Saturday, September 1, 2018

How To Teach New Shooters

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Getting new shooters interested in and comfortable with firearms doesn't need to be too difficult.  Some folks have grown up around guns but had never really spent a lot of time with them as an adult.  And yet others have never shot firearms at all and maybe grew up in families that did not like firearms. But regardless of experience levels, it is great to get new shooters out to go shooting and get them comfortable around firearms. Many new shooters do extremely well because they have not built up a lot of the bad habits that we old-timers have.  They just need some training in the fundamentals and safety, and then some hands-on coaching as to how to improve grip, trigger control, aim, and presentation.  I have found that many brand new shooters are like sponges - they are extremely open to and absorb what I am teaching them very quickly.

Today, many of my former students who I stay in touch with are crack shots and can handle a firearm with the best of them.  But I know that some people who, even though they just aren't comfortable around firearms, tend to warm up to them and actually enjoy the shooting sports if taught properly.  So here are some of the things I have learned along the way, not only teaching my wife and daughters to shoot but in teaching some of my brand new students as well:
  • Do not pressure the new shooter. This is not military boot camp; you will find that high-pressure tactics are counterproductive. Trying to pressure newcomers to do something they do not want to do or are not familiar with will only ensure that they will never accept it.
  • Have the appropriate safety gear. Having eye and ear protection ready and explaining their use will help allay any fears. Also, before the firearms are introduced, go over the four basic firearm safety rules:
    • Every gun is loaded, even if it is disassembled.
    • Never point your gun at anything you do not intend to destroy.
    • Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire.
    • Be aware of your target, what is behind it, and is between you and the target.
  • Start with a simple, small caliber firearm. Explain and show the basic operating principles of the firearm you use. For teaching long guns, I like either a .22 semi-auto like a Ruger 10/22, or a single shot break action .410. If I am teaching pistol use I prefer to start with a .22 or a .38 revolver. Make sure that if you start with a magazine fed firearm, you still have them try out a revolver to see what they are most comfortable with, and so that you can explain the differences between the two types of firearms.
  • Do not use humanoid targets until you start to get into defensive shooting. If it's an outdoor range and we are using long guns, clay pidgeons also work well.  They break in a satisfying way and are biodegradable.  I like to use simple bullseye targets for rifle shooting also.  For pistols, a regular target turned around with a paper plate stapled to the center gives a large non-threatening target.
  • Last but not least, go slow. Answer any questions simply without going into a long technological lecture. The point of the first few sessions is to allay fears and allow your newbie to become accustomed to shooting.
You will find, as I have, that if you make new shooters feel secure, allow them to go at their own pace and do not pressure them, people new to the shooting sports will rapidly begin to enjoy this activity. My wife and daughters took to shooting like naturals, and now they get better range scores than I do.

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