Firearms instructor earns statewide honor

Brad Wells

FAIRMONT — The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recently named Granada resident Brad Wells as the 2018 firearms safety volunteer instructor of the year.

Wells has been the lead instructor in the area for 18 years, and an instructor for 20. He discussed his ongoing involvement in the Fairmont firearms safety course, which is open to people from all over Martin County, and even outside the state.

“The program started back in 1955 and I took it in 1964,” he said. “Then I started working with adults back in 1975, when it was called ‘hunter education,’ and we ran classes here in town in cooperation with Community Education for two or three years and it kind of died away. Then when my son was old enough to take firearms safety, that’s when I got involved, and have been since then.”

Wells has a core group of 23 instructors, and said it takes every one to make the course a success.

Wells is also a proponent of women being involved as instructors, saying, “There doesn’t have to be a gender division; anybody can do this.”

“There were two women there when I originally started, and both of them have passed away,” he said. “We have two other younger girls that are currently active, and we’re always looking for more.

“Within the last 10 years, we’ve seen a shift, to the extent that in one of our last classes we had a 50/50 split. I think there’s a lot of women who want to be involved in shooting sports and firearms, and it helps to have that female instructor there. It’s so important that students feel safe in asking questions, and it helps to give then [women and girls] that comfort zone.”

Wells noted that the number of female students in the course has grown over the years, and he fully expects that to continue.

As far as his passion for firearms safety, Wells shared a humbling story from his youth.

“I shot myself in the foot when I was 17, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that played a part in this,” he said. “It was self-inflicted; it wasn’t serious but it was serious. That kind of leads one into safety.

“I have a selfish reason for this, and all my other instructors agree. The vast majority of us are hunters and we know that when we’re out in the field and we see another hunter, we have a good feeling that that’s probably someone we’ve trained and they know what they’re doing. We also want to ensure that access to these sports continues for years and years.

“I believe that when our students go through this course they will get a strong sense of hunter ethics and hunter responsibility, and they take those responsibilities with them.

“We’re proud of what we do, and we’re proud of this program.”

For those interested in taking the firearms safety course, a fall session begins at 6:30 p.m. Monday. Registration also will occur at that time. The fee is $15. Wells notes that all individuals born after Jan. 1, 1980, are required to have a Firearms Safety Certificate to purchase any type of hunting license in Minnesota. Those interested may contact Wells at (507) 235-5433.