Yesterday I took a drive into town and went to the local community college to register for a firearms safety course on the weekend. This course is mandatory in Canada if you want to get your FAC (Firearms Acquisition Certificate). Without an FAC you can't use a firearm or even so much as purchase a box of shotgun cartridges. In a country where gun ownership is a privilege, not a right, that seems like a reasonable and sensible measure to me.
Anyway, I showed a proper ID, paid my $50 and was given a textbook to study before the weekend. Good. Although I'm not uncomfortable around guns and there were always rifles and shotguns in the houses I grew up in I'm miserably naive when it comes to how a gun actually works. Having something to study would let me attend the course without feeling like a complete newbie.
Last night I started studying. Chapter 1 contained a short history of firearms starting with the invention of gunpowder and canons. Canons? Why on earth do I need to know about canons? Well, because all guns are basically miniature canons and understanding how a canon fires is an excellent first step for the noob on understanding firearms in general. The text then built on that by explaining how different muzzleloaders worked. An interesting step because it took me a step away from the canon but gave me a greater understanding of primers and there importance to firing a projectile. Finally it explained modern firearms where the primer has moved to the shell or cartridge and I had a real if basic understanding of how a gun works. Nifty.
The whole text, or as much as I read (I'm 4 of 9 chapters in) seems to build knowledge like this. After understanding how a gun works you learn basic safety procedures which makes so much more sense when you understand what exactly is happening in the barrel of a gun. The next chapter deals with ammunition and that again builds on the knowledge of the first two chapters.
All the text is clear and easy to read. All important points are repeated again and again but in different fonts or contexts so that you memorize it but don't skim over it. The illustrations are fantastic and perfectly illustrate the concepts (like the danger of using the wrong size cartridge in a specific shotgun). The review questions at the end of each chapter test the knowledge you should have gained by reading the chapter but also stuff the wasn't specifically covered but, given some knowledge, a person should able to reason out. The Appendices are invaluable and contain among other things a glossary of terms and legal definitions related to firearms legislation. And best of all it's an easy read of 270 pages.
Why isn't that what all textbooks are like?
If anyone is interested or curious I did find a PDF version of the text available for free download here. It looks like an older version then the one I have but it still seems to contain all the excellent information for anyone who's interested.
EDIT: I just found a way for anyone to download the more recent version if they want. It's just a matter of filling out a form here.