A change in careers

Adam Riddle, son of Richard and the late Joyce Riddle, grew up right here in Appling County, a country boy who relished his childhood. He played in the band and graduated from Appling County High School in 2001, after which he went to Darton State College in Albany to become a registered nurse. From there he went to work at Emmanuel Medical Center in the medical ICU. After a few years in that position, he needed a break and started working at hospice. He’d been there for a few months when his mother was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that starts in the white blood cells called lymphocytes, which are part of the body’s immune system.

“I then realized that I could not help others die and take care of my mama, too,” Adam said. “I was thankful though that I had had the hospice experience and training. I left my job and came home. I am so glad that I did. I didn’t cry at her funeral because I’d had a chance to say everything to her that I needed to say. I have no regrets about the care Dad and I gave her. In the three months before she died, we left her alone for only three hours. One of us did the day shift; the other, the night. We were at Emory part of the time. I got to tell her that she was the best mother anyone could ever have. People don’t usually get to say that. Dad and I agree that we would take care of her and enjoy her while she was still with us. We could be selfish and cry for ourselves after she was gone.”

After her passing, Adam decided to stay around with his dad for a while and gravitated to competitive shooting, which Adam Gruber introduced him to. He considers himself lucky to live in a rural area now because there are so many places where he and anyone who cares to can shoot. In larger, more populated areas, citizens are not allowed to discharge firearms at all and must go to a range to shoot. The WMA, Wildlife Management Area, has ranges all over Georgia that are nice and safe. Georgia owns acres and acres of state land where the public can go hunting and do recreational shooting.

Adam is now an NRA Certified Firearms Instructor and Chief Range Safety Officer, which is his main job. Bryce Muhlenberg, Director of Hunting and Shooting Education for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division, called Adam one day and asked him if he’d be willing to train some range safety officers. Bryce himself is an NRA chief range safety officer. Adam said yes, and they worked out the details. He had to become a vender for the state and bill Muhlenberg for his services, then wait two weeks for a check to arrive.

Now Adam earns his living teaching people how to put a bullet to a target to start off with. Muhlenberg explained that the range is open Tuesday through Saturday and he needs more safety officers. There are about ten frequently used ranges across the state, and Adam got a contract to train safety officers for all of them.

“People ask me all the time about what is best to use for home defense and self-defense. They also want to know about concealed carry,” Adam said. “I do not teach concealed carry or self-defense. I teach gun safety, whether you’re using a rifle or a pistol, and I tell people that the best weapon for home defense is a shotgun.”

He explains to his students using the following scenario: If you go to a music store and buy a nice expensive violin, throw it in the backseat of your car and leave it there, how soon will you be ready to play at Carnegie Hall? Never. You must practice often. If a situation arises when you need that firearm, you must be ready and know how to use it on the spur of the moment.

Recently, Adam got together with John Whidden, who recently won his fifth Long Range National Championship, his second title in a row. This year, competing at Camp Atterbury in Indiana, Whidden pulled together a gritty, come-from-behind victory. John won the title by shooting a perfect 450-28X (not dropping a point) in the final Palma match on the last day of the Long-Range Championship. They got together down in Valdosta and were talking about how hard it is to find a 1000-yard range. They are really hard to find. Anything smaller than that makes the shooter worry about the bullet going beyond the edge.

Whidden said to Adam, “I want to bring back a state championship. We haven’t had one in a long time. I’m having a tournament in Blakely in October. Do you want to piggy-back a state championship on it - The Deep South Long Range State Championship? I was planning to have a small tournament already. About 160 shooters will come from October 23 - 25 this year.”

And so Adam is up to his eyebrows in a brand new career, which he loves. He loved his nursing career as well, in many ways. For example, he says that people can talk to you when they are sick. They open up. He never takes that for granted. He learned so much during his nursing career, a lot of it from the people he took care of. Most of all, he was honored to be able to care for his mother when she needed him.

Now in his new career, he never once thought that people from all over the country would come to tiny little Baxley to take shooting lessons from him. They’ve come from Mobile, Alabama, Charlotte, SC, and many other places. He finds it fulfilling to teach people who pay good money, are engaged, excited and ready to learn. They are there because they want to be. He’s also learned to disagree without being disagreeable, a lesson most valuable indeed.