dog toys to beg for (“It’s not for me, Dad — it’s for Remy!”) and air pistols to drool at (“Pleeeeeeeease?“) and all the rest, and I was afraid if we took too long they’d be sold out of the Smith & Wesson model I had in mind. And sure enough…

The guy at the counter looked tired, like he’d already put in a full day before lunch. Before I could even finish telling him what I wanted to see, he shook his head and said, “They’re all gone.”

“But,” he added softly, “We’re getting 30 more tomorrow.”

“When should I get here?”


OK then — change of plans.

Preston’s face fell.

The kids had really wanted to see an AR-15, so to deflect any disappointment I promised them burgers and shakes at Freddy’s on the way home — and without any further Totally Not at All Boring Civics Lectures.

I learned a lesson, too: You’ve got to get to the gun store pretty early in the morning if you want to beat a stupid politician.

Of course, that’s exactly what I did the next day.

There I was waiting at Cabela’s front door 20 minutes before they opened, just me, all alone. Well, me and the dozen or so other guys all there to stock up on sale-priced Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport IIs before Manchin’s Secret Police told us we couldn’t.

(There are better AR-15s out available, but not at that price — not to mention the adjustable stock I needed to make it a rifle the whole family can shoot.)

When I got home, Pres was ecstatic to finally see his first AR-15, and it fit him perfectly on the second-to-smallest stock position. Even Nate, age five, got a chance to try holding it.

“We’re taking it with us, right?” Pres asked, since we were meeting friends that afternoon for some pistol shooting.

“Nope, sorry.”

His face fell again.

“Son, do you know what I am when it comes to semiautomatic rifles?”


“I’m an idiot. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve never shot one of these before. So nobody, not even me, is going to fire this thing until I’ve read the manual, taken it apart, cleaned and oiled it, figured out how it works, put it back together, watched some YouTube videos of people who do know what they’re doing, then taken it apart and put it back together again just to be sure. And then we’re going to take a class down at the range. That’s when we can shoot it.”

“Oh.” Then his face brightened again and he asked, “But I can still shoot your Browning today, right?”

That’s my boy.

And if this AR-15 thing works out as well as I hope?

Then hopefully before the next crisis hits, I’l buy an AR-10.

But — shhh! don’t tell anyone! — that one really will be an extravagant purchase just for Dad.