By Ryan Gueningsman
DELANO, MN After teaching firearms safety for more than 40 years, Dick Nordling of Delano is starting to see his second generation of young shooters.
Some men who are now fathers come back and take the same class again when their children are going through the program, offered through the Delano Sportsmen’s Club and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Nordling, who is now retired after working 38 years as a cameraman for WCCO, said he stresses safety when showing the community’s youth how to work with firearms.
“Throughout the course, the main thing we really try to pound into them is safety,” Nordling said. “When you’re handling it, there’s things you do, and things you certainly don’t do.”
When he first moved to Delano years back, Nordling wanted he and his wife, Kathy’s, children, Duane, Craig, and Brian, to get into shooting when they reached the appropriate ages. He got to know the instructors at the Delano club like Loren Brandenburg and Joe Bauman.
Nordling said he went through the trainer’s training offered through the DNR and began assisting the local instructors.
He said some youth want to hunt when they reach 12 years old, and said the state requires a certificate for youth to hunt.
“Some kids are sent because parents want them to go through it,” Nordling said. “Some gals come out because their husbands wanted them to go through it because it’s good for a person, even though they may never pick up a gun again, to know something about it and how to handle it if they do decide to get active.”
The program consists of orientation with the instructors, the youth, and their parents or guardians. Hands-on learning of using rifles, handguns, and shotguns takes place, as does use of sights and ammunition.
“Teach them to control the muzzle, make sure it’s not loaded, and never point at anything you don’t intend to shoot,” he said.
Another session covers survival and first aid, one covers marskmenship, and another focuses on gun care. Classes take place between March and May, ending with field day the first Saturday in May.
Nordling said there is a written test, and then, also a hands-on test at field day. He added, even if students do very well on the written test, they still have to demonstrate knowledge at field day.
Over the years, Nordling said the DNR has changed some of the course material. He said the Delano club has also changed its coursework a bit as time goes on.
However, the basics have remained pretty much the same, he said.
“You do the same things now as you did back then,” Nordling said of the time when he started instructing.
Over the last 41 years, Nordling estimates he has instructed around 3,000 youth in firearms safety. He said a couple classes have been taking place in Rockford, which has alleviated the Delano workload.
“We’ve never had less than 50 in a class,” he said. “A few years ago, we had more than 100 in a class.”
Even before becoming a youth instructor, Nordling enjoyed shooting. In the mid-1970s, he started shooting black powder, and went to many shoots for years.
Now, John McClay is Delano’s lead instructor, and McClay’s father, Gary, has also been active for a number of years. Gary’s wife, Lynn, Rick Dobbinaire, and Keith Bartos also instruct in Delano.
With 41 years under his belt, a lot of his fellow club members have asked him if he’s going to aim for 50 years.
“I’m going to try for 42 first,” he said with a laugh. “As long as I enjoy it, I’ll probably keep going.”
For those interested in youth firearms safety courses, Nordling said the best way to find information is to visit the DNR website and to watch the Delano Herald Journal a few weeks prior to the beginning of class.
Follow the link from the Delano Herald Journal homepage for more information. In addition to the firearms safety training, there is also a two-day archery course offered at the end of April each year.