To a soldier, a weapon is part of the trade, it becomes part of you because without it, you feel naked, without it you feel vulnerable. Throughout basic training, from the second you are issued your rifle, either an M16 or an M4, it becomes your weapon. Not a "gun", because calling it that will cost you some pushups, and not something you play with, because it’s not a toy. From the second it’s issued to you until you turn it back in at the end of your basic experience, it is by your side, taken everywhere you go, and you are responsible for it. Through ruck marches in the rain, fire drills in the middle of the night, and low crawling through mud, your weapon better be in your hands.

It's no wonder then, is it, why it becomes so important? This is all part of the training that is meant to be instilled into your mind about how necessary and important this tool is for your everyday life given the circumstance you get deployed. I remember watching other soldiers who had walked away from their rifle, or somehow misplaced it, and what they would have to do to get it back. Pushups were always first thing, then whatever other chores or punishments the drill sergeants could think of would be added to it. And with good cause! Weapons, although necessary for a soldier’s life, can be dangerous and always need to be taken care of. This is why they were never to be let out of our sight, always cleaned properly to ensure function, and stored safely.

Soldiers are trained in the use of the weapon so as to be effective on the battlefield. We spent days, weeks even, at the range. When we weren’t on the firing line, we were practicing other drills involving the rifles. For many soldiers, this was the first time they had fired any sort of weapon. In order to graduate basic, you have to pass the Army Weapons Qualification Course by shooting a certain amount of targets that pop up and down from distances of 25-300 yards. The thing I wanted most from basic was not to just to qualify, but to shoot as an expert. This meant hitting at least 36 of the 40 targets. You shoot from three positions, prone supported, prone unsupported, and kneeling. Now, hitting 36 out of 40 might not seem that hard, but many people couldn’t even shoot the minimum to graduate (24) after several tries. I ended up being one of the 4 or so people in my battalion of over 200 who shot expert, and I was thrilled with my accomplishment.

This experience led me to become more interested in rifles. Prior to basic, I had always been more interested in handguns, and still love them, but as soon as I got home from my initial entry training, I began searching out an AR-15 similar to the M16 I had carried. Having been immersed in the life for months, carrying the weapon everywhere with me made me understand how important it is to a soldier. I found one that fit my needs and immediately knew I had to have somewhere safe to store it as well as something to protect and conceal it during transport to and from the range and training exercises. So I picked up a gun safe to take care of my storage concerns and bought a 3V Gear Ranger Padded Double Guncase to ease my transportation concerns.

Though I hope I am never in the situation where I will be required to take a life to defend this country and all those who live here, I’m confident in my ability to do so if and when duty calls.

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