Be a wise and instructive graybeard, not an opinionated asshole who happens to be correct.

In the gun community and HAM radio community there are plenty of self proclaimed “graybeards” that will continually spout the “right way” to do things. Yes I know this is a great big strawman argument, but I’m not going to name names, so use your imagination if you will whoever in your life has attained some level of training or certification that lends some sort of “expert authority” to them (or at least makes them think they have expert authority).

Sometimes these self proclaimed graybeards are right. Totally correct from on a technical or legal point. And all too often they are straight up assholes about it which discourages people from pursuing deeper into the hobbies of competitive shooting or HAM radio.

In my opinion one the main reasons why “Service Rifle” is a declining sport is that it is purposely designed any as a sport for the practice of marksmanship alone, without any sort of “fun factor” built in. The grudging acceptance of “4.5 power scopes with 35mm or less main objective bell lens” in recent years was seriously debated by the graybeards of the sport as to whether or not it would “kill the purity of the sport.” You know what really kills the purity of a sport? Not having new people join and expand the sport so that it can continue.

The recent kerfuffle with the Baofeng dual band HAM radios has shown a similar debate among the graybeards of that hobby. One side rejoiced as it would signal to people that only licensed HAM operators should use the airwaves, and the other side lamented that it’s hard to grow your hobby by pushing people away.

So if you run into a situation where someone new to a hobby is wrong, for technical or legal reasons, you have a choice. You can “put them in their place” and be an asshole, or you can encourage them to get more information and update their kit/knowledge/skills.

Once I was at a state championship rifle match, and my rifle failed trigger weight check. It happens, it was the end of the shooting season and my trigger springs were about four years old at that point. But instead of saying I couldn’t compete, I told the match director that I wasn’t in any danger of earning leg points, and would like to compete as a “match rifle” if possible. The match director smiled, put me down as a service rifle competitor saying, “well, we don’t have to technically test trigger pull until after the shots are fired,” and let me shoot. I came in middle of the pack (where I knew I would be) but I happened to be the “non-distinguished” shooter they needed to actually give Leg points to the top shooter that match. Yes it was a technical violation of the rules, but it was the right thing to do for all the other competitors who drove hundreds of miles to show up, and you could have seen the look of joy on the winners face you’d totally believe me.

In the HAM radio community, if the conversation drifts to cheap dual band transceivers, you can make the same choice. “Totally legal for you to own them, but they aren’t class certified so it is technically illegal to transmit on any bad without a license” is a great way to caveat “but here’s how to use CHIRP and program your radio, and here’s how to set it up as a scanner so you can start finding out what is in your area, and here’s how to build a better antenna.”

We have to grow our sports and hobbies, or they won’t grow. And we grow them by helping people geek out a little bit rather than “putting them in their place.” If you ever start a sentence with, “you’re wrong” or “that’s wrong” you need to think really carefully about what follows so that it encourages people to fix something rather than discouraging people from participating.

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